Category Archive:

2013 Toyota Avalon Shifts to Youngsters

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OK, OK… the new 2013 Toyota Avalon will not be targeted at teenagers when it goes on sale in December, but the age of the more than 100,000 Avalon hand-raisers has been about 52 years down from 67 years of present Avalon owners.  Toyota has a monicker for these people – “Trail Boomers”.  Toyota plans to double Avalon sales to about 70,000 units per year.

No Longer a LARGE CAR – Now Avalon is a Premium Mid-Size Car The 4th generation car is slightly smaller with much more expressive styling.  It goes a long way in changing the perception of the vehicle.  Based on the Camry platform, the Avalon shares much under the skin with the Camry and Lexus ES350.  The Avalon is the product of Toyota’s Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, CA and the huge and growing Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It is, of course, assembled in Georgetown, KY.

The body and exterior are unique to the Avalon.  The front of the car combines a strong T-Bar upper grille with center Toyota logo with a (2013) Fusion-esque lower grille giving the car kind of a gaping face.  In the side view, Avalon is much more aerodynamic than its predecessors.  The windshield is faster making ingress just a bit more difficult for the older edge of its traditional buyer base.  The backlite is much faster too, resulting in a relatively short decklid.  Toyota describes the feeling of the car to be “athletic, elegant, intelligent and powerful”.

The Avalon is a bit smaller than the 3rd generation car.  That car was described as a Large Car.  The new one is described as a Premium Mid-Size Car.  Riding on a 111.0-inch wheelbase – the same as its predecessor – Avalon’s overall length is cut by 2.2-inches.  It is one-inch lower and a half-inch narrower.  The result is that most interior dimensions have been squeezed a bit.  Front headroom is 1.3-inches less.  Front shoulder room is 1.2-inches less.  Front hip room is 0.7-inches less.  Only front legroom is a bit longer by 0.8-inches.  The formerly generous rear seat room has sacrificed the most:  1.7-inches less legroom, 1.5-inches less hip room, 1.2-inches less shoulder room. Only rear headroom is up slightly by 0.4-inches.


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2013 Ford C-Max Trounces Prius V

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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

During a brief drive from Hollywood to Malibu and back through the Hollywood Hills to Sunset Boulevard, the 2013 Ford C-Max showed what a small hybrid-powered people mover could be.  Ford, of course, touted the clear advantages of the C-Max over its designated competitor the Prius V.  C-Max has 50 more horsepower.  C-Max has 7-miles per gallon better fuel economy through its third generation hybrid powertrain.  And, C-Max is priced $1,300 lower than the Prius V.  While earlier Ford hybrids had used a similar hybrid system as Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, Ford was clear to state that the C-Max lithium-ion batteries are an in-house development as is the all new CVT (continuously variable transmission).


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2012 Scion tC Most Satisfying Sporty Car

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Best in Class 2012 Sporty Car:  Scion tC

2012 Scion tC Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Owners of the 2012 Scion tC give the car top ratings in thirteen of forty-eight characteristics included in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.  The tC has won the VSA in five of the past six years, an incredibly impressive result. Scion tC gets top marks in Exterior Size, Seating Capacity, Rear Seat Comfort, Cargo Space, Ease of Loading Cargo, Brand of Audio System, Tire Brand/Size/Appearance, Wheel Size/Style, Feeling Safe While Driving, Safety Features, Safety Ratings, Overall Quality, Price and Recyclability.  With a possible high score of 5.0 rating points, a rating of 4.6 or higher can be considered very good.  Scion tC owners give the car a rating of 4.6 or higher in:  Overall Satisfaction, Exterior Size, Brand’s Reputation, Exterior Color, Exterior Styling, Fun to Drive, and Safety Ratings.


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2013 Nissan Altima Mid-Size Game Changer

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Going on sale in July 2012,  the new Nissan Altima joins the most competitive car class in the market.  Representing the second largest car segment (after small cars), the mid-size car class is critically important to each manufacturer in the class; volume, profits and image are on the line.

It is hard to believe that the AutoPacific 2010 President’s Award Winner, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, is about to be the oldest major competitor in the class.  The 2013 Nissan Altima joins the new Toyota Camry (new for the 2012MY) and Chevrolet Malibu (2013 Eco model is on the market now) and awaits the launches of the upcoming 2013 heavyweights – Honda Accord and Ford Fusion in Fall 2012.

First seen at the 2012 New York International Auto Show in April, the Altima drew “WOWs” from the media at its unveiling.  The management of some competitors gulped and looked a bit nervous.  Most were very complimentary; the new Altima has gone upscale in a big way without adding much to its price tag.

Traditionally, the mid-size car class has been noted for its relatively bland styling.  That changed with the launch of the 2011 Sonata in early 2010 where over half of the buyers indicated that exterior styling was extremely important in their selection of the car.  Sonata’s swoopy styling broke the mid-size car mold.  The 2011 Kia Optima that followed the Sonata is strikingly handsome in its own Euro-Korean way.  Toyota stayed very conservative with its new 2012 entry and Honda is rumored to have continued its very conservative streak with the next generation Accord coming this fall.  The 2013 Ford Fusion is another game changer in the mold of Sonata and Optima, but even with Fusion’s advanced styling, Altima may have pushed the envelope the farthest.  Nissan calls it “Altimaness”. 


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Toyota Prius c: PC Car for the Masses

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Conspicuous conservation is for the rich. Or at least that’s what the data show. In general, AutoPacific research shows that buyers of hybrids make more money than buyers of comparable vehicles. Not surprising, since hybrids are more expensive than single engine vehicles and generally do not reap the economic rewards of their fuel efficiency before they have been traded in.

But now that there are more than 2.5 million Prius’ on the road worldwide (1.1 million in the US), economies of scale might help make having a PC ride possible for the masses. In fact, by the end of the decade, the Prius family of vehicles may be the leading nameplate for Toyota sales in the US. At least that’s what’s Toyota is betting on with the Prius c.


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AutoPacific’s 2011 Plug-In Car Supertest

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Without question, one of the most buzzworthy topics surrounding automobiles this year has been plug-in cars.  Issues like fuel price instability, dependence on foreign oil (or oil of any sort!), and the environment have stirred the imaginations of many people.  Could we really rid ourselves of oil-powered transportation?  Could America really free itself of its addiction?  At the very end of last year, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf went on sale (retailing at $41,000 and $32,780, respectively, minus a $7,500 Federal tax credit), finally bringing plug-in transportation to the masses and, plug-in fans hope, heralding a new era in automotive history.


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2012 Toyota Camry: Automotive Version of iPhone 3G to 3GS

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A few weeks ago I ventured to the middle of no where in Washington to feast on all of the new Camry variants for the 2012 model year.  Did Toyota churn up a revolution or an evolution?  With the Camry tattered and torn during the past few years I was excited to see what Toyota had done to turn the page on the next chapter for the Camry.


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Analysis: Ford & Toyota’s New “Hybrid Synergy”

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If you think back, GM developed the 2 Mode Hybrid system in collaboration with BMW and Daimler-Chrysler.  Chrysler had about a two month run of Durango and Aspen hybrids.  If you see one on the road you might consider it to be an exotic due to how rare it is.  BMW has a hybrid system in their X6, but it is for performance more than fuel economy.  Daimler has a RWD hybrid system in the Mercedes-Benz S Class, but the fuel economy hasn’t been anything to make headlines with.  While not being much of a success for any party involved in that collaboration, one GM engineer described the 2 Mode hybrid system to me as a “very expensive science project”.  What Ford and Toyota teamed up to do today looks to be more than a science experiment.


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Toyota RAV4 Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Mid-Size Crossover SUVs

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The evergreen RAV4 achieves the highest ranking among Mid-Size XSUVs based on owner ratings in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  As winner of its class, RAV4 owners want little significant changed with the notable exception that 35% want more infotainment technology.  This is confirmation that, even as you move down in vehicle classes, buyers today want all the bells and whistles available in more expensive vehicles.  Slightly over 20% of RAV4 owners want better interior lighting, better safety features, better visibility and more roominess.  About 15% of RAV4 owners want a softer ride.  RAV4 owners most like its seat comfort.  RAV4 nosed out the even-older Mazda Tribute to win its class.


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Toyota Sequoia Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Large SUVs

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The Sequoia is the top ranked Large SUV based on ratings by its owners in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  Sequoia owners identify little significant that needs to be changed, but 30% want more infotainment technology, 25% want more cargo room, and 20% want better visibility and more daring styling.  Sequoia owners most like seat comfort, ride comfort and size.   Sequoia noses out the Ford Expedition for top spot. 


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