Archive for the ‘Toyota’ Category

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, reviewed

May 17th, 2019

I'll admit to being a little trepidatious reviewing the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. I didn't exactly gel with the new Camry, and the two cars share the same underpinnings. Not that Toyota needs my approval—as with the Camry, people will buy the Corolla regardless of what any journalist says about it.

Toyota wouldn't be where it is today without this car, which is now in its twelfth generation. The company has sold at least 43 million Corollas, and the name may as well be a synonym for "people's car" at this point; its sales surpassed the Volkswagen Beetle more than 20 years ago. The Camry might have been Toyota's biggest US hit, but beyond these shores, in places where average salaries and parking spaces are much smaller, the Corolla has filled the niche of an affordable, reliable, dependable little car. And when the $23,140 Corolla Hatchback XSE arrived here for testing, it won some instant brownie points for having three pedals. Yes, Internet people, break out the party balloons: you can still get this one without an automatic transmission.

This latest Corolla is all new, derived from the Toyota Next Generation Architecture (TNGA). That's the toolbox of assemblies and subcomponents that has also given us the aforementioned Camry, Avalon, RAV4, and the current Prius. The Corolla is a small car, measuring 169.9 inches (4,315mm) long, 69.9 inches (1,775mm) wide, and 57.1 inches (1,450mm) high. That actually makes it a tiny bit shorter (in both length and height) than the outgoing model, but the wheelbase is 1.5 inches (38mm) longer. This translates into some extra room for stuff in the back.

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Toyota leads $1B investment in Uber’s self-driving tech

April 19th, 2019
Uber has been using Volvo XC90 hybrid SUVs as R&D platforms. Soon, we can expect these to be joined by Toyota Siennas.

Enlarge / Uber has been using Volvo XC90 hybrid SUVs as R&D platforms. Soon, we can expect these to be joined by Toyota Siennas. (credit: Uber)

On Thursday, news broke that Toyota, Denso, and the SoftBank Vision Fund are investing heavily in Uber's autonomous driving operation. Together, the three companies will put $1 billion into Uber's Advanced Technologies Group: $667 million from Toyota and Denso, with an additional $333 million coming from SoftBank.

"Leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s autonomous vehicle technology and service network and the Toyota Group’s vehicle control system technology, mass-production capability, and advanced safety support systems, such as Toyota Guardian™, will enable us to commercialize safer, lower cost automated ridesharing vehicles and services," said Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota executive vice president and president of Toyota’s in-house Connected Company, in a statement sent to Ars.

It's actually not the first time Toyota has opened its wallet for Uber. In August 2018, the Japanese OEM signed a $500 million deal to integrate Uber's autonomous tech into Toyota Sienna minivans, which will operate through Uber's ride-hailing network at some future date. That followed an earlier investment of $300 million in 2016.

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Ford, GM, and Toyota team up to develop self-driving safety standards

April 3rd, 2019
GM workers assembling a test car for Cruise.

Enlarge / GM workers assembling a test car for Cruise. (credit: Cruise)

Three of the world's leading automakers are joining forces to develop safety standards for self-driving cars. The new consortium will be called the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium (AVSC), and it will be affiliated with the prominent auto engineering group SAE International.

The founding members are Ford, GM, and Toyota. All three companies have invested heavily in self-driving technology, making self-driving safety much more than just a theoretical concern for them.

GM is the parent company of Cruise, a self-driving taxi startup that is currently testing dozens of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. Ford has a similar effort called Argo that's testing in Miami and working to expand to Washington DC.

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Posted in Argo, AVSC, cars, Cruise, Ford, GM, Mobileye, SAE, self-driving, Toyota | Comments (0)

It’s not that sporty, but it is rather good—the 2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport

February 4th, 2019

Last year, I may have been a little unkind when I reviewed the Toyota Camry. I still wonder if that was because the car we drove was a fully loaded version; the Camry is a utilitarian car, and something about one with a bright red leather interior just didn't sit right. After all, if you want a fancy Toyota, there's an entire brand called Lexus who's raison d'être is just that. Which brings us to today's car, the $43,135 2019 Lexus ES350 F Sport. It is, in essence, a fancy Camry. And while it doesn't quite live up to the "F Sport" moniker, the end result is really quite good.

All-new architecture, you say?

The new ES is in fact the seventh generation of vehicle to wear the nameplate—that's not bad going, considering the first ES only turned a wheel in 1989. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising given that the related Camry is now in its eighth iteration, though. And related they are; the Camry and ES both share the same modular Toyota New Global Architecture-K (or GA-K) as starting point, which also provides the building blocks for the Toyota Avalon and RAV4. The layout sticks to the tried-and-tested approach of a transverse engine and front- or all-wheel drive.

It's a bigger car than the one it replaces, being both 2.6 inches (66mm) longer and 1.8 inches (46mm) wider now (L: 195.5 inches/4,966mm, W: 73.4 inches/1,864mm, H: 56.9 inches/1,445mm), and with the wheels closer to the corners, that translates into a roomier interior. (The wheelbase is 2 inches/51mm longer at 113 inches/2,870mm.) According to the designer, Yasuo Kajino, the ES' look is "provocative elegance." Insert my usual disclaimer about the subjectivity of car design here, but to my eyes it wears its shape well—better than the Camry, which still evokes a late 1950s, Flash Gordon and fins thing to me. Lexus' current hourglass/cheese grater front grille will still challenge some, though. (If you pick the regular ES (starting at $39,600), or the hybrid (from $41,410), the interlocking Ls are replaced with plain old vertical bars, but neither was available on the press fleet yet, so we were sent this one.)

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Report: Toyota and Panasonic to create an electric car-battery spinoff company

January 21st, 2019
A Toyota Prius battery

Enlarge / This photo taken on June 5, 2009, shows Toyota Motors' third-generation Prius hybrid vehicle battery module displayed at Panasonic's EV Energy headquarters in Kosei, Aichi, prefecture. (credit: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Toyota Motors and Panasonic have agreed to set up a joint-venture company to manufacture vehicle batteries, with Toyota owning 51 percent of the company and Panasonic owning 49 percent.

Ars Technica contacted both companies to confirm the report, and we'll update this story if we hear back.

Nikkei reports that Panasonic would transfer ownership of five battery factories in Japan and China to the joint venture. The joint venture would start operations "in the early 2020s," and it would start producing "batteries with 50 times the capacity of those now used in hybrid vehicles, aiming to bring down production costs through higher volume," according to Nikkei.

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Posted in batteries, battery electric vehicles, cars, Energy, fuel, panasonic, Tesla, Toyota | Comments (0)

Why I’m skeptical about Toyota’s approach to self-driving cars

January 8th, 2019
Promotional image of a white Toyota topped with an array of sensors.

Enlarge (credit: Toyota Research Institute)

As most of the car industry have scrambled to develop fully driverless car technology over the last few years, Toyota has taken a pointedly contrarian tack.

"None of us in the automobile or IT industries [is] close" to solving the challenge of fully autonomous vehicles, said Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, in a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday.

As a result, Toyota has taken a two-track approach to its own self-driving vehicle research. On one track, dubbed "Chauffeur," Toyota is working to develop fully autonomous vehicles similar to those being created by Alphabet's Waymo, GM's Cruise, and other companies.

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Hyundai looks to build a >300-mile-range electric car

August 17th, 2017

Enlarge / Signage for an electric car charging booth is displayed at Federation Square car park in Melbourne, Australia, on Friday, April 28, 2017. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

On Thursday, Hyundai said that it intends to produce a long-range electric vehicle by 2021 that will be capable of traveling 310 miles on a charge. That vehicle, a luxury Genesis sedan, will follow an electric version of the Kona sport utility vehicle that the Korean automaker hopes to release in the first half of next year. The electric Kona should have a range of 243 miles, Reuters noted.

Along with affiliate company Kia, Hyundai announced eight electric cars and two fuel-cell vehicles coming to market in the near future—a significant jump in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) that the company has planned to bring to market in years prior. Hyundai, like Toyota, has boosted the fuel cell vehicle for years. Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen as fuel and emit water as a byproduct. But the compressed hydrogen that runs fuel cell vehicles is hard to store and hard to transport, so it has been slow reaching the market, although fuel cell vehicles do have the advantage of being fast to refuel, unlike electric vehicle batteries.

Toyota has also recently shown signs that it’s pouring more resources into mass-producing a long-range electric car as well. In July, an article in The Wall Street Journal noted that the Japanese automaker was working on building a battery with a solid electrolyte that would go into production in 2022. With Tesla and Chevrolet rolling out moderately priced EVs with long-range capabilities, other automakers known for moderately priced cars seem to be ready to get in the ring as well.

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Toyota and Mazda join forces to build $1.6 billion factory in the US

August 4th, 2017

Enlarge / Toyota President Akio Toyoda, left, and Mazda President and CEO Masamichi Kogai, right, shake hands during a photo session at a joint press conference on August 4, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

On Friday, Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. signed a deal to enter into an alliance. As part of the plan, the pair will build a new factory in the US and develop new electric vehicles and connected car and autonomous driving systems. Each company will purchase five percent of the other’s shares.

In May 2015, the two companies entered into a partnership to explore avenues of mutual benefit, sharing complementary technologies. This new deal strengthens that partnership.

The site of the new $1.6 billion US factory is yet to be determined, but it’s planned to be an equal venture between Mazda and Toyota. The site will employ up to 4,000 workers and produce around 300,000 vehicles a year starting in 2021. Mazda says it will produce CUVs for the North American market at the new plant, and Toyota will use it to build Corollas. As a result, Toyota’s new factory in Mexico will instead shift to production of the Tacoma pickup truck instead.

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Toyota and Mazda join forces to build $1.6 billion factory in the US

August 4th, 2017

Enlarge / Toyota President Akio Toyoda, left, and Mazda President and CEO Masamichi Kogai, right, shake hands during a photo session at a joint press conference on August 4, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

On Friday, Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. signed a deal to enter into an alliance. As part of the plan, the pair will build a new factory in the US and develop new electric vehicles and connected car and autonomous driving systems. Each company will purchase five percent of the other’s shares.

In May 2015, the two companies entered into a partnership to explore avenues of mutual benefit, sharing complementary technologies. This new deal strengthens that partnership.

The site of the new $1.6 billion US factory is yet to be determined, but it’s planned to be an equal venture between Mazda and Toyota. The site will employ up to 4,000 workers and produce around 300,000 vehicles a year starting in 2021. Mazda says it will produce CUVs for the North American market at the new plant, and Toyota will use it to build Corollas. As a result, Toyota’s new factory in Mexico will instead shift to production of the Tacoma pickup truck instead.

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Posted in cars, mazda, Toyota | Comments (0)

Review: The Toyota C-HR Hybrid is a mass-market vehicle with panache

June 20th, 2017

The hybrid version of the Toyota C-HR is not yet available in the US.

Alun Taylor

From the Auris and the Avensis to the Yaris and the RAV4, all of Toyota’s recent mainstream cars have been depressingly vanilla. White goods. Reliable, serviceable, capable—but as engaging as a washing machine or fridge freezer.

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