Category Archives: Toyota

2003 Toyota MR2 Spyder Review

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Despite all the attention on Toyota’s plain Jane but reliable Corolla and Camry sedans, Toyota did actually have a reputation for making affordable sports cars. Reputable examples of this are the Supra, Celica, and the MR2. In 1976, Toyota came up with a proposal for a vehicle that placed an emphasis on driving dynamics while providing typical Toyota virtues such as reliability, affordability, and fuel efficiency. Akio Yashida, the man behind the original MR2 decided on a mid-engine configuration for optimal handling balance. A company known for its practical and ordinary cars, the  1984 MR2 proved that Toyota could make fun and affordable sports cars. Even though it was powered by small engines, the MR2’s sub 2,500 pounds curb weight gave it unbeatable balance and go kart reflexes. Combine the legendary handling with typically Toyota quality and reliability as well as affordability, and the first generation MR2 would become one of Toyota’s greatest cars ever made. My friend’s mom who currently drives a Mercedes C250 Coupe told me her first car was a supercharged 1988 MR2 five speed. Even though she has had some sweet cars over the years as well as four Mercedes-Benzes, she still claims the MR2 was the best car she ever had, and would buy another one if Toyota still produced them. The MR2 was redesigned in 1989 (North America got the second MR2 in late 1990 as a 1991 model year car). In contrast to the first generation’s angular styling, the second featured curvier and shapely styling. The second MR2 also gained weight significantly and horsepower was increased. While it was commercially successful, MR2 purists did not like it as much as the first due to the loss of delicate handling as an effect of the increased curb weight. In 1999, Toyota redesigned the MR2, bringing it closer to the weight of the first generation, and coined its moniker, MR2 Spyder. Sadly, Toyota discontinued the MR2 Spyder in 2007 (2005 in North America).  Continue reading

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2011 Toyota 4Runner Limited Review

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Wow, the 4Runner has come a long way from when it debuted in the mid ’80s. The first generation was derived completely from the Toyota Pickup/Hilux, and the only modifications made to the 4Runner was the addition of an integrated fiberglass top, and it was sold in a two door configuration only. It was so similar to the truck that it did not even come with rear seats when it was imported into the U.S from Japan (Dealers installed them after they were imported). The 4Runner became a hit due to its combination of off roading credibility, versatility, and affordability. Toyota redesigned the 4Runner in 1989, and the result was vastly different. It was still based off the Toyota Pickup/Hilux, but instead of sporting a pickup body with a fiberglass top installed, it utilized a unique all steel body, and most were sold in a four door body style. The 4Runner was redesigned in 1995, and it was as much of a departure as the second gen. For starters, it was no longer based off the Hilux truck, but rather shared a platform with the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (Lexus GX), and it became a more luxurious and comfort oriented SUV in contrast to the simple and rugged nature of previous 4Runners. For 2003, the 4Runner underwent another redesign, this time catering to American tastes as it gained an optional V8. This generation lasted till 2010 to this 4Runner that you see here. Having the chance to review a first and third generation 4Runner, I am interested to see how it compares. With a no frills nature and manual transmission, the 1986 4Runner was delightfully simple and rugged whereas the 1997 4Runner that I reviewed was comfortable and not as capable as the first off road but still good to drive. With this 2011 4Runner, what piques my interest is how it stacks up, as a 4Runner and as an SUV overall.

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1986 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Review

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In the eighties, Toyota wanted to replicate the success of its Land Cruiser SUV but in a smaller and more affordable package. Cue the 4Runner which debuted in mid-1984 as a 1985 model. Instead of developing an entirely new model like the Land Cruiser, Toyota used the Hilux chassis to create the 4Runner (sold as the Hilux Surf in other countries).  The first generation was nothing more than a pickup truck with a roof over the bed. The purpose of the 4Runner was to provide the versatility and the go anywhere ability of the Hilux truck while giving the comfort and utility expected of an SUV. I reviewed a third generation, a 1997 4Runner which was the first generation to be built as a separate model, not sharing any body parts or frames with the Hilux. I liked it very much, but I never really thought of reviewing the original 4Runner at all. I asked my friend if I could review his old Volvo 242 or something like that. It was a really cool old Volvo in burgundy and with a manual transmission. However, when I contacted him, he sold it and got this 4Runner. How could I say no to reviewing the original 4Runner with only two doors and a manual transmission?

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2012 Toyota Hilux 2.5 D-4D Review

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To tell you the truth, I never knew the Hilux existed until my first trip to England. I got an English car magazine, and there was a road test of the Toyota Hilux. I was confused, because it did not look like anything like the Tacoma we have in North America. I searched the Toyota Hilux online, and I was surprised to learn that the Hilux is another truck currently sold by Toyota everywhere except North America. The Hilux actually was sold in America from 1968-1994, but only the first generation (1968-1973) used the Hilux name. Starting in 1973, it was sold as the Toyota Truck (later called Pickup), and the fourth generation (1983-1988) introduced an SUV version of this truck that became the 4Runner which also was sold as the Hilux Surf in other countries. It was not until the fifth generation of this truck that Toyota would start producing two entirely different trucks for North America and the rest of the world. Toyota wanted to build a truck that catered to the tastes of the American market, while keeping the Hilux. Starting in 1995, the Tacoma was sold as Toyota’s compact truck, with the Hilux sold in other continents. The Hilux grew in size and fame, and became a legend in terms of reliability and off road performance. This summer, I visited Sri Lanka, and I had the opportunity to review a 2012 Hilux to see what we Americans were missing out on.  Continue reading

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2002 Toyota Tacoma SR5 PreRunner V6 Review

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Even though the first Tacoma debuted in 1995, its heritage goes back to the 1964-1967 Stout. Due to its distasteful looks and its spartan equipment levels, not to mention it was significantly slower than competing American trucks, the Stout barely sold in the three years it was produced. The Hilux replaced the Stout in 1969, but due to its reliability, better performance and quality, sales started to grow. The Hilux soldiered on for three generations until in 1976, Toyota changed the name from Hilux to Truck (or Pickup). As Toyota continued to grow in fame and sales, the Truck became regarded as a competitive product that always received praise from the car magazines and consumers. The Toyota Truck lasted till 1995 before being replaced by the Tacoma. While the Truck sold well, it never really catered to the American tastes, and Toyota felt that the Tacoma would change that. This time, instead of being built in Japan, the Toyota built the Tacoma in America, and the name Tacoma was chosen as it was thought to appeal to the American market.  Toyota prioritized refinement and performance, while staying true to its promise of dependability. In the late 1990s when consumers were buying more SUVs and trucks than ever, Toyota’s timing couldn’t have been better. In 2001, the Tacoma received a facelift, and more variants were added. Even in its last year, this generation of the Tacoma still sold well before being redesigned in 2005.

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1997 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Review

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As a company known for its Corolla, Cressida, and Tercel, Toyota joined the SUV market with its 4Runner. It was based off their Toyota Pickup, and looked nothing more than a truck with a shell on the bed. For the second generation, the 4Runner looked less than an altered pick up truck and more like an SUV. With the SUV market coming to fruition in the early 1990s’, the 4Runner was noteworthy for its go anywhere capability and reliability. Then came the third generation 4Runner that you see here. It became more than a rugged SUV and placed more emphasis on its build quality and comfort while still capable off road. Continue reading

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2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser (Trails Team Special Edition) Review

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Toyota as a company is not known for adventurous vehicles. Practical transportation, yes. Adventurous? No. While the earlier Land Cruisers and 4Runners were considered adventurous, the latest iterations of these SUVs have morphed into conservative vehicles. The FJ Cruiser fills in the void. Rivaling the Jeep Wrangler and Nissan Xterra, the FJ Cruiser debuted in 2006 with priorities on looks and off road ability. The FJ Cruiser is meant to be a retro model inspired by the original Toyota FJ40 Land Cruisers while retaining Toyota’s reliability. The Trails Team Special Edition version you see here is one of 2,500 produced in 2012. This particular version receives many TRD (Toyota Racing Development) upgrades such as upgraded tires, cosmetic changes, body colored interior, and others. Continue reading

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2002 Toyota Camry LE Review

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You guys are probably wondering what is a Toyota Camry, one of the dullest cars on the market, doing on this automotive blog? Well, let me shed a little light on the situation. This car is special to me, because we bought this car brand new when I was in kindergarten. This car has been there for our family as long as I can remember. At 143,000 miles, the Camry is still running strong with no problems, despite the notable scratches and dents that we never bothered to repair. Toyota poured $1 billion into developing the Camry and this was the result. Continue reading

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