Toyota’s (little) Discovery

Previewed at the New York motor show this week, Toyota’s FT-4X Concept.

Image: blogtoyota

Maybe it’s the colour. Perhaps it’s the rugged ‘go-anywhere’ appearance. Or it could be the many useful features and imaginative solutions littered throughout the vehicle – (some more fanciful than practical) – but not only do I find the FT-4X charming, but also it strikes me that this or something along similar lines is really what JLR should be offering instead of that insipid looking new Discovery they’re marketing to customers now. Continue reading “Toyota’s (little) Discovery”

Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys

Back at the Louwman Museum, we ask how far is too far.

I’ve always liked the Mercedes 500K and 540K cars despite the fact that they seem tainted, through no real fault of their own, by association with high-ranking Nazis. In 2 seater form, it’s one of those cars of inordinate length that accommodates just a couple of people. Were all cars like this, our roads would have become gridlocked many years ago, but there’s a harmless decadence to it in my eyes. The Louman’s 500K is one of those fairytale barn-find stories. A Spezial model, one of just 25, it was first purchased in the UK and spent 30 years stored behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall. Discovered and auctioned late in the 1980s, it was beautifully restored in Germany and was a prizewinner at Pebble Beach in 1994. Continue reading “Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys”

Finessing Big Lex

Lexus redefines its defining model.

Image: lexusenthusiast
Image: lexusenthusiast

Almost twenty nine years ago, Toyota unveiled the Lexus LS 400 saloon, giving the European and US luxury car establishment the shock of their lives. That car, lovingly created by a skunkworks of Toyota’s brightest and best was beyond doubt the Honda NSX of luxury saloon cars; a gamechanger for the industry, a new benchmark.

Continue reading “Finessing Big Lex”

Did You Miss This One Too?

Toyota showed off the C-HR at the 2016 Geneva motor show and I was too busy checking paint colours to notice it.

2017 Toyota C-HR: source
2017 Toyota C-HR: source

Flipping goodness (exclamation mark). The interior has now been revealed. I had some thoughts about the exterior though. Continue reading “Did You Miss This One Too?”

Micropost: 1990-1994 Toyota Camry Estate

This one shows Toyota in its aero phase and is unusually fuss-free.

1990-1994 Toyota Camry estate
1990-1994 Toyota Camry estate

It’s still flawed though. The back-end is too heavy around the bumper. I can see that they wanted a swoopy, space-age feel and if the black covering the sills had extended from front to back the car would have achieved a more coherent look and lost no spacey-ness Continue reading “Micropost: 1990-1994 Toyota Camry Estate”

2014 Toyota Avensis (Part 2)

We looked at the extensive failings of the Avensis’ auxiliary controls this week. This article deals with the rest of the car.

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Toyota have been making this class of car for 50 years. The Avensis name has been attached to offerings in the middle market for 19 years. This version is third one to carry the name. They ought to be pretty good at this by now. So, we ask, what is it like to drive a vehicle aimed at a competitive and hard-fought and declining segment? Continue reading “2014 Toyota Avensis (Part 2)”

How Many Ergonomic Flaws Can One Car Have?

The Avensis tested here is now out of production. This appears to be a 2014-2015 model. The user-interface proved so troubling I had to make that aspect into a separate article. 

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2014 Toyota Avensis 1.8

The rest of the review comes later. The controls are divided into two sets, the driving controls and the auxiliaries. I will deal with the auxiliaries in this article. Overall, the Avensis is riddled with odd choices and evidence of poor decision-making. It exemplifies a number of user-interface principles, but negatively.

The problems started when I tried to Continue reading “How Many Ergonomic Flaws Can One Car Have?”

Ashtrays: 2014 Toyota Avensis 1.8

Among the better features of Toyota’s large family car (now replaced) is the driver’s ashtray.

2014 Toyota Avensis ashtray, closed.
2014 Toyota Avensis ashtray, closed.

It’s well placed and a proper size. The illumination is from the side. The mechanism has a nice smoothly damped action and is a lower, horizontally hinged device.  Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2014 Toyota Avensis 1.8”

Micropost: 1999-2005 Toyota Yaris

This is about colour. Toyota also offered the Yaris in a metallic mint green. Later years seldom saw such personal colours. 

1999 Toyota Yaris
1999 Toyota Yaris

The Yaris is a car that I feel has been around for longer than it has. Why is that? The first one had a zany Europroduct appearance which has gone direct from fresh to “period” with no intervening awkward phase. The dusky pink looks pinkier when you Continue reading “Micropost: 1999-2005 Toyota Yaris”

Gallery: 2016 Toyota Prius

DTW is evidently in the middle of reappraisal of Japanese cars in general and Toyota in particular. Here you are invited to look more closely at the 2016 Prius.

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I remember around the year 2000 finding the then-new Mazda 323F to be over-styled. “That’s the new school of over-styling,” I said as I looked at the car in the town of Bath, England. What would my younger self make of the Prius confection? It’s not hard to say that he’d have hated it. Something has happened to my judgement in the interim and it could be good or it could be bad. Continue reading “Gallery: 2016 Toyota Prius”

2016 Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic 5-door Road Test

Recently DTW tested the arch-mainstream car, the VW Golf. This week we sample the joys of Toyota’s Auris and find out a little about how the two cars compare.

2016 Toyota Auris 1.6
2016 Toyota Auris 1.6

I don’t imagine that many people accept the keys of an Auris with much sense of excitement. However, I experienced a small burst of what many would call satisfaction when I found myself cupping the Auris’ keys in my hot little hand. A few weeks back I tested what many consider the benchmark C-class car, the VW Golf. Driving the Auris so soon after experiencing the Golf meant I had a good frame of reference for the Auris. I’ve also driven most of the other C-class cars, apart from the current Astra. That means I think I can offer this review with some sense of perspective. Continue reading “2016 Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic 5-door Road Test”

Theme: Japan – Toyota’s First Supra-Car

Toyota’s late-’60s image builder comes under the DTW zoom-lens.

Image:wheelsage.org
Image:wheelsage.org

Commercially speaking, Toyota seems to have fared perfectly well without image-building halo cars. While enthusiasts have been well served by numerous performance models over the decades, the Japanese car giant eschewed outright exotics. Not so fast though. As long ago as 1965, crowds at the Tokyo motor show were enraptured by the introduction a sleek and beautifully proportioned coupe from that most conservative of Japan’s burgeoning manufacturers. Deliveries began two years later, but by the decade’s end, after a mere 337 cars, the Toyota 2000GT evaporated from view as quickly as it emerged. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Toyota’s First Supra-Car”

Theme: Japan – The Gentleman

It’s a peculiar entity, Toyota. More like a small landless nation than a company. It can produce remarkably effective entrants and also miss the mark in its own unique way. Nobody understands it. I try to.

2000 Toyota WillVi: www.carsensor.net
2000 Toyota WillVi. They don´t do much of this, do they?: http://www.carsensor.net

Like GM, Toyota is a sprawling enterprise, with operations all over the world and a large range of vehicles. Unlike GM, Toyota’s failures are seldom mystifying acts of dunderheadness. Even the least successful Toyotas are quality machines which demonstrate the relentless application of diligence. In contrast, GM cars can be entertainingly terrible which can be put down to missing diligence. What Toyota can possibly match the legendary Pontiac Aztek for its florid incompetence? The Solstice’s boot held only a spare wheel. Which Lexus failed as spectacularly as the Cimarron or Catera? Continue reading “Theme: Japan – The Gentleman”

A photo Series For Sunday: 1982- 1986 Toyota Camry DX

This could well be another item in the Japanese-theme series we’re running. The title would then be so long I’d have no room for the rest of the article.

1982 Toyota Camry DX
1982 Toyota Camry DX

The short story about this car is that it’s Toyota’s first front wheel drive entrant in the mid-size market. The previous Camry had rear-wheel drive. Wikipedia has all the nitty plus all the gritty details of engines (this is probably a 1.8 litre four-cylinder car) and product evolution. They also explain the difference between the cars sold in the two lines of Toyota dealerships (very little). One channel is the Toyota Corolla Store and the other is the Toyota Vista Store. The European models at this time received the Toyota Vista Store grilles, making it more like the Japanese-market Toyota Vista than the Japanese market Toyota Camry or US Camry. I’ll get to the bottom of this dual line of dealerships one day. It’s more confusing than string theory. Continue reading “A photo Series For Sunday: 1982- 1986 Toyota Camry DX”

Theme: Japan – Curbside Classics Appreciates the Toyota Crown

Driven to Write has featured this car before, not once but twice.  

1971 Toyota Crown: source
1971 Toyota Crown: source

Given this month’s theme and the fact that we like Curbside Classics here, we link to a nice and short featurette about the Toyota Crown. As usual, there are some useful comments below the main article which also include some photos of the interior.

Theme: Japan – The Best Ever Toyota Design?

Toyota made their reputation (and the bulk of their profits) on serious (if occasionally dull) cars. The Yaris however was different. 

My favourite aspect - that bold pressing-line from the rear window down to the side indicator repeater (source: HonestJohn)
My favourite aspect – that bold pressing-line from the rear window down to the side indicator repeater (source: HonestJohn)

This month’s theme has brought to mind, for the first time, that I don’t really think about the nationality of the cars that I buy – with the possible exception of German ones (I seem to pathologically avoid them for being too obvious a choice). I arrived at this via the realisation that, in the S.V. Robinson car buying nationality stakes, Japan stands second only to France. And I found myself rather discombobulated at this. Continue reading “Theme: Japan – The Best Ever Toyota Design?”

Theme : Japan – The Giant Finally Moves Forward

How Toyota finally put the horse before the cart in what was, in one sense at least, a bit of a Triumph.

Spot The Difference - image : japanclassic.ru
Spot The Difference – image : japanclassic.ru

Despite promises of Waku-Doki and its work with EVs, Toyota remains in many ways a cautious company. Once I might have said this with a tinge of contempt, but certainly not now. The motor industry is a dangerous business, yet Toyota has survived and prospered because, generally, they know exactly what they are doing.

By the end of the 1960s, it was clear that front wheel drive was no fad. Even GM had started dabbling with it in, of all things, the 7 litre Oldsmobile Toronado. Continue reading “Theme : Japan – The Giant Finally Moves Forward”

Geneva Bites – What’s happening to Toyota?

Until recently, Toyota made the sort of cars which wouldn’t say boo to a goose, to use that strange, but expressive phrase. All that seems to be about to change.

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The Mirai and latest Prius look as if they would cross a busy road themselves if there was a goose-booing opportunity on the other side, and the C-HR crossover which debuted at Geneva keeps up the trend. In the current manner, it’s tamed down a bit from the C-HR concept shown last year at Frankfurt. However it still tends towards the egregious. I’ve been inured to this since the shock of the Nissan Puke, and I think the Toyota hangs together rather better. Continue reading “Geneva Bites – What’s happening to Toyota?”

Understanding Blandness

There is a fine line between the severely rational and the bland. The 1997 Toyota Avensis is bland yet there is a hint of something else there too.

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What little character the car has did come from somewhere. So, what inspired the theme? To try to understand this car is to try to guess at what else Toyota had in mind when developing it. If the car was launched in 1997 then the designers were looking at cars launched or on sale in three years before: 1994. What do we find? The Opel Omega and Renault Laguna had the most impact. The Peugeot 406 and Mazda 626 estates also guided the packaging targets. Continue reading “Understanding Blandness”

Theme : Special – Polishing The Crown

We look at what people do to a Driven to Write favourite in the name of individualism.


Whenever the 1971 to 1974 Toyota Crown S60 is discussed in the pages of Driven To Write, it is notable that there is a fair deal of respect and affection for it, much more than there was in the UK and US at the time of its launch. But we are discussing the stock vehicle. What is our attitude to the various modifications, small or substantial, that have been visited onto this particular version of the ‘living legend’ (to quote Toyota)? Continue reading “Theme : Special – Polishing The Crown”

1972 Toyota Crown: What Did The Reviewers Think?

As promised, here is a small fillet of Motor (July 1972) who took the time and trouble almost 44 years ago to prepare a review of the Toyota Crown estate.

1972 Toyota Crown Estate: flickriver
1972 Toyota Crown Estate: flickriver

Images of this car are rather hard to come by and few of the cars remain. If you are aesthetically sensitive be careful searching for photos because for some reason a worrying number of them feature inappropriate wheels and a lowered ride-height.

What did Motor have to say in 1972? Continue reading “1972 Toyota Crown: What Did The Reviewers Think?”

Rarities: 1971 Toyota Crown

On my way to the Sommer’s Car Museum in Naerum, north of Copenhagen before Christmas, this caught my eye.

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This is a car which bears close scrutiny. It has distinctive high level indicators and running lights, set over a nicely demarcated lamp-and-grille assembly.  Continue reading “Rarities: 1971 Toyota Crown”

Theme : Disappointment – Waku-Doki!

Did it lose something in translation, or was it ever there at all?

Tokuo Fukuichi 01Waku-Doki! Like many vernacular expressions, translation into another language is unlikely to give the same emphasis. Toyota translates it as the lame “heart-pumping excitement”, but the untranslated Japanese expression does have a certain satisfyingly onomatopoeic sound to anglophone ears

The first time I read the term, it was on a badge pinned to the jacket of Toyota design chief Tokuo Fukuichi. He’s the same age as me, so it’s always heartening to see an old fellow making an effort. Continue reading “Theme : Disappointment – Waku-Doki!”

Glazed C-pillars From the ’80s

Recently we discussed three examples of the glazed C-pillar phenomenon. We listed the Ford Granada, Olds Cutlass and Mitsubishi Lancer. How did we forget the 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback?  

1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback
1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback

We’d even mentioned it before. This example has been spending quality time under a tree. How long does it take for that green stuff to form? The Liftback is from 1987 and Ford’s similarly styled Granada is from 1985. That places the two designs so close together in time that Toyota can be exonerated from allegations of photocopying. So, where did Ford Continue reading “Glazed C-pillars From the ’80s”

Born This Way? – The Prius Goes Gaga

It’s all Lady Gaga’s fault, say Toyota. Well, you’d try to spread the blame too.

2016 Toyota Prius. Image via lifestylemirror
2016 Toyota Prius. Image via lifestylemirror

We’ve become accustomed to hearing Car designers come up with all manner of implausible justifications for their creations, but does anybody take this stuff seriously? To my eyes there’s now a tacit understanding between designer-spokesman and us, the auto-literate. They know we won’t believe a word, while we view their pronouncements with the contempt they habitually deserve. This is where Shunsaku Kodama comes in. As the Toyota designer responsible for the 2016 Prius, he has rather a lot of explaining to do.  Continue reading “Born This Way? – The Prius Goes Gaga”

Theme : Facelifts – Does Your Car Pass the Facelift Test?

Could there be anything wrong with trying to design cars that can avoid an automotive face-lift?

2004 Toyota Avensis
2004 Toyota Avensis

When Simon came up with this topic we all immediately thought of the classic facelift disasters. Then there were the handful of acknowledged facelift successes; these have been touched upon by DTW at various points over the month. We are are also aware that some firms make a routine of “mid-cycle refreshes” as they are termed by those in the know. And this is probably to be deplored since facelifting a car means Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – Does Your Car Pass the Facelift Test?”