Auto blogThu, 29 Aug 2013 11:02:00 EST
The performances of some Toyotas in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) regimen of crash tests leave something to be desired. Consider the small overlap frontal crash test: only six Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles have undergone the new test, yet all but one of them received a poor rating. Osama Nagata, CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., says midcycle vehicle updates are in the works to address the safety issues brought to light by the IIHS test, Automotive News reports. He confirmed that the RAV4 is getting safety updates following its crash test performance last month, but he didn't name any other models.
All three Toyotas that were tested - 2013 RAV4, 2012-2013 Prius V, 2012-2013 Camry - received poor ratings. The 2007-2012 Lexus ES 350 and 2006-2013 IS 250/350 also received poor ratings. The only other Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle to score better than poor is the 2014 Scion TC. It received an acceptable rating in the small overlap frontal crash test and is the only recent vehicle in Toyota's line-up to get the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.
The small overlap front crash test measures the safety of a car when its front left corner is strikes an object during an accident, bypassing traditional crumple zones, which deform in a way to protect passengers. In 2009, automakers were alerted to the forthcoming addition of the test, which was first implemented last year, IIHS spokesman Russ Rader says. They responded with differing intensity, he says, pointing out that Subaru and Honda started incorporating design changes early on so their cars would perform well in the tests.
The Sydney Morning Herald has spoken to Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer of the Toyota 86 (our version of it, the Scion FR-S, is pictured above), and they've been promised that more power is on the way. We've heard a lot of speculation about a more powerful Toyobaru since before the standard model was even launched. The only question now is how the power will be delivered, and among the engine concepts we've already heard about - turbo, supercharger, twin-charged, hybrid - is a new one: more displacement.
Tada said that an engine with more displacement than the current coupe's 2.0 liters is being tested alongside a turbocharged and a hybrid-assisted motor. The SMH cites "inside sources" as saying the displacement option is the one likely to get the go-ahead, and suggests increased bore and stroke will see the engine grow to 2.5 liters, horsepower to about 250 - a 50-hp increase over the present car.
While that's apparently the betting man's solution for the long-awaited increase in gumption, what happens with the next generation could be more wide open than we suspected. According to the report, Tada "hinted that [a successor] could be a radically different car, potentially dropping the boxer engine altogether." He said once they've sorted out the concept for the second generation car, then they'll sort out an engine. That's where a turbo option could come to market, perhaps the turbocharged four-cylinder Toyota is developing for the Lexus NX crossover or a hybrid system that uses a capacitor.
We recently heard that Toyota could be looking to shrink its network of Scion dealerships, and now Automotive News is reporting that the automaker has officially given its dealers the green light to dump Scion without any penalties. Currently, Scion has about 1,000 dealers, yet our report from August 8 quotes an industry analyst as suggesting a healthier figure would be between 350 and 500 outlets. But before its current dealers make a decision on whether or not to get rid of the youth-oriented brand, Toyota also showed off a couple potential future products in the pipeline.
The FT-86 Open Concept shown above was revealed back in March at the Geneva Motor Show, and AN says that an FR-S convertible was driven on stage at a recent national Toyota dealer meeting in Atlanta. There has still been no definitive word one way or another as to whether the droptop model will be built, but it could be a good way to follow up to the popular FR-S coupe. Another possible future product is a subcompact crossover, which was shown in drawing form at the meeting, presumably aimed at small CUVs like the Nissan Juke and the upcoming Honda CUV based on the Fit, a model recently previewed by the automaker's Urban SUV concept.
On a constant mission to court younger buyers, Scion will be adding some new in-car technology to its lineup for the 2014 model year. All Scion products will now come standard with a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio head unit that we first saw on the 2014 tC (as shown above).
In standard form, this head unit will feature HD Radio, Bluetooth and auxiliary and USB ports. Opting for the $1,198 BeSpoke Premium system brings navigation, integrated social media apps, geo-located POIs and Aha internet radio.
Other changes announced along with the new touchscreen include new two-tone paint schemes for the 2014 xD, a limited-production iQ and pricing for the 2014 lineup. As shown in the gallery, customers can now choose from silver-on-blue and black-over-grey paint combos. The iQ Monogram gets a burgundy-over-silver paint job with a limited run of just 150 units, and it goes on sale in October starting at $16,520 (not including $755 for destination).
Toyota as we know it could become a thing of the past. According to Australian site Car Advice, the Japanese brand known for bland cruisers like the Camry and Corolla is preparing to bring two new rear-drive cars to market that would slot above and below the Scion-badged FR-S. This is very, very good news.
Car Advice spoke to the GT86/FR-S' chief engineer, Tatsuya Tada, who claimed, "Akio Toyoda always says to me, Toyota sports car [family] should be three sports car brothers. 86 is in the middle." The oldest "brother" would be the spiritual successor to the Supra, even if it doesn't wear that name. Tada is in charge of that project, while a sub-GT86 project is being headed-up elsewhere.
Tada refused to comment on names (CA specifically mentions MR2 and Celica) for the new small car, but did say that, "Yes it is rear-wheel drive and that's Toyota's strong position - Toyota sports car must be rear-wheel drive." Perhaps the juiciest bit of information obtained from Tada's interview with Car Advice was his hinting that both new sports cars would be joint ventures, like the GT86/FR-S/Subaru BRZ triplets. Tada wouldn't say who Toyota was in bed with on the smaller model, but did mention that the Supra would be a product of the world's largest automaker's partnership with BMW.
Despite being conceived by corporate giant Toyota, Scion painstakingly built its reputation on being something of an offbeat, youth-minded brand, working hard to establish individualist, almost hipster-like credentials. So it comes as something of a surprise to hear WardsAuto report that Scion has a whopping 1,000 dealers across America - just 200 fewer than Toyota itself. This, despite a much smaller product portfolio and a sliver of the sales volume.
All those factors may explain why Bill Fay, US group vice president for Toyota, is admitting to the industry publication that its dealer network "might actually go down a little bit." As it stands, the volume end of the equation is probably an even bigger incentive - Scion's sales are way down from the salad days of the mid-2000s, when the brand had fewer models but sold more of them. With the (then) white-hot xB and tC models, Scion shifted 173,034 units in 2006, while Ward's notes the marque's 2013 sales are only at 41,261 units through July. In the story, AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan observes that other low-volume brands have far fewer dealer points, noting that Mini has just 115 dealer points and Infiniti has 200. By Sullivan's estimate, he would expect to see 350-500 Scion stores based on its sales figures.
Dealer question aside, the bigger issue is where the brand goes from here, and Fay admits Toyota is studying a number of different strategies, including possibly going "small-premium." Nothing is finalized, though according to Ward's, Fay discounts the idea that the FR-S - the brand's sales bright spot - will drive the brand to consider a more driver-oriented lineup.
Scion has released pricing information for a number of models, the most important of which being the updated 2014 tC that debuted at the New York Auto Show in March. The cost of entry for the tweaked coupe is now $19,210 with the standard manual transmission, or $20,210 if you'd rather the car did the shift-work for you (*both prices exclude the $755 destination charge). These numbers represent an increase of $485 versus the 2013 model with either transmission.
We have yet to drive the refreshed tC, but Scion says it ought to provide a much more engaging experience from behind the wheel. Automatic-equipped models now enjoy faster shift times with dynamic rev matching, and regardless of transmission, the tC is said to have improved handling dynamics thanks to reworked shock absorbers, stabilizer bar hardware modifications and retuned electric power steering.
In addition to the obvious re-schnozzing of the tC, other updates for the 2014 model year include a new standard auto display, featuring a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, HD radio and steering wheel-mounted controls.
There are very few vehicles available today that compare directly with the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins. A case could be made for the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and possibly even six-cylinder versions of American coupes like the Ford Mustang. Pretty much everything else is either too expensive or is powered by the wrong set of wheels.
The boys from EverydayDriver on YouTube decided the only fair way to judge the inherent qualities of the Toyobaru twins was to pit them against two standard-bearers of years past: The Honda S2000 and Mazda RX-8. Neither of these cars is an exact matchup, with the Honda boasting a convertible top and the RX-8 offering more practicality via a rear seat and two reverse-opening doors for easier access. What they do offer, however, are similar performance stats and proven reputations for excellent handling.
None of this talk answers the real question, though: Which one wins the comparison test? Scroll down to watch the video, and be prepared for something of a surprise conclusion.
Rutledge Wood took home the checkered flag at this year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Top Gear USA presenter, Fox Sports commentator and Honda Wagovan owner managed to take pole position in qualifying, but lost his lead early in the race to Mark Steines. Steines has competed in the Pro/Celebrity race four times so far, but the Hallmark channel host of Home and Family couldn't quite hold on to the lead. Wood eventually made up the ground he had lost for the win. This year, all the participants went fender to fender in identically prepared Scion FR-S racers.
Meanwhile, Adam Carolla took first in the Pro category, and Toyota donated $5,000 on behalf of each participant to Racing for Kids. The charity benefits children's hospitals in the Long Beach area, and this year Toyota donated a total of $90,000. Check out the full press release below for more information.
Scion is simultaneously celebrating its ten-year anniversary with the 10 Series models and trying to figure out what to do with itself over the next ten years. Once a go-to consideration for young, first-time buyers who wanted something cool and different, in 2013 it has a model everyone is still talking about in the FR-S, a model few are still talking about in the iQ, and three models in between in the tC, xB and xD that make everyone wonder, "What happened?"
Automotive News spoke to Toyota's North American CEO, Jim Lentz - he was the VP in charge of Scion when it launched - about the options, and Lentz said one of them could be a move upmarket to challenge the established luxury brands that are moving downmarket. "There's going to be a big need in the $25,000 range for a fun-to-drive, nice-looking, value-oriented product," he said, and the FR-S, which starts at $25,255, could provide the platform for Scion to climb up a notch or two in price and perception. An idea like this could conceivably work in tandem with a proposal to move entry-level Scion products over to the Toyota brand - but remember, this is all just ideas on a whiteboard at the moment.
As opposed to an "entry-luxury fighter," the brand could swing back to the other option that was considered when it was formed, directly challenging the Korean makes that have usurped its cachet with first-time buyers. Lentz said Scion could go either way, and the tone of the piece seems to indicate that the final direction is still a ways away from being resolved.