FJ Cruiser a daring new design
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Last year was a big one for Toyota, which now is on the verge of becoming the world's biggest auto maker. It passed Chrysler Dodge and Jeep and DaimlerChrysler in U.S. sales. Now it looks as if Toyota's on target to move past General Motors in worldwide sales within 18 months to two years.
And how did it do it?
Strong quality. Decent prices. Strong reputation, and a blurring, never-ending parade of new models.
Case in point: Toyota's hip new FJ Cruiser. This has to be one of the most daring and original designs on the road today -- you sure can't miss it if you see it. Square-shouldered, brooding and more than a little retro-looking, it has styling trademarks that harken back to the original landmark FJ 40 of decades ago.The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser.
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The FJ Cruiser gets its oomph from a 239-horsepower, four-liter V-6, and you can get either a six-speed manual on some models or a five-speed automatic on both the 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. Exterior colors are carried over to the interior and the instrument panel -- which is stark, functional and straightforward. The base price is $21,710 with an automatic, $23,300 for a 4x4 model and $22,890 for the six-speed.
You get a lot of product for the money. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, tilt wheel and a CD audio system with six speakers. The rear hatch has flip-up glass and painted bumper extenders.
Another new baby for Toyota is the cute Yaris, which comes in a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe. Perky, well-built and with an airy, contemporary interior, the Yaris is a joy to drive. No, it isn't as hot or as entertaining as the Honda Fit, but it has plenty of other charms.
Even the new 2007 Camry looks edgier than in the past. I didn't like the front and rear styling too much -- I thought it was bloated looking. But with the passage of time, I've grown fond of the Camry's looks and I think they will wear well with age.
The new Camry has an upgraded 158 horsepower, 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine and a new 3.5 liter, 268 horsepower V-8. Then there's the all-new Camry Hybrid, powered by Toyota's "Hybrid Synergy Drive" system that consists of a 2.4 liter, four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine generating 147 horsepower, and a 45 horsepower electric motor. Combined, that's 187 horsepower in the system, which is rated at 43 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on the highway.
All Camrys are equipped with an antilock brake system, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. Stability control with traction control is available as an option. There are now seven air bags as standard equipment, including side curtain air bags and driver's knee air bags.
Camry prices start at $18,270 for manual transmission models and $19,320 for automatics. Base prices top out at $24,315 for the SE model. Hybrids have a base price of $25,900.
Over at Toyota's Scion division, everyone's eagerly awaiting the all-new replacement models for the xA and xB that have helped launch the brand into one of the most successful -- and youth-oriented -- automotive sellers in the world. Those cars are due on the showroom floor in the spring, and will be considered 2008 models. As a result, there are no new 2007 xAs and xBs.
In the meantime, Scion is continuing its popular Release Series special edition models. For instance, the 2006 xA Release Series 3.0 gets a special Stingray Metallic light blue color, front and rear KenStyle ground effects, Release Series wheel covers, color-tuned seat fabric and a rear spoiler.
This xA is also satellite-radio ready and comes with a paid three-month subscription to XM radio. There's also a special keyless Scion security system with a radar intrusion sensor and individual numbered badging that helps to distinguish the special edition car.
Scion plants to make only 2,1200 units of the xA Release Series 3.0, and it will carry a price of $1,840 over the $12,787 base price of the regular Scion xA. Fuel mileage is rated at 32 city/38 highway.
This year, the Scion tC, a sleek two-door coupe, gets a Spec Package model. This is the one you buy if you're planning on adding lots of goodies to the basic car -- or if you want a Scion tC that has the look and class of the more expensive car without the big price tag.
You'll get a fixed glass roof, a steering wheel that does not have audio controls, a height adjustable driver's seat and an automatic-down driver side window. You don't get the cruise control, but with a price of $15,000, who cares, right?
Scion tC's top prices range to about $17,000, maybe a bit over, and power comes from a 2.4 liter, 161 horsepower four. Fuel mileage is rated at 22 city/29 highway. Meanwhile, every tC will come with such niceties as a tire pressure monitoring system, all-new seat fabric and sun visors with sliding extensions.
The boxy xB also has a Release Series model painted Envy Green, with a new grille, spoiler and wheel covers. You also get an Apple iPod connection, XM Satellite radio receiver and lots of special badging. The xB Release Series model costs $2,310 over the base price of the xB, which is $14,030.
One more thing : The xB also gets a cool rear seat entertainment system with dual units -- just the thing to entertain the kids.
First Published February 13, 2007 12:00 am