Toyota has made its name as one of the world's most recognizable automobile brands. Mainly through the consistency of their vehicles, their customer engagement, and their reasonable price points. However, this dependability has come at some cost. For years, the image of the beige Camry as the most 'boring' car on the market has dogged the company. And while sales have remained steady, there hasn't been much in the way of consumer excitement. That all changed for in the last few years. Toyota chose a comprehensive strategy for a serious makeover to give a more 'emotional' feeling to their cars. And to compete with the rest of the market. The result is an impressive array of offerings that cover the range of makes and models and put Toyota right back in the running for the most exciting new cars on the road.
Possibly the most iconic model in the Toyota stable, the Camry is the security blanket of the car world, its everlasting reputation for dependability and value often characterized by the utter vanilla nature of its design. For decades and through six different generations, the Camry has maintained it's Clark Kent look, but this year saw the company ditching the glasses and trench coat for a serious superhero look. CEO Akio Toyoda was personally involved in the re-design and wanted a more visceral look for the Camry that would stand up not only against other mid-sized sedans but would give sportier vehicles a run for their money. The new Camry has a muscular grille with aggressive fascia, lower clearance, and sleeker lines to give it a growling look that suggests a hot hatch, family style. Under the hood, the Camry comes with a Dynamic Force direct injection inline engine with a higher compression ratio, a variable cooling system, multi-hole direct injectors, and variable valve timing which make the new Camry about 40% more fuel efficient than before.
Toyota Prius Prime
When Toyota debuted the Prius in 2010, it quickly became one of the most easily identifiable and simultaneously polarizing vehicles on the road. It was meant to look like it had come from another planet, and it did: drivers could easily make their green allegiance known on the highway, sometimes much to the derision of fellow drivers. The newest model Prius Prime, a plug-in model with three trims available, still looks like nothing else on the road but much like a teenager finally passing through their awkward phase, has finally grown into its own. More than looks, the Prius Prime has matured inside as well: a four-cylinder gas engine is teamed up with an even larger battery than on the original Prius, producing 25 miles of electric-only range and a stellar 133 MPGe. The braking system has improved and is much more responsive, and steering corners like a dream, making the Prime a joy to drive as well as an increasingly more attractive eco-friendly choice.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota is in the process of refining and expanding their hybrid catalog, and the popular crossover market is one of the prime targets for domination with the next-gen RAV4 hybrid that packs a four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, plus standard all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is tops for its class, with 34 city and 30 highway mpg and a smooth, controlled ride that manages to draw its fair share of converts from traditional engines. Toyota cleaned up an already spacious interior with higher trims and better infotainment, along with a slew of safety features that Toyota has begun to offer standard in all of its new models. As the hybrid market heats up, expect the RAV4 to be the crossover to beat.
Somewhere between the explosion of the crossover, the SUV and the pickup truck, the humble minivan risked fading into obscurity. However, the updated Toyota Sienna has shed some of its more cringeworthy features and packed a slew of features into the newest model. Families will love the laundry list of new safety features and every Sienna comes standard with automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system that automatically steers the van back into its lane, and automatic high beam headlights. The engine was overhauled and the 3.5 liter V-6 with eight speed automatic transmission fits in nicely with the new exterior looks, that take up the same 'emotional' look that the whole fleet has adopted.
Not only has Toyota improved its existing lineup but they've made some moves into experimental tech with the world's first commercially available hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai. The 153 horsepower 4 seat sedan has a full fueled range of 300 miles and takes 5 minutes to refuel, and it's otherworldly exterior looks to be as distinctive and controversial as the Prius was almost a decade ago. It's sold as a single package with safety features included and the latest infotainment, but be prepared to get in line: according to Toyota's latest figures, the Mirai is sold out in 2019.