Tag Archive | Toyota

The sting of bling

At this year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show, there were some factory-modified vehicles that some brands prominently displayed.  Hear are a few of the atrocities my eyes (and camera) couldn’t resist.

2009 Ford Focus Coupe

Now, let’s compare the Focus above with the 2009 Ford Focus RS hatchback available in Europe.

2009 Toyota Venza

The 2009 Toyota Venza is Toyota’s all-new wagon/crossover born with an identity crisis.  For the most part, it’s basically a Camry Wagon.  On the other hand, it also shares components with the Highlander.  The sad thing is “dubs” (20-inch or larger diameter wheels) come standard on factory stock V6-powered Venzas.

Here’s what I think of all of these:

Next week, I’ll share some of my favorite vehicles featured at this year’s LA Auto Show.

Sedan silliness

While I believe every person should be allowed to do what he or she wants to do to his or her automobile, I detest the things people do to bread-and-better family sedans.  As point-A to point-B people-movers, they were not designed with sporting intentions in mind.  What about cars such as the Toyota Camry SE you say?  No!  It’s still a Camry!  It’s not wrong to own a Camcord or any other typical mid-size family sedan.  I simply believe it’s wrong to modify one in such a disgusting way.

Current generation Toyota Camry

1998-2002 Honda Accord

2002 Toyota Camry on dubs (20-inch or more wheels for those who aren’t with the “lingo”)

Here’s a classic web site pointing out more ridiculous transgressions against the automobile.


What do you all out there think?

How I Met the Cookie Monster

I had the Edmunds.com Long-Term 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser 4WD for the afternoon of March 28th and the morning of March 29th.  I took it home from California Speedway after the editorial folks completed performance testing of other vehicles and back to the office in the morning.  Here are some of my thoughts of it based on my experience with it.

All Show, No Go?
The FJ Cruiser is put in motion by a 4.0-liter V6 similar to the one in the Toyota Tacoma and previous generation Toyota Tundra.  To get its 239 hp (@ 5,200 RPM) and 278 lb.-ft. (@ 3,700 RPM) to the ground, Toyota mated the FJ’s powerplant to a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission.  Our long-term FJ is equipped with the latter.  Despite its 4,295 lb. curb weight, the FJ’s powertrain has the right stuff to motivate it and keep it motivated when necessary.  I thought the automatic transmission was quite responsive whenever I would hit the accelerator which would in turn, prompt for a downshift.  Our Senior Content Editor however, says it would be nice if the FJ’s automatic transmission was a little quicker with downshifts.  Throttle response was great and the amount of torque generated by the V6 allowed the vehicle to get going without any extraordinary amount of effort.  I was never left wanting a V8 under the hood.  Note the FJ does recommend premium fuel; something one of the editors mentioned as “criminal.”  Like many things in this world (but not beyond it ), you’ve got to pay to play.

When one decides to open it up, it’s capable of cutting a 7.8 second 0-60 mph time and running through the 1/4-mile in 15.64 seconds @ 86.91 mph.  For an SUV, these are definitely respectable numbers.  That proves the FJ does not only look fun to drive, but has the stuff it takes to back it up.

Our FJ is also equipped with the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) exhaust, which has not been a hit with the editorial staff.  Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton, actually gave me an advance notice on the drone the exhaust produced before I grabbed the FJ’s reins.  Anytime I was on the throttle, I could definitely hear the engine growl and exhaust note which definitely did evoke any thoughts of a symphony being played.  It got a little annoying, but I don’t think it’s something a dedicated FJ owner wouldn’t be able to live with.

Cookie Crazy – Yes, Corner Crazy – No

Do you all remember how the Cookie Monster gets all worked up when he’s eating cookies?  Nothing can stop him!  The same can’t be said for the FJ.  It came to a stop from 60 mph in 126.6 ft, which is good compared to most SUVs its size.  With over 23,500 miles on the clock, the brake pedal did seem a little spongy when initially depressed (perhaps there was some air in the system?), but the brakes worked fine as pedal pressure was increased.  I also thought I heard some sort of compression in the brake system whenever the brake pedal was depressed.  When things get turning however, the FJ was only capable of a 56.4 mph slalom speed and 0.69 g on the skidpad.  These numbers can probably be best attributed to the P265/70R17 Bridgestone Dueler H/T tires that enable it to travel just about anywhere its active owner would be headed.

Because of its well-suited powertrain, I wanted to find out how well the rest of the FJ’s on-the-road manners compared.  The first turn I tried to take in a moderately spirited manner, a tight freeway off-ramp, the tires howled in protest yet the vehicle didn’t exhibit any concerning amount of understeer at the moderate speed I was going.  At a higher speed, it probably would have wanted to plow through the turn.  Here, I blame the tires, suspension, and high center of gravity for the vehicle’s lack of handling prowess.  To its credit, I will say the vehicle didn’t feel as big as it physically is when it is being driven.

Inside the Belly of the Monster

Like most SUVs, the FJ driver is placed in a high seating position.  Visibility out the front windshield is good.  I found myself wanting larger side bolsters on the driver’s seat, but it probably is not something most FJ drivers would clamor for–they probably wouldn’t be driving it the same way I sometimes did.  Rear seat legroom is not something I honestly looked much at.  From a glance, it seemed to be a little more than that offered by the Subaru Impreza and Forester.  The suicide doors make ingress fairly easy and the rear seats quite accessible from the outside.  One of our editors mentioned egress out of the rear seats can be difficult because there isn’t anything to grab on to as one is exiting the confines of the FJ’s rear seat.

You may have heard or read the FJ has tremendous blind spots.  It does.  I’m not going to dispute that here.  The FJ’s blind spots didn’t present me with any difficulties on my morning commute from Monterey Park to Santa Monica (60 West to 10 West).  By using the side mirrors properly and checking over the appropriate shoulder before making any lane change attempt, I was able to maneuver the Cookie Monster through typical Southern California traffic without a hitch.  I take that back.  Our FJ has a towing hitch.  It was included in the Convenience Package #2 option bundle on the vehicle.  Back to the issue of looking into what we can’t see, the FJ’s blind spots should be a conscious concession its buyer makes once his or her decision has been made to get the vehicle.  I will also mention the only driving I did in reverse was backing out of my driveway on to an uncrowded residential street.

Our FJ is equipped with an AM/FM stereo with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, XM Satellite Radio, and a 9-speaker (including the subwoofer) sound setup.  We also installed an aftermarket Parrot Bluetooth device to provide our staff with Bluetooth functionality.  Sound quality seemed alright to me.  Please remember I’m not anything close to an audiophile (here’s a professional assessment of its capabilities – 8 out of 10).  An issue I knew about before getting into the FJ thanks to our Long-Term Road Test Blog was that the radio’s LCD display was extremely dim.  This may have be an effect of the Parrot device installation.  I don’t think there have been any updates to the blog regarding any diagnosis or repair of this issue.  What troubled me was trying to make out the text on the radio display took my attention away from driving the vehicle far more than making simple adjustments to the radio or HVAC (heating, ventilation, A/C) controls would.

An interesting “feature” of the FJ is that its exterior body color spills into the interior as well.  The FJ’s “Voodoo Blue” color can be seen around the radio and HVAC controls and also on the doors.  There are also a few other features that have caught our editors’ eyes such as having a third front windshield wiper (yes, we know there’s a huge crack in the windshield), a map compartment on top of the dash above the instrument cluster that our Chief Road Test Editor used as a lower sunvisor, and a conventional sunvisor that could use an extension to say the least.

Would You Feed Its Need?

With an as-tested price of $32,102, our fully-loaded FJ Cruiser is a pretty expensive toy.  Its retro looks aren’t a example of Toyota jumping on the retro bandwagon.  The FJ Cruiser has a look that isn’t a far cry from the original Toyota FJ40.  The FJ probably isn’t worth your average city dweller’s money much less cookies.  But if you’re an active outdoorsman or -woman, it may fit the bill quite nicely.  Our FJ proved to be very capable on trips to Yosemite, Mammoth, and Joshua Tree National Park among other places.  Beware of the options and how an option often can’t be purchased outside of a package probably containing unwanted options (e.g., Convenience Package #2 has an inclinometer as a component of the gauge pack featuring a compass and outside temperature display–we primarily wanted the towing hitch when we purchased that package–the roof rack can also make vehicle clearance dicey in certain places as well).  For an active single person or one with a young family, the FJ Cruiser may be the beast you need to get any and all jobs done.

Edmunds.com Inside Line Full Test:

Edmunds.com Inside Line Long-Term Road Test Blog:

Video Review

(Play clip) 3:10 long
Video Comparison Test – 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser vs. 2006 Nissan Xterra Off-Road


Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $23,300

Options on Test Vehicle: Upgrade Package #2 ($2,620 — includes 17-inch aluminum wheels, Vehicle Stability Control with Active Traction, rear differential locks, AM/FM stereo, in-dash 6-disc CD changer and 9 speakers including subwoofer); Convenience Package ($1,840 — includes remote keyless entry system, power aluminum outside rearview mirror with illuminated lamp, cruise control, daytime running lights, rear clearance sonar and rear privacy glass); Convenience Package #2 ($1,167 — includes roof rack, tow hitch receiver, spare tire cover); TRD Performance Exhaust ($550); Security System With Proximity Sensor ($479); XM Satellite Radio ($449); Preferred Accessory Package ($442 — includes carpeted floor mats, rear door storage, first aid kit, center armrest).

MSRP of Test Vehicle: $32,102

I gladly welcome any feedback you all may be able to provide me regarding my writing.  Thanks!

Interesting vehicles in the Edmunds.com garage recently:
2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe

2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (it seems pretty huge)

In other news, I think my interview Thursday went well!  We’ll see what happens probably sometime next week.  Praise God either way it pans out!  Blessed be the name of the Lord.