DALLAS, Tex. — Autocrossing a Toyota Camry shouldn't be fun … should it? Everyone knows a Camry is best enjoyed from the rear seat, while your Uber driver chauffeurs you home after a night at the bar. Or at least, that has historically been the case. But Toyota's mainstay sedan has evolved into a car that also can be appreciated from behind the wheel, and buyers appear to be taking notice. Since the latest-generation Camry debuted for 2018, the SE and XSE models combined have accounted for some 60% of the model mix, according to Toyota. But the 2020 Toyota Camry TRD moves beyond those models, taking the Camry to a place it has never credibly gone before: a coned autocross course. The brand's in-house tuner arm, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), has to date mostly expended its energies making trucks and SUVs more off-road ready. TRD-branded models include the 4Runner, Tacoma, Tundra, and Sequoia. In creating the 2020 Camry TRD, the first TRD-branded sedan, the primary objective was to improve handling. Of course, the car also has to look the part. There's the rear wing — a Camry first — but also side aero skirts in black with red striping, extended front splitters, and a diffuser under the rear bumper. A gloss-black grille, special matte-black wheels, and a black roof complete the look. Exterior colors are limited to black, red, pearl white, and silver. Sorry, no beige. Inside, drivers are treated to red accents before they get the red mist. The TRD Camry's black interior sees red stripes on the seats and a red "TRD" stitched into the headrests. There also are red seatbelts; red edging on the floor mats; and red contrast stitching on the dash, steering wheel, gear lever, and shift boot. The gauge numbers also are red. The Camry is one of the final holdouts still offering a V6 engine in a class that has increasingly downsized and added turbocharging, and that engine is unchanged for TRD duty, making the same 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque as it does in the XSE and XLE models. It does, however, get a revised cat-back exhaust system to trumpet more engine sound. A stiffer structure always benefits handling, and the TRD folks have added a V-brace behind the Camry's rear seatback (sacrificing its fold-down function). Additionally, three under-car braces have been beefed up. The revised suspension features firmer coil springs and dampers and beefier anti-roll bars, all employed in a quest for increased roll stiffness. The dampers also gain internal rebound springs, and there are new jounce bumpers to preserve some semblance of ride quality. The new setup lowers the ride height by 0.6 inch, which pays ancillary benefits in the visual department. Toyota's Active Cornering Assist, which can brake an inside wheel in turns, is employed here and is exclusive to the TRD. The Camry TRD dons a set of athletic footwear in the form of model-specific 19 x 8.5" alloy wheels that are half-an-inch wider and 3.1 pounds lighter than the 19" units on the XSE. For maximum stick, they're wrapped with Bridgestone Potenza summer tires, size 235/40. Peeking through the matte-black wheels are snappy, red-painted brake calipers. The fronts have been upgraded to two-piston units (the rears are unchanged), and they squeeze 0.9-inch-larger rotors. We drove the TRD back-to-back with the next-sportiest Camry variant, the V6 XSE. In a tight coned course, the TRD exhibited far more grip, body control, and eagerness to turn in. Where the XSE just wanted to push, the TRD was less prone to understeer and ultimately felt more balanced. It also stayed more planted in quick transitions and was much more resistant to body roll. The car actually was fun to toss around. We also made time to drive the Camry TRD on the street, where the difference versus the XSE model was less transformative but still evident. The TRD car has retuned electric power steering, and that combined with the different (although same-size) tires makes for improved steering feel, with the helm noticeably more precise on center. It's best appreciated in Sport mode, which reduces steering assist compared to Normal mode. Cruising through a couple of fast sweepers, this Camry feels athletic, and isn't terribly upset by bumps. The roads north of Dallas were generally pretty smooth, but crossing a set a railroad tracks we did feel some impact harshness, and we suspect that over broken pavement the TRD's firmer suspension will exact a toll in ride quality. As noted, TRD left the Camry's powertrain alone except for the exhaust system, but this V6 makes about as much as you'd want to send through the front wheels anyway. The Camry steps lively off the line, but with peak torque arriving at 4,700 rpm, the engine unsurprisingly provides its most muscular response as the tach needle swings toward 5k. With the revised exhaust, this vociferous V6 sounds better than any 2.0-liter turbo four at higher revs. But there is also a bit of not-so-welcome resonance when cruising at a steady 50 to 60 mph, although it's pretty faint, taking a back seat to the noise from the Bridgestones. In all other ways, this is a Camry, which means it has a roomy interior, comfortable front seats, and good outward visibility. It has the same funhouse dashboard with its slashing curves, agreeable mechanical shifter, and fairly simple infotainment system as its siblings. The TRD-specific Softex fabric does a reasonable approximation of leather, and the red elements are sporty without being cheesy – but the red instrument markings are hard to see when wearing sunglasses. With a starting price of $31,995 (with destination), the TRD is the lowest-priced Camry with a V6 engine. It comes in $3,410 below the V6 XLE and $3,960 less than the V6 XSE. That may seem surprising, but the TRD's equipment level is more akin to the four-cylinder SE model. Thus, the TRD skips the sunroof, leather, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and larger touchscreen with navigation that are all standard on the XSE and XLE V6 models. Among the included features are adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Toyota says that production of the 2020 Camry TRD is limited but seems not to have settled on an exact number. We're told that fewer than 6,000 will be built. It would be a shame if at least a few of them don't find their way to an autocross.
MOAB, Utah – The 2020 Toyota Tacoma may be a mild-sauce update of a truck whose basic design dates back to 2005, but when you look at the sales charts, it certainly doesn't seem like customers are clamoring for something all-new. The Taco is crushing its competition, recording nearly 246,000 sales last year and on its way to besting that in 2019. By contrast, the Chevy Colorado, which itself enjoyed a 16% rise last year, was still at just 168,000 units. From there, things fall off a cliff to the Nissan Frontier (about 80,000), Honda Ridgeline (about 31,000) and GMC Canyon (about 18,000), with Ford just ramping up Ranger production. However, owning the segment doesn't mean the Tacoma should get a free pass. Yes, there are a few tweaks for 2020, but this fundamentally remains the same pickup that came in fourth in our recent midsize truck comparison. The cabs, frame, engine and transmissions remain the same, and the exterior alterations consist merely of a new grille, standard LED headlights and some new wheel choices. Most of the noteworthy changes are inside. A new, 10-way power driver's seat applies a band-aid to the Tacoma's longstanding issue of a too-low seating position that forces taller folks into an uncomfortable, legs-splayed-out position. But without changes to the cab dimensions, jacking the seat up exacerbates the Tacoma's shortage of headroom versus key rivals. Otherwise, the Tacoma's smartly finished interior remains competitive, something that we noted in the midsize truck comparo. A new multimedia system happily replaces a much-derided unit, and now includes a larger 8-inch touchscreen (or 7 inches on the SR starter model) with newfound Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa connectivity. A new panoramic view monitor is standard on up-level versions, while the extra-off-road-focused TRD Pro models – with retuned, 2.5-inch, Fox internal-bypass shocks – offer a cool new Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM) that lets occupants see the ground beneath their truck and the position of the front wheels. That's useful for negotiating off-road obstacles with less need for a human spotter. As with Land Rover's similar system, the MTM slightly delays a view from a grille-mounted camera, and stitches it together with images from side-mirror cameras, to create the onscreen view. MTM is just another reason for the Tacoma to still shine brightest off-road, including here in Moab on the Hell's Revenge trail, a slick-rock gauntlet that tested every inch of the Taco's ground clearance, approach/departure angles and 4x4 capability. For these Double Cab models in TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trims, that capability includes an electronically controlled, low-range 4WD setting, a locking rear differential and Multi-Terrain Select driving modes. Toyota's Crawl Control, now with five speed settings instead of three, continues to excel at walking the Tacoma up or down perilous grades with no need to touch the throttle or brakes, allowing the driver to focus on steering and positioning. I personally prefer the DIY method, which is half the fun of off-roading, but Crawl Control is a real confidence-booster for people who'd rather let the machine do it. Following a full day on these daunting trails near the Lion's Back, our convoy of bone-stock Tacomas emerged onto Sand Flats Road, none the worse for wear. The next day brought an all-day run from Moab to equally splendorous Ouray, Colorado, via Geyser Pass Road. This rugged dirt track crosses the LaSal range at 10,528 feet, with snow still hanging on in mid-July. Through it all, the Tacoma's off-road act was exceptional, perfectly complementing the outdoor scenery. On pavement, however, its flaws and foibles are as glaring as ever. It has a jittery ride on even modestly bumpy pavement, and poorly controlled body motions. Its automatic transmission has only six gears, versus GM's eight and Ford's 10, and obtrusively hunts for those gears even on mild grades. At least you can get a manual transmission on the various TRD 4x4 models. Its engine is also lacking in refinement and power, a 3.5-liter V6 with 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. You can also get a 159-hp 2.7-liter inline-four, but unless you need to stay as close to the $26,945 base price as possible, it's best to pretend it doesn't exist. All of that, along with the still-unusual driving position and cramped Double Cab back seat, amount to a truck that just isn't as livable as its competition. As we found in our comparison, the Chevy Colorado and Ford Ranger are demonstrably better in many key areas, mostly due to their vastly newer designs. They're quicker, more refined, and can tow and haul more. The Jeep Gladiator is a different sort of animal, but it too scored higher than the Tacoma in our test despite a sky-high price tag (the Tacoma tops out around $44,000 for a TRD Pro Double Cab). There are a lot of disadvantages, but there's one thing those competitors don't have: a Toyota badge. It speaks volumes to the brand's hard-earned reputation for unbeatable durability and peace-of-mind, demonstrated ably during our drive by our intrepid guides' 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser, still going strong after 140,000 hard miles of adventure in the U.S. and Mexico. The Tacoma's trade-in values have also become legendary: Check out what owners can get for, say, a 12-year-old Tacoma with 180,000 miles on the odometer, and it'll blow your mind. If I'm venturing into Moab in a 4x4 – or the gnarly off-road trails of Vermont, or the African desert – I'd choose a Toyota over a Jeep, GM, Ford, Nissan or even Land Rover. As a former Jeep Wrangler owner, I will say I loved my Jeeps, but I'd also be first to admit that they were never as reliable, overall, as Toyota FJ's or Land Cruisers. That familiar Toyota hat-tip aside, there's no overlooking that the 2020 Toyota Tacoma represents a holding pattern. Yes, the Tacoma remains popular, and truck buyers are notoriously loyal. But it's fair to ask Toyota: At what point do your own loyal customers deserve an all-new, genuinely innovative Tacoma? The latest Chevrolet Silverado shows that complacency can eventually lead to loyalty being trumped by a deluxe, innovative and creamy-riding competitor in the Ram 1500 – and that Silverado is an all-new truck. While it seems unlikely that the Tacoma is in danger of turning over its sales crown, especially with Ranger's less-than-explosive debut, there's also not enough in the 2020 refresh to further entrench its position. Toyota executives insist that they recognize the growing competitive threat, and that they're taking it seriously. Perhaps we'll see how seriously soon enough.
Waymo, Nissan, and Renault have teamed up to bring self-driving cars to France and Japan, the companies announced today. They have inked an exclusive agreement to explore all aspects of driverless mobility services for both passengers and deliveries in these countries. The announcement is a little light on details about any concrete plans to launch self-driving taxi services, for example.
It appears to be an arrangement similar to the ones that Waymo has announced with other car manufacturers. That’s probably why the wording in this announcement is somewhat vague as well.
In this week's Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Green Editor John Beltz Snyder and West Coast Editor James Riswick. First, they talk about the cars they've been driving, including the Honda Passport, BMW 330i and Audi RS5. They follow up with notes about driving the Toyota Supra and 86, and whether Toyota's new sports car strategy makes sense. Then they discuss the news, including the Ferrari SF90 Stradale plug-in hybrid, a possible Renault-FCA merger, death rumors for the Jaguar XJ and thoughts on the upcoming Chevy Trailblazer.
Autoblog Podcast #582
ProPilot is Nissan’s semi-autonomous driver assistance system that was already quite capable of controlling the car on its own without much input from the driver. However, drivers were required to have their hands on the steering wheel at all times. Nissan has now introduced the updated ProPilot 2.0 which enables hands-off highway driving for the first time.
ProPilot 2.0 has been designed for on-ramp to off-ramp highway driving. It engages with the vehicle’s navigation system to maneuver the car based on a defined route on designated roadways. The system allows drivers to cruise in a single lane on the highway without having to keep their hands on the wheel.
The first- and second-generation Nissan GT-R sold for four years, from 1969 to 1973. The R32 to R34 generations covered 13 years, from 1989-2002. The current R35 generation, already 12 years into its run, will shuffle its bones perhaps as long as the first five versions combined. A lot's happened in the last dozen years, so we can expect enormous changes from the next GT-R. Top Gear spoke to Philippe Klein, Nissan's chief planning officer, about what's on the cards. A hybrid powertrain isn't surprising, as that's been rumored for years. Autonomous driving - especially autonomous track driving - perks our ears.
Klein told the outlet, "We're defending the sports car," meaning not merely the GT-R and the also-aged Z car, but the segment. The challenges in doing so are constantly documented, all of the primary issues being poison to the usual business case: High development costs, low sales, tighter emissions regulations.