Toyota Prius Prime Gets The Plug-in Hybrid Right, Now About That Design

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Ok, let’s immediately deal with the elephant in the room. The Toyota Prius Prime is not an attractive vehicle. In fact, to my eyes, it’s quite homely. Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll leave the aesthetic judgements to your own tastes and move on to how Toyota’s sophomore effort at a plug-in version of its icon works. While the first-generation Prius PHV was a bit of a swing and a miss, the functionality this time is in most respects a home run.


2016 Toyota Prius Three – Still The Mileage Champ

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It’s not often that a single automotive nameplate becomes virtually synonymous with a powertrain technology. Yet over the course of almost two decades, that’s exactly what has happened with the Toyota Prius. When you think hybrid electric, Prius is likely the first and probably only name that comes to mind. Late 2015 brought us an all-new fourth-generation Prius with some of the most substantial changes to date and I finally got an opportunity to drive it recently.


2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-road – And Off-road is Where it Belongs

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD

The idea of the off-road vehicle is by no means new, but it used to be that people that wanted to go bouncing around in sand dunes, crawling through canyons or racing through the desert would basically have to build their own. Aside from the Jeep Wrangler and its predecessors, almost no factory-built truck had real serious off-road capability. However, in the past decade we’ve seen automakers go from building hot-rod trucks like the Chevy Syclone, Ford F-150 Lightning and Dodge Ram SRT-10 to more serious off-roaders like the F-150 SVT Raptor and this Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road.


2016 Toyota Corolla S Plus 6MT – Think Scion Instead

2016 Toyota Corolla S - 4 of 21Compared to the rest of the world, the American automotive market is an anomaly in ways. No where else will you find fullsize pickup trucks selling in such enormous numbers with the big trucks from Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler being the perennial best-sellers for years on end. Move beyond our borders however, and so-called C-segment or compact cars dominate the market. For nearly five decades one of the continuous top-sellers in that space has been the Toyota Corolla in all its different flavors. While Corolla buyers elsewhere get to choose from a variety of body styles, Americans are limited to a four-door sedan unless they opt for the related Scion iM hatchback.


2016 Toyota Tundra Limited Double-Cab 4×4 – Much Improved, But Is It Good Enough to Compete?

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The American light vehicle market is a unique beast in the world. Nowhere else on the planet will you find so many full-size pickup trucks in use and representing such a large proportion of total vehicle sales. Through October, 2015, Americans bought 1.78 million fullsize trucks, 12.3 percent of the year-to-date total. It’s also the only market segment where the three Detroit based automakers have remained utterly dominant despite challenges from Japan. As the world’s largest automaker, Toyota looked at the profit margins that Ford, GM and Chrysler were pulling in on those trucks and it’s been trying to capture a piece of that pie for more than two decades with surprisingly limited success. In 2013, Toyota gave the Tundra pickup a major makeover and it’s better than ever – but is it good enough?


2016 Scion FR-S – Driving a Slow Car Fast

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Driving a slow car fast is better than driving a fast car slow.

Don’t get me wrong, the Scion FR-S is by no means slow, but in comparison to a Mustang GT, Camaro SS, Challenger Hellcat or Tesla Model S, it has no hope of keeping up. But I have absolutely no issue with that. In fact, that is precisely what makes this car so damn appealing. At 200 hp, the FR-S has more than enough grunt to get around and have tons of fun without resorting to the type of antisocial behavior that’s likely to get you thrown behind behind bars or worse.

Cars hold a strange place in our lives. For most people, they are the second most expensive purchase they will make after a house. Many of us depend on them for personal mobility in modern life. But in many ways, cars are frequently the least rational big-ticket purchase we’ll make. If we were at all rational in choosing cars, we’d all be driving either a Prius or a minivan. There would be no SUVs or sports cars and only contractors would drive pickup trucks. But we are irrational creatures that buy cars for emotional reasons; the way they appeal to our eyes when we see them, the thrill we get from the roar of the engine, the rush we get from the acceleration.


I’d Like to See Pioneer Offer This Radio With Android Auto

The Pioneer radio in the Scion FR-S

The Pioneer radio in the Scion FR-S

In my recent review of the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX car audio receiver with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, I lamented the fact that Pioneer was only offer the smartphone interfaces in its more high-end receivers. At $700, the 4100NEX is the most affordable receiver with this capability and includes a DVD drive and motorized face plate. It also has a tiny  row of controls along the bottom edge for volume and mode selection.

I suggested that for people that want to use a smartphone interface, they are less likely to actually use disks or other media and Pioneer should offer a more basic unit with a fixed screen (not to mention a better display than the 4100NEX) and no disk drive.

It turns out they make just such a receiver. It even has a rotary volume knob! The problem is that consumers can’t actually buy this receiver. It’s found in the Scion FR-S that I’m driving this week.  Of course Toyota isn’t yet supporting Android or Carplay so this unit doesn’t have that capability. However, if Pioneer would sell this head unit as a standalone with Android and Carplay for $200-250 I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it and I’d even buy one myself.

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The 2016 Toyota Prius is Official!

2016_Toyota_Prius_031_1E9B69CE8E4156EB4B206135DFD860F936C2F099Late last night in Las Vegas, Toyota revealed the new fourth-generation of the world’s best selling hybrid, the Prius. Eighteen years after the debut of the original, the Prius has become an automotive icon with a distinctive look that has become synonymous with battery-assisted cars. Images of the of the new Prius have been leaking out for weeks and by time Toyota revealed the car it was no longer a surprise. All that was really left to reveal were the technical details, but unfortunately those have been kept to a bare minimum other than the news that it will offer a 10 percent boost in fuel efficiency.


Toyota Launches $50M Artificial Intelligence Collaboration with MIT and Stanford

Dr Gill Pratt - Executive Technical Advisor, Toyota

Dr Gill Pratt – Executive Technical Advisor, Toyota

At a press conference in Palo Alto, California today, Toyota announced a new collaborative research program that will focus on development of artificial intelligence and automation control systems. Under the auspices of Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC), the $50 million development program will pull in researchers from Toyota, Stanford University and MIT to help develop the systems that will be required to power increasingly autonomous cars. The effort will be led by Dr. Gill Pratt who is joining Toyota as an executive technical advisor. Pratt previously served as the program manager for the DARPA robotics challenge which brought the world the “big dog” robot from Boston Dynamics.