Toyota’s two most important models are due for a major remake. Will Toyota be bold or careful?
Both. How do I know? Consider Toyota’s track record with three recently revamped models, the Tundra pickup, Corolla compact and Highlander SUV.
In each case, Toyota pushed hard to update the styling and improve the ride and handling. That was bold. Toyota, however, was careful not to spend much improving the engines and transmissions in any of these three.
The 2014 Corolla – with a wheelbase stretched longer than a 1996-2001 Camry – has carried over with the old 1.8-litre four-banger, though an Eco option fine tunes performance for fuel economy. Fuel economy gains mostly come courtesy of a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Few people put “sporty” and CVT in the same sentence, however.
The 2014 Highlander follows suit. The engines remain the same, saving Toyota piles of money, while the cabin and exterior designs are quite grand. This Camry-based SUV also gets a big upgrade to the all-wheel-drive setup and rear suspension. Bold and careful all in one.
The Tundra? Again, nothing new on the engine front and even the frame is carried over with what Toyota calls “suspension enhancements.” Toyota also describes the new exterior as “more chiselled and robust” and the cabin is new, also.
See the pattern? Toyota’s new models follow a basic formula: update everything customers see, feel and experience from a ride quality perspective. Shun bold and expensive leaps with power trains.
The smart money says next-generation versions of the Camry and Prius will adhere to this formula. The 2015 Camry and Prius will take “waku-doki,” or heart-pounding design, to another level. Under the hood, Toyota will avoid expensive risk-taking.
Customers seem to approve – if North American sales are any indication – and saving money on the expensive bits pads Toyota’s bottom line. A win-win. Why would Toyota change a formula that works so well?
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