Toyota is working pretty damn hard on upping their lineup, and while the Supra has yet to make its triumphant, turbocharged return, there is no denying that buying a Toyota in 2016 will be far more rewarding than any time in recent memory. Automakers are constantly working on reinventing themselves, and in the case of one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, their biggest hurdle is breaking away from a stigma that they only make safe, utterly unenthusiastic machines.
Sure, the return of the Celica All-Trac is a pipe dream, and a well-done modern interpretation of the first–gen MR2 is highly unlikely. But at least they aren’t making a slew of snoozers like they were a few years back; due primarily to the fact that no matter what we think of Toyota’s bland sedans, its truck line is always a blast to thrash, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its latest and greatest offerings.
But what about Toyota’s cars? Are there any fun or interesting offerings that warrant a test drive down the line? In short, yes, there certainly are some intriguing offerings that deserve a quick spin — namely the forthcoming 2016 Prius and the luxurious Land Cruiser.
Enough with the teasing. Here are five fantastic options we think you, the buyer, need to seriously consider in 2016 if it’s time to upgrade that sleigh to a brand new Toyota.
Starting at just $23,300 and completely redesigned both inside and out, the all-new Tacoma is a great option for anyone wanting to upgrade to a dependable truck in the forthcoming year. Rugged, reliable, and resell-able, Toyota’s midsize pickup is about as good as it gets when looking for a vehicle that will outlast the earth itself. When we got to review one a couple months back, we were impressed with the Tacoma’s redesigned interior, upgraded six-inch Entune touchscreen, and more powerful engine, along with how controlled the vehicle felt on the highway for riding so high.
We also liked that the Tacoma’s V6 can still be paired with a manual gearbox, and that a GoPro mount comes standard — because if you are going to roll over, you might as well document the occasion. Speaking of roughing it, the new Tacoma has tons of ground clearance on all four sides, and its suspension travel is more than satisfactory. Couple that with Crawl Control, which allows drivers to set a slow speed and then focus exclusively on the steering, and you’ve got a dedicated off-road machine that is civilized enough to live in town.
We got to drive and review the biggest, baddest, toughest version of the Tundra recently, and while it was a fantastic vehicle in almost every way, the Tundra TRD-Pro is not what most people will buy next year when they hit the Toyota dealership looking for a new pickup. So instead of rehashing what I have already covered, let’s look at what makes the other versions of the 2016 Tundra so special.
Stylistically, the Tundra has not changed that much when compared to previous generations. It may have some sharper lines, boxier corners, and more rugged angles, but looking at it head-on you won’t be blown away by differences from its predecessor. Sure, both front grilles on the SR5 and 1794 Edition models have been updated, but save for these two mods, the rest of the lineup remains virtually unchanged aesthetically.
The new Tundra really stands out in the safety and tech departments, offering more than most buyers might expect. Various levels of Entune Audio is now standard in this truck, from base models all the way up to Limited and TRD-Pro versions. JBL Audio, navi, and apps galore are now standard on Platinum and 1794 Editions, as well as Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) on premium trim levels. Throw Flex-Fuel (FFV) with all 4×2 models, along with a larger fuel tank for top-end models and some front/rear sonar for rock crawling, and you’ve got our undivided attention. Pricing starts at $28,640, but we suggest spending a hair more and getting the extended cab for added space.
3. Land Cruiser
Part luxury SUV, part utilitarian off-road rescue dog, the Land Cruiser is a vehicle that was once synonymous with Australian Outback exploration but is now labeled as a meager soccer mom machine designed for hauling groceries. However, Toyota is working on reintroducing the Cruiser to its roots with this redesigned model. Outside of its new exterior styling (this thing has brand new sheet metal from the A-pillar forward), there are some really nice features on this SUV that warrant consideration if you are in the market for a bigger car.
Sure, the new tubed rear taillights and back bumper both look great, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The car’s interior leather has been upgraded to a semi-aniline perforated material; trim pieces are look classier; there’s a new steering wheel with Siri Eyes Free mode (EFM), a MID display, DRCC and TSS-P settings, which use toggle controls; and an Entune 2.5 multimedia system that rocks Slacker radio.
Meanwhile, a nine-inch hi-res display is now a thing, including Standard Rear Seat Entertainment (RSE) with dual, fixed, 10-inch screens with both DVD and HDMI inputs — picky kids can now watch separate media on either screen. We also like that the Land Cruiser now comes equipped with Qi wireless charging, an eight-speed automatic transmission (instead of the old six), an improved multi-terrain monitor for low-speed off-road use, BSM (Blind Spot Monitoring), and RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alerts). Bonus: This is Toyota’s first vehicle with Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P).
This last feature includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alerts, Auto High Beams, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and frontal collision avoidance when driving below 24 miles per hour. Couple that with some fresh 18-inch alloy wheels and a 5.7-liter V8 out of the Tundra, and you’ve got one amazing machine on your hands. Just be forewarned, these puppies start around $83,825, which ain’t cheap.
While a hybrid isn’t everyone’s style, the latest breed of Prius is really working on making itself more of an appealing option for younger buyers who want something sporty. We were there for the latest generation’s unveiling in Vegas, and this is going to be the best one yet. Sure, the styling cues are a love-it-or-hate-it deal, but there is so much on this version that is good it’s hard to write it off as “just another hybrid.”
The latest incarnation of Toyota’s champion fuel sipper gets a “[10%] improvement in EPA estimated MPG on core models,” and while this bump is great to see, it’s Toyota’s investments in the performance department that has piqued our interests. Sporting more power, double wishbone rear suspension, and a wider stance, the next generation of Prius may just be the best handling hybrid of all time with the right kind of rubber. While pricing and testing results have yet to be released, stay tuned for our full review of this iconic automobile next month, when we get to take it for a spin in the hopes of seeing what makes it so great.
This last option is probably the most unusual on the list today, and while it may only be available in California right now, an increased interest in hydrogen-powered fueling stations has given millions of Americans hope that one day they too shall have the chance to own one of these clever cars.
When we first reported on the Mirai back in the spring, it seemed like a distant dream. But now it’s October, and these futuristic, oddly-shaped machines are already sold out in California. With the waitlist growing longer every day, we cannot wait to see people’s reactions to this vehicle. To learn more, check out Toyota’s info page, because with technology this advanced, you are probably better off watching a video than reading about it.