Toyota 4Runner Few SUVs have the level of name recognition that the Toyota 4Runner enjoys. Launched in 1984, the 4Runner has always been Toyota's smaller and more affordable complement to the legendary Land Cruiser. Even though the first 4Runner was little more than Toyota's compact two-door pickup with a removable top, it was nonetheless rugged and tough. Over time, the 4Runner has earned its own reputation as a durable vehicle -- off-road and on.
During the SUV-crazy '90s, Toyota introduced more models into its product lineup. This allowed the company to move the 4Runner up a few notches in size, accoutrements and price. Still built using body-on-frame construction, however, the current Toyota 4Runner boasts old-school brawn, which helps to set it apart from the other midsize SUVs in its class, especially those that have moved into crossover territory.
For some buyers, this traditional SUV style might be a detriment. And some of our editors weren't particularly enthralled with the third-generation model. Overall, though, it should be a good choice, new or used, for consumers in need of a dependable SUV that's comfortable for everyday use while still being rugged enough for recreational off-road duty.
Current Toyota 4Runner
The current midsize Toyota 4Runner SUV, introduced for 2003, represents the vehicle's fourth generation. It comes in three trim levels: SR5, Sport Edition and Limited. Each trim is available with two engine options. A base 4.0-liter V6 engine puts out 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. A more powerful 4.7-liter V8 makes 260 hp and a healthy 306 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard across all trims, and four-wheel drive is optional.
The Sport Edition comes with the expected roof rack, side steps and foglights, but it is more than just an appearance package. There are bigger front brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels and Toyota's X-REAS suspension system, which reduces body roll in turns. The Limited is the top-of-the-line model, adding the usual premium features, such as leather seating, dual climate control and a CD changer. All trims get the latest electronic gadgetry. Downhill Assist Control automatically modulates the brakes and throttle to maintain smooth descents. Hill-Start Assist Control helps prevent the SUV from rolling backward.
In road tests and reviews, we found the Toyota 4Runner to be surprisingly light and responsive for a truck-based SUV. It feels spirited and taut. There is minimal body lean on even the twistiest of roads, although cornering limits are predictably low. Both engines provide a good amount of hustle, and for general use most buyers should be happy with the more fuel-efficient V6. For those planning on frequent towing, the V8 is likely the better choice. In any trim, the 4Runner shines off-road.
Downsides to the 4Runner are few. One concern is that it provides less cargo space than most of its midsize competitors. Models with the optional third-row seat are further hampered, as the third row doesn't fold completely flat while providing only a very limited amount of legroom. Due to the 4Runner's utilitarian roots, attentive drivers may notice trucklike body motions at times.
Shopping for a used model from the fourth generation should be straightforward, as Toyota has made only minor changes since the 2003 launch. The V8 option in earlier models (2003-'04) came with considerably less horsepower (235), while making 320 lb-ft of torque. Those early V6 models also came with a four-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to the five-speed automatic that's currently available. Formerly optional side curtain airbags became standard in '08.
Past Toyota 4Runner models
As good as the current Toyota 4Runner is, you might be surprised to learn that the previous model was considered something of a disappointment. Sold from 1996-2002, the third-generation 4Runner came in three trims -- base, SR5 and Limited. It looked great but had a hefty price tag. (Depreciation has neutralized some of the price premium, however, and the 4Runner still holds its value quite well, which is advantageous when it comes time to sell.)
As numerous carlike SUVs entered the market, the 4Runner grew old quickly and its weaknesses began to show. Two engines were available: a 150-hp 2.7-liter inline-4 and a 183-hp 3.4-liter V6 engine, neither of which was particularly strong for the time. Some of our editors also thought that the body was too narrow, making the cabin feel tight and claustrophobic. Furthermore, the stereo was difficult to operate -- an unusual criticism for a Toyota product. Still, this model impressed with its off-road prowess and typically high Toyota build quality. Buyers in search of a tough, capable SUV with a reputation for durability could do much worse than a 4Runner from this era.
Prior to the third generation, the Toyota 4Runner was even rougher around the edges, but it was a solid value in its day. The second-generation 4Runner, sold from 1990-'95, came in two trim levels: SR5 and SR5 V6. The SR5 was powered by a 116-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder, while the SR5 V6 came with a 150-hp 3.0-liter V6. Most models sold were four-doors, though two-door models were also offered.
Toyota Avalon Since its launch in the mid-1990s, the Toyota Avalon has been Toyota's only full-size sedan. It has always been a solid performer, with standard V6 power, lots of interior space and a reputation for reliability. Early Avalons were often criticized for their humdrum style, however, especially the first-generation model.
That all changed a few years ago when Toyota gave the Avalon a complete overhaul for the third-generation model. Inside and out, the new design is upscale and refined. Major mechanical advancements -- including a powerful new V6 and a more capable suspension -- enable the Avalon to rival the best large sedans in the performance department. Even the base versions of the Toyota Avalon are equipped with many standard features.
Current Toyota Avalon
Engineered and built in the United States, the third-generation Toyota Avalon debuted for the 2005 model year. Developed and built with American roads in mind, it's big, stable and powerful. A 3.5-liter V6 pumps out a robust 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard. The front-drive Avalon is based on a heavily modified version of the previous-generation Camry chassis.
Unlike previous Avalons, the current model cannot be had with a front bench seat. But there is ample room in the front and plenty of legroom to stretch out in back, where a nearly flat floor allows three adults to sit comfortably. The materials are all first-rate. Front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard. Traction control, stability control and antilock brakes with brake assist are also standard on all models.
There are four trim levels: XL, Touring, XLS and Limited. Even the base XL comes loaded with standard equipment. The Touring model is the sporty Avalon, with 17-inch wheels, a more firmly tuned suspension, an all-black interior and aluminum trim detail. The XLS is more upscale with premium features, including a moonroof and a six-CD changer. The leather-lined Limited serves as the model's top-of-the-line trim.
In road tests and reviews, we've found the Toyota Avalon to be an excellent large sedan. Highway driving is luxurious. The V6 engine pulls smoothly and powerfully, while posting impressive fuel economy numbers. The Touring trim handles adequately, but the Avalon should not be mistaken for a sport sedan. It is a full-size car with qualities that lean toward comfort over athleticism. Downsides to the Avalon are few. Main complaints concern the rear seat (it doesn't fold down to expand luggage capacity) and a slightly dull driving demeanor that some buyers might find off-putting.
Changes for the third-gen Avalon have been minimal. The 3.5-liter V6 was initially rated for 280 hp, but new SAE rating procedures dropped that to the current 268 hp, starting with the 2006 model year. Actual performance was unaffected. A midcycle refresh for '08 replaced the previously mandatory five-speed automatic transmission with a six-speed unit; other changes included new headlamps and a revised front fascia.
Past Toyota Avalon models
Early generations of the Toyota Avalon were solid entries in the full-size sedan market. They were built in the U.S. also, but were sometimes criticized for being too close to the Camry in look and feel.
With the second-generation Avalon, sold from 2000-'04, Toyota made a number of improvements over the first version. Available in XL and XLS trims, the second-gen Avalon was roomier and more technologically advanced. Optional stability control (Toyota's Vehicle Skid Control) and brake assist features were added to improve safety. The 3.0-liter V6 was equipped with variable valve timing, providing a modest power increase over the previous generation with a peak of 210 hp. In road tests, we commented that the second-gen Avalon wasn't a particularly interesting car to drive, but it countered with plenty of dependability, comfort and smoothness. A curvaceous dashboard design further distinguished this model from its relatively staid competitors.
The original Toyota Avalon, sold from 1995-'99, came in two trims (XL and XLS) and had a 192-hp 3.0-liter V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission. Minor engine revisions for the 1997 model year saw the output of the V6 increase to 200 hp.
For both of these previous generations, Toyota did not make many significant changes. Therefore, used-Avalon shoppers should focus more on the condition and mileage of the vehicle than a specific year of production.
Toyota Camry The Toyota Camry quietly debuted late in the 1983 model year, when Toyota replaced its old rear-wheel-drive Corona with the front-wheel-drive Camry, a car aimed specifically at the U.S. market. From these humble beginnings, the Camry would go on to dominate the midsize family sedan segment for virtually all of the next quarter-century, as consumers immediately embraced it for its high build quality, comfortable ride and impressive durability.
Initially available only with a four-cylinder engine, the Camry soon saw the option of a V6 and, as the years went by, upgrades in size, luxury and feature content. The Camry's immense popularity in the U.S. inspired Toyota to set up a manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, in the late 1980s. In addition to the base DX and well-equipped LE versions, more trim levels became available, including the sporty SE and posh XLE. Even an all-wheel-drive Camry, dubbed the "All-Trac," was available for several years.
Still upholding its strong reputation despite a few recent blips on the radar screen with regards to reliability, the Toyota Camry continues to be a top choice for those seeking a roomy, comfortable and dependable family car.
Current Toyota Camry
Completely redesigned for 2007, the latest Toyota Camry is offered solely as a front-wheel-drive, midsize four-door sedan. The four traditional Camry trim levels are offered: base, popularly equipped LE, sporty SE and luxurious XLE. Even the base model includes air-conditioning; power windows, door locks and mirrors; cruise control; a tilt-telescoping steering wheel; tire-pressure monitoring; a six-speaker CD audio system; front seat side airbags; full-length side curtain airbags; and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
A 2.4-liter inline-4 (158 horsepower, 161 pound-feet of torque) is the base engine, while a powerful 3.5-liter V6 (268 hp, 248 lb-ft) is available on all trims except the base model. Transmission choices for the four are a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic, while the V6 sends its power through a standard six-speed automatic. A gas-electric hybrid Camry is also available and, along with 192 hp, it offers EPA estimates of 33 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
In reviews, we've commented favorably about the Camry's spacious cabin, powerful and fuel-efficient optional V6, plush ride quality and top crash test scores. Downsides to the latest Camry include some disappointing interior plastics, inconsistent fit and finish and uninspiring driving dynamics for non-SE models.
Past Toyota Camry Models
The Toyota Camry debuted late in the 1983 model year. With each generation typically lasting five years, five generations of Camrys have preceded the latest version. The last two generations will be of particular interest to shoppers looking for a solid choice in the used-car market. The 2002-'06 Camry is a stylish, comfortable sedan that offers a roomy cabin, a choice of inline-4 or V6 power and, depending on trim level and optional equipment, most of the latest safety features such as stability control and side curtain airbags.
The 1997-2001 Camry sedan was somewhat bland in appearance but, like the more recent versions, offered a quiet, stress-free driving experience. Many desirable modern features were also available, including side airbags and antilock brakes (which became standard on all trim levels except the base CE).
Although a Camry older than 1997 is likely to have quite a few miles on it, it is still something to consider for folks on a tight budget. Provided it has been faithfully maintained, a 1992-'96 Camry (which was available in coupe, sedan and wagon body styles) should be able to spin its odometer to nearly 200,000 miles without major problems. It's this final trait, more than any other, that has kept the Toyota Camry popular with buyers over the last two decades.
Toyota Camry Hybrid Up until recently, driving a hybrid car required some sort of sacrifice, whether it be space, performance or anonymity. However, with the introduction of the Camry Hybrid, one could argue that Toyota has given the buying public a hybrid that demands no sacrifices.
If judged only on its merits as a competent (if not superior) midsize sedan, the Toyota Camry Hybrid would score well. We've found that it shares all the attributes that makes the conventional Camry one of the best family sedans out there: a comfortable cruiser, more than adequate power, a top-notch interior, lots of amenities and plenty of room for five. The fact that its fuel economy betters that of most compact cars in the process and is priced well within the normal range for an average car is icing on the hybrid cake.
Current Toyota Camry Hybrid
As its name implies, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is a regular Camry sedan with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. The hybrid system is comprised of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine (producing 147 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque) and a 45-hp electric motor. The Camry Hybrid can run on any combination of the two power sources.
Power is transferred to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT was chosen for its ability to keep the gas engine in its most efficient power band. We found that the Camry Hybrid's combination of the gas and electric motors felt surprisingly robust. Acceleration betters most four-cylinder sedans and is not far behind many six-cylinder ones.
Since the gas engine of the Toyota Camry Hybrid will shut down at a stop and under some driving conditions, the air-conditioning and power-steering systems are driven electrically and powered off of the vehicle's batteries. This maximizes fuel economy and guarantees that the air-conditioning will continue to operate.
As with most hybrid vehicles, fuel economy is especially sensitive to driving style, but a combined city/highway average in the mid-30s shouldn't be too difficult to achieve for most drivers.
Very little is sacrificed for these fuel economy gains. Most of the expected safety features, such as front seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and antilock brakes are included, and stability control is optional. Most modern-day convenience features are also standard. Major options include a navigation system, leather seating and a premium audio system.
Those consumers considering the purchase of a Toyota Camry Hybrid should be aware that it does cost more. Compared to the similarly equipped four-cylinder Camry XLE, for instance, the Hybrid costs approximately $1,500 more. The Hybrid is also a bit deficient in terms of luggage space -- trunk capacity drops from the regular Camry's 15 cubic feet to 10.6 due to the space taken up by the battery pack.
On the whole, however, the Camry Hybrid is a very complete package. It's roomy, comfortable and fully up to date with the latest features. And thanks to the Prius, Toyota has shown that its hybrid powertrains are able to meet consumers' expectations of durability and reliability. For a hybrid family sedan, it doesn't get better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Past Toyota Camry Hybrid models
The Camry Hybrid was introduced for the 2007 model year as part of the regular Camry's redesign.
Toyota Camry Solara Introduced as sportier siblings to the mainstay midsize Camry sedan, the Toyota Camry Solara coupe and convertible have quietly enjoyed a reputation for being reliable, well built and pleasantly styled, if not excitingly so. For most family sedans, such qualities are certainly considered desirable, but when it comes to coupes and convertibles, we think that a little fun and pizzazz should figure in as well. The Camry Solara has never offered much in terms of excitement, but that hasn't prevented it from being a popular choice for a midsize two-door.
For both generations of the Solara, rear-seat room is generous and safety ratings and feature content are impressive. Smooth four-cylinder or V6 power resides under the hood, and overall the Toyota Camry Solara is reasonably priced and offers great value considering all that it delivers.
If you're looking for a sport-oriented coupe or convertible, the Toyota Camry Solara isn't going to be your best choice. And the current Camry Solara convertible's traditional fabric top can be seen as a bit dowdy given that many competing models now offer retractable hardtop designs. But if you treasure overall quality, value and comfort, there are few coupes or convertibles that put it all together as well as the Camry Solara.
Current Toyota Camry Solara
The Toyota Camry Solara is based on the previous-generation (2002-'06) Camry sedan. It's available as a midsize coupe or convertible in SE, SE Sport and SLE trim levels. The base SE is decently equipped with most modern convenience features, while the Sport version adds a firmer suspension, 17-inch wheels, an exterior body kit, xenon HID headlights and unique interior trim. The top-drawer SLE provides a few extra luxury-oriented standard features. Major options include stability control and a navigation system.
The standard engine on the Camry Solara coupe is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 157 horsepower and 158 pound-feet of torque mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. Optional on coupes and standard on convertibles is a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 210 horses and 220 lb-ft of torque. No manual transmission is available with this smooth engine, but the automatic is a modern five-speed with a manual-shift gate for those who like to select their own gears. On the road, the Toyota Camry Solara's suspension tuning delivers a comfortable ride. The added stiffness of the SE Sport model gives it enough capability to have some fun through corners while still maintaining the civilized ride quality of the other models.
The Solara's front seats offer plenty of room for even the tallest drivers, but the rear seats are still best reserved for short trips. While Solara coupes can seat three passengers snugly in back, the Camry Solara convertible can accommodate just two. The Solara convertible's standard power top raises and lowers in just 10 seconds, and stows neatly under a tonneau cover that matches the color of the interior.
This second-generation Camry Solara has been available since the 2004 model year, including a slight styling refresh. Changes since then have been minimal. The most significant occurred in 2006 when the optional automatic transmission on four-cylinders was upgraded to a five-speed unit.
Past Toyota Camry Solara models
The Camry Solara originally debuted for 1999 and was produced through 2003. Mechanically, it was related to the 1997-2001 Camry sedan. Toyota hoped its new two-door would appeal to consumers who wanted the style of a sporty car but the room and comfort of a larger, more practical vehicle. In the first year, only the coupe was sold, but Toyota added the convertible version for model-year 2000.
For this Camry Solara's run, Toyota offered the familiar SE or SLE trim levels. Initially, Toyota offered either a 2.2-liter, 135-hp four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-liter, 192-hp V6. Either engine could be had with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. For 2002, Toyota introduced a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 157 hp. Revised front and rear styling was also introduced that year. For 2003 and beyond, Toyota discontinued the manual transmission option for the V6.
At the time, we commented favorably about the Solara's roomy cabin and smooth engines. Downsides included a lack of driving or styling excitement and the absence of some higher-end features, such as stability control and a navigation system.
Toyota Corolla
Now in its tenth generation, the compact Toyota Corolla is the best-selling nameplate in automotive history. And with good reason: This is the quintessential economy car. It's small, inexpensive, fuel-efficient and reliable. Put gas in it, give it the occasional oil change and it will provide dependable transportation well past the 100,000-mile mark. That's why more than 200,000 Americans, from high schoolers to retirees, buy Corollas every year.
Since its 1968 introduction in the U.S., the Toyota Corolla has come in a variety of body styles, including sedan, coupe, hatchback and wagon. The current car, which is available only in sedan form, is larger, heavier and more expensive than early models, but still provides all the usual benefits of Corolla ownership, along with a substantially more refined driving experience. Several competitors in the economy sedan class offer sportier dynamics and a wider range of features, but arguably none can top the Corolla when it comes to overall quality.
Current Toyota Corolla
The tenth-generation Toyota Corolla debuted for the 2009 model year. It's not longer or taller than the previous-generation Corolla, but it is a little wider, which creates additional hip- and shoulder room. A telescoping steering wheel is a welcome addition for taller drivers, as are accoutrements like an auxiliary audio input, keyless startup and a navigation system. Updated styling gives the Corolla a "baby Camry" look from certain angles.
Available trim levels are base, LE, S, XLE and XRS. Base models are reasonably well-equipped but lack power accessories, which the LE model adds. The S model has only the base model's convenience features as standard but gains various sporty touches. The XLE is the most luxurious Corolla, while the XRS is less luxurious but features a larger engine and a sport-tuned suspension.
Fuel economy has always been a Corolla hallmark. To this end, all Corollas but the XRS model employ an updated version of Toyota's venerable 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, which is renowned for its efficiency. This 132-horsepower power plant manages to make the current Corolla a hair faster than its predecessor while still returning comparable gas mileage. The XRS employs a 158-hp, 2.4-liter inline-4, which makes the car reasonably quick, with a predictable penalty at the pump. The current XRS actually has less hp than the previous-generation XRS, though it does generate substantially more torque.
Like its predecessors, the Toyota Corolla mostly aims to please the average consumer. Ride quality is smooth and quiet, while the car's handling is adequate but uninspired. This trend continues in the cabin, where there's nothing flashy about the design. Materials quality is good for this class, however, and the control layout is as simple and organized as they come. There's ample room in the backseat, and the awkward driving position of past models has been largely rectified by the telescoping steering column.
Past Toyota Corolla Models
The ninth-generation Toyota Corolla was produced from 2003-'08 and came in CE, S, LE and XRS trim levels. The CE was a basic economy car but came with essentials like air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat and a CD player. The Corolla S offered a few more conveniences, while adding a lower body kit, rear spoiler and smoked headlamps for a faux sport sedan look. The LE did away with the sporty add-ons in favor of a more upscale feel -- it was the one to get if you wanted faux wood interior trim. Finally, there was the XRS, the only truly sporty member of the Toyota Corolla family. In addition to all the cosmetic touches from the S model, the XRS had a more powerful engine, a firmer suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and alloy wheels.
For power, the CE, S and LE had a 1.8-liter four-cylinder rated for 126 hp. This doesn't sound like a lot, but the ninth-generation Corolla got around well for a car in this class, providing solid highway acceleration. The XRS, which was only produced for 2004 and '05, had a higher-revving 1.8-liter four good for 164 hp. Acceleration was definitely quicker, but many consumers would probably find the engine's peaky power delivery annoying in everyday traffic. Additionally, the XRS was only available with a manual transmission, whereas other Corollas could be equipped with a manual or automatic.
Changes to the ninth-generation Corolla were limited but possibly significant for used-car shoppers. Notably, side curtain airbags, stability control and a JBL audio system were all newly available for the '05 model year. In reviews at the time, we noted that this Corolla offered a smooth and quiet ride but uninspiring handling. There was nothing flashy about the cabin's design, but materials quality was very high for this class of car. There was ample room in the backseat, but the driving position was awkward.
If you're shopping for a used Toyota Corolla, chances are your search will turn up plenty of eighth-generation models, sold from 1998-2002. Besides being a good choice from a reliability and fuel-economy standpoint, this Corolla is an excellent used-car buy if safety is a priority -- it was the first low-priced compact sedan to offer side airbags as an option back in 1998. All Corollas from this era were sedans, and all had a 1.8-liter four-cylinder. Acceleration was solid, though we'd advise you to avoid base models equipped with the archaic three-speed automatic transmission (either VE or CE, depending on the model year). Ride comfort and materials quality were also strengths; a cramped backseat was the major negative.
The seventh generation covers the years 1993-'97. Similar in size and personality to its successor, this Corolla was powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. Horsepower output was anywhere from 100 to 115, depending on the model year and emissions equipment. Dual front airbags were standard in all years, except 1993. A wagon version was available from 1993-'96.
Sixth-generation Corollas sold from 1988-'92 were much smaller and boxier, although the lineup was considerably more varied. In addition to the plain-Jane sedan, there was a sporty GTS coupe with a high-revving four-cylinder rated for as much as 130 hp (an impressive number at the time). An all-wheel-drive "All-Trac" wagon was also available.
One thing to keep in mind if you're shopping for a Toyota Corolla sedan from most of these generations is that GM sold an identical model called the Prizm under the Chevrolet and Geo brands. Depreciation was always higher on this car, meaning that you can buy a used one for less than you'd pay for the Toyota version.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
In recent years, a few automakers have introduced what have become known as "retro" vehicles. These cars and trucks typically marry modern mechanicals with styling that recalls a successful model of the past. One of the newer additions to this retro vehicle trend is the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
The FJ Cruiser is a midsize SUV that harks back to Toyota's earlier and now iconic FJ40 Series of Land Cruisers. The original FJ40 was a tough, dependable four-wheel-drive truck sold in the U.S. from 1960-'83. It's generally assumed that the U.S. military's Jeep from WWII provided the inspiration for the FJ's predecessor, the BJ20.
Like the FJ40, the new Toyota FJ Cruiser has superior off-road capabilities. It's built on a truck-based, ladder-frame chassis and features a stout suspension and drivetrain. Much of its underlying hardware is similar to Toyota's 4Runner SUV. Toyota has designed the FJ Cruiser to be a bit more specialized, however. Compared to the 4Runner, it's smaller, less expensive and more capable in off-road situations, and it's designed to appeal to younger and more active consumers.
Current Toyota FJ Cruiser
The current Toyota FJ Cruiser debuted as a 2007 model. Though officially classified as a midsize SUV, its price and immediate competition place it in the small SUV category. On the FJ Cruiser, Toyota has emphasized off-road performance and a style that invokes the heritage of the original FJ40 of the '60s.
Much of the vehicle's retro theme comes through its exterior styling. Key elements include a grille that incorporates tightly spaced round headlights, a grille-mounted classic Toyota name badge instead of the modern emblem, a white-top roof, wrap-around rear windows, an exposed full-size spare tire and an offset rear license plate.
Besides style, a major draw for shoppers will be the vehicle's off-road abilities. The Toyota FJ Cruiser was designed to have 32-inch tires, considerable wheel travel, high ground clearance and a tough, fully boxed frame. The front suspension is independent with a double-wishbone design while the rear features a solid rear axle with a four-link coil-spring suspension. Providing power for every FJ is a 4.0-liter V6 capable of 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque.
Toyota has outfitted the FJ Cruiser with a choice of two four-wheel-drive (4WD) systems and two transmissions. Four-wheel-drive models with the five-speed automatic transmission come with a transfer case that can be changed to 2-Hi, 4-Hi and 4-Lo modes. FJs with the six-speed manual transmission are more off-road-oriented, as they provide a lockable center differential but lack the 2-Hi mode. There's also a two-wheel-drive FJ Cruiser available. It comes with the five-speed automatic only.
All FJ Cruisers have two standard front doors with a pair of smaller, reverse-opening rear doors that provide easier access to the rear seat. Standard feature highlights include air-conditioning, a CD stereo, power windows and locks, stability control and antilock disc brakes. Toyota offers a few option packages to further expand the vehicle's list of amenities. Should that not be enough, a wide variety of aftermarket parts is also available.
In reviews, the Toyota FJ Cruiser has earned positive commentary for its impressive off-road ability, comfortable front seats and distinctive exterior styling. FJ Cruiser drawbacks include limited outward visibility and a rear seat area that's, in spite of the access doors, difficult to get in and out of and not particularly comfortable.
Changes to the current FJ Cruiser include the elimination of the TRD Special Edition model for 2008, although many of that model's features are available via an off-road package. Also, side and side curtain airbags became standard in '08 after having been optional for the FJ Cruiser's first year of production.
Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander was one of the first midsize "crossover" sport-utilities to appear on the scene. With its carlike unibody design, the original Highlander provided a variety of benefits over Toyota's more traditional SUVs, such as better handling, less cabin noise, improved crashworthiness and easier entry and exit for passengers.
Like most crossovers, the Toyota Highlander appeals to consumers who want an SUV image, cargo-carrying versatility and carlike driving characteristics. Think of the Highlander as an elevated, oversize Camry wagon dressed for the great outdoors, and you've got the general idea.
Redesigned for the 2008 model year, the current Toyota Highlander is a bit larger than its predecessor and features updated styling, a more powerful V6 engine and other new features. But even the first-generation Highlander remains one of the better values for individuals and families who need a comfortable, easy-to-drive vehicle that can carry a fair amount of cargo, handle occasional snow and ice during the winter months and still turn in adequate fuel economy.
Current Toyota Highlander
The current Toyota Highlander debuted as a 2008 model. It's significantly bigger than the previous model in nearly every way, adding shoulder room, hiproom and legroom all around. Cargo capacity has increased too, from 81.6 cubic feet to 95.4. An optional power liftgate eases rear access.
The third-row seat is also more accommodating than before, thanks to easier ingress and egress as well as the Highlander's increased size. Moreover, the middle section of the Highlander's 40/20/40 second-row bench folds away into its own receptacle, leaving you with a pair of captain's chairs -- just like in a minivan. Toyota calls this handy innovation "Center Stow."
Bigger dimensions usually mean a bigger number at the scales, and the Highlander is no exception. To compensate for the couple hundred or so extra pounds it's packing, the Highlander is now available only with V6 power. That V6 is Toyota's ubiquitous 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter engine, which is both powerful and respectably efficient.
Like its predecessor, the current Highlander is offered in three trim levels: base, Sport and Limited. Base models have an impressive array of standard features that will satisfy many consumers, while stepping up to the Sport nets bigger wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and some added luxury and convenience items. The Highlander Limited receives softer suspension tuning than the Sport as well as leather upholstery and a decadent assortment of interior accoutrements.
On the road, our editors have found that the Highlander delivers an agreeable combination of comfort and control, though the Highlander ultimately favors ride quality over handling. Drivers looking for a slightly more precise cornering attitude will want to check the Sport version, which has modestly firmer suspension tuning.
Past Toyota Highlander Models
The first-generation Toyota Highlander debuted for the 2001 model year. It was powered by either a 155-hp four-cylinder engine or a 220-hp 3.0-liter V6. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard. In 2004 the V6 was bumped up to 3.3 liters and 230 hp, and models so equipped received a five-speed automatic transmission, while four-cylinder models soldiered on with the four-speed unit (and 5 extra hp). Available trim levels were base, Sport and Limited.
Base models came equipped with a respectable amount of equipment, including air-conditioning, power accessories, cruise control and a CD player. The Sport trim spiced things up with 17-inch alloys, a sport-tuned suspension, foglights, a power driver seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The Limited added heated outside mirrors, power front seats, a fold-flat third-row seat (as of 2004) and an upgraded JBL sound system. Popular options included leather seating, an in-dash CD changer, a towing package and -- on the Limited model only -- a navigation system.
Shoppers interested in a used Toyota Highlander might want to confine their search to 2004 models and newer, not just because of the power increase, but also because a third-row seat and rear DVD entertainment system were newly available, enabling the Highlander to remain competitive with the strengthening crop of midsize crossover SUVs. Other significant changes for '04 included the addition of stability control and a tire-pressure warning system as standard equipment, as well as newly optional side curtain airbags for the first and second rows, which became standard on '07 models.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Toyota Land Cruiser
Few trucks or SUVs are as well-known around the globe as the Toyota Land Cruiser. For decades, this vehicle's rugged and durable nature has allowed it to be used in the world's most extreme environments. Early Land Cruisers were designed mainly for utilitarian use, but models since the 1980s have become much more suited for the general consumer.
The history of the Toyota Land Cruiser dates back to the early 1950s. At that time, Toyota was interested in building a four-wheel-drive vehicle similar to the U.S. military's Jeep, for use by Japan's police services. The result was the four-cylinder BJ20 and the six-cylinder FJ20. Soon after, Toyota gave this original "20 Series" vehicle the Land Cruiser name.
Though Toyota introduced the FJ20 to the U.S. market in 1958, it is that vehicle's replacement -- the FJ40 Land Cruiser that debuted a few years later -- that most people recognize as being the classic Land Cruiser. This FJ40 and its four-door SUV variant, the 55 Series, were well known for their rugged and durable nature and recently served as inspiration for Toyota's introduction of the retro-themed FJ Cruiser SUV.
Modern Toyota Land Cruisers still maintain their forebears' focus on off-road ability but are now much more upscale, comfortable and accommodating. This is particularly true of the current, fifth-generation Land Cruiser, which is packed to the gills with luxurious features yet retains the off-road prowess buyers have come to expect.
Current Toyota Land Cruiser
The current Land Cruiser debuted for the 2008 model year. Wheelbase dimensions haven't changed from the previous model, but the big Toyota has added 2.4 inches of length and an extra inch of width and height. As ever, the Land Cruiser features a traditional body-on-frame design, though it's admirably difficult to discern this from the cabin's coddling confines. Motivation comes exclusively from a 5.7-liter V8 that churns out 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, rectifying the relative power shortage that plagued the new Cruiser's predecessor and more than offsetting the new SUV's 265-pound weight gain.
A six-speed automatic channels this output to all four wheels via the Land Cruiser's full-time 4WD system with selectable low-range gearing. "Crawl Control" further enhances the drivetrain's capability by maintaining a fixed ultra-slow velocity for hard-core trail-busting. A Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) is available for the first time, enabling the front and rear antiroll bars to stiffen or relax automatically as conditions change; the theoretical payoff is both flatter cornering and superior wheel articulation for off-road applications. The only sour note here is that ground clearance and approach, departure and break-over angles have been reduced slightly from the last Land Cruiser.
We're guessing most Land Cruiser buyers won't mind, since this SUV still offers superior off-road capability while raising the level of luxury to new heights. The Cruiser's decadent interior comes standard with leather upholstery, a four-zone climate control system, a 14-speaker audio system, three rows of seating for up to eight people and parking sensors all around. Only one trim level is available, so if you want more than that, you'll have to resort to the options list. Notable add-ons include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system and wood trim.
In our reviews, we've expressed admiration for the greatly improved on-road performance and composure of the current Land Cruiser, as well as its slightly improved fuel economy and sumptuous accommodations. (The third-row seat is still only for kids, though.) However, we're not convinced that Toyota did the right thing by lowering the default ground clearance without offering a height-adjustable suspension. A vehicle that has staked its reputation on superior off-road performance deserves class-leading ground clearance -- even if you have to press a button to achieve it. We also have our reservations about the Land Cruiser's lofty price, especially with desirable options.
Past Toyota Land Cruiser Models
The fourth-generation Land Cruiser was produced from 1998-2007. Though underpowered compared with the current model, the previous Cruiser is still a desirable used vehicle for a shopper interested in a luxurious and dependable midsize or full-size SUV. With a traditional ladder frame structure and seating for eight passengers, this Land Cruiser was an excellent choice for off-road enthusiasts with growing families. It came in just one well-equipped trim level, though upscale options such as rear-seat DVD entertainment and a navigation system were available.
The fourth-generation Cruiser relied on a 4.7-liter V8 that was capable of up to 275 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque (235 hp and 320 lb-ft for pre-2006 versions). A five-speed automatic transmission was standard, as was 4WD with low-range gearing for enhanced off-road performance. As an option, Toyota offered an adjustable suspension system. This system was capable of adjusting the shock valving for better ride comfort and handling, and altering the vehicle's ride height for increased ground clearance when driving on rough terrain.
We liked this version of the Land Cruiser -- a lot. It earned high marks in reviews and was a repeated Editors' Most WantedSM award winner. Noted positive attributes included its go-anywhere capability, comfortable ride quality, smooth if not scintillating V8 and luxurious interior. Those shopping for a used Toyota Land Cruiser of this generation should feel relatively free to look at all of its years, as Toyota hasn't made any major changes. Generally, the newer the Land Cruiser is, the more features it will have. Stability control came out in 2000, for instance, and a navigation system came in 2001. As noted, one downside to models previous to 2006 is that their V8s produced 40 fewer hp.
Used Land Cruisers from the '90s also provide an impressive mix of capabilities at more affordable prices. Most buyers shopping for a used four-door Land Cruiser are going to be interested in the third-generation model that was available for the 1990-'97 model years. Though this SUV wasn't as large, luxurious or powerful as the current model, it still represents a top pick for a shopper interested in a used SUV that's comfortable and off-road worthy. At its debut, the vehicle could seat five passengers in its two rows of seating. Under its hood was a 155-hp, 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. It had 4WD but the driver had to manually lock the front hubs to activate it. The following year, Toyota replaced that setup with a full-time 4WD system. Other major upgrades for this model included a larger 212-hp engine in 1993 and enhanced safety equipment in 1995.
In reviews of the third-generation Toyota Land Cruiser, praise was given for its impressive off-road ability, strong engine and durable nature. The main noted downsides were the SUV's uninspiring acceleration and its lofty price. Depreciation, of course, has mitigated this latter issue, although resale values remain impressively high.
Toyota Matrix
Toyota Prius
Toyota RAV4
Toyota Sequoia
Toyota Sienna
Toyota Tacoma
Toyota Tundra
Toyota Yaris

Looking for an inexpensive, entry-level new car at a Toyota dealership? In the past few years, you would've likely walked right by the Yaris' oddly proportioned predecessor, the Echo, and opted to shop for one of its worthy subcompact competitors. Thankfully, the Toyota Yaris is a better vehicle in just about every way.
Though new to Americans, the current Yaris is actually the car's second generation from a global perspective -- a first-generation Yaris was available in other markets, including Europe, where it was Toyota's best-selling car. As Toyota's entry-level model, the Yaris should hold considerable appeal for the young and value-conscious consumer.
Current Toyota Yaris
The Toyota Yaris subcompact is available as a two-door hatchback or a four-door sedan. Standard equipment is fairly sparse, though the upgraded S trim level comes with a rear window defroster, larger wheels with ground-effects styling, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a CD/MP3 player. Most of these features are available on the base hatchback and sedan as options. Other options for the Yaris include front side airbags, side curtain airbags, keyless entry, and power windows and locks.
All Toyota Yaris models are powered by an economical 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine producing 106 horsepower and driving the front wheels. Two transmissions are available: a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. Both deliver excellent and comparable city/highway mileage.
Toyota has put in extra effort to differentiate the two Yaris body styles. They feature distinctly different instrument panels, and the sedan is almost 20 inches longer than the hatchback and has a longer wheelbase. This means more room for rear passengers in the sedan, though the hatchback can compensate nicely thanks to its optional adjustable rear seat, which moves fore and aft.
In reviews, we've found that when driving the Toyota Yaris around town, the word "competent" often comes to mind. Not "refined" or "sporty" or "fun"-- just "competent." The steering is light for easy parking maneuvers, and the turning circle is tight. The car feels reasonably secure and comfortable -- but nothing more. The engine is surprisingly peppy, however, with a smooth delivery even when revved to high rpm. Off-the-line acceleration can be sluggish with the automatic transmission, but all models have enough midrange pull for easy merging and passing at highway speeds.

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