Dec 052017


As 2017 comes to a close, so does the fifty-first anniversary year of the Toyota Corolla. The revolutionary compact sedan continues to evolve from basic transportation to a sporty competitor in its segment, like the 2017 Corolla XSE, recently tested by Latino Traffic Report.

Production on the first Corolla began in November of 1966, eventually crossing the Pacific for its debut in the United States in 1968. It would become the “best selling nameplate of all time,” according to the manufacturer. It has also been one of the top sellers to Latinos car buyers as well.

Initially, it’s fuel efficiency and affordability set it apart. According to Toyota: “When the first Corolla arrived in the U.S., gasoline cost about 25 cents per gallon (the equivalent of about $1.75 in 2016). Many American drivers saw the long-term value in higher fuel economy and chose Corolla for that reason.”

Growing competition has forced Toyota to improve the Corolla’s other attributes, like performance and looks. For its fiftieth anniversary, the Corolla got refreshed styling with a sportier bent, from the new front grille and LED headlamps, as well as a special edition in 2017, the Corolla SE, with a special paint color, Black Cherry Pearl. The test model came in Blue Crush Metallic, and with blue accent stitching on the Softex seating and blue ambient lighting on the door sills.

It’s powered by a 1.5-cylinder four-cylinder engine that produces 132 horsepower and matched to a Continuously Variable Transmission with intelligence and a sport mode to enhance its performance. Despite its size, the engine had a louder than average rumble. The test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. I averaged 29.5 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

All Corollas now come with a backup camera, plus the advanced Toyota Safety Sense-P technology, that bundles the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beams. A blind spot monitor, however, is not available.

Like the Corolla’s performance and exterior, its feature package has also evolved beyond a simple AM radio. Standard fun features on all Corollas in 2017 include Bluetooth, the Entune infotainment system, air conditioning, cruise control, 60/40-split rear seat, and a manual tilting telescopic steering wheel. Each trim level adds more features culminating in the top of top-of-the-line XSE, like the test model that brought driver and front passenger heated seats, a Smart Key with push button start, Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation and a seven-inch touchscreen, AM/FM CD player, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

The test model added stand-alone options like Entune Premium Audio ($525), mudguards ($129), and TRD Performance Exhaust ($649) and air filter ($80).

Pricing for the 2017 Corolla starts at $19,445. The As-tested pricing came to $26,288.

SI: Sporty and stylish, the Corolla offers good value and fuel economy plus you can still get a CD player.

No: The new exterior design does add sportiness but I’m not a fan of the gaping grille, plus a blind spot monitor should at least be available.


Sep 122016


Some redesigns amount to a mere nip and tuck, but others achieve a true about face. The first Toyota Prius was made famous because of what it did, not how it looked. During a test drive for Latino Traffic Report of the 2016 redesigned version, I was immediately impressed with it’s new look, plus fuel efficiency and cargo room also improve.

The “Triangle Silhouette” that defined the Prius is gone, and now longer, lower, and wider than its predecessors, the new Prius bears more of a sedan silhouette, although it’s still technically a liftback.2016-04-19-17-37-07

Both the Bi-LED headlamps with automatic headlamp leveling and tail lights expand on the flame motif that the outgoing Prius hinted at. The hybrid’s new form also has a function, increasing aerodynamics that also improves fuel economy.

The new powertrain engages a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two motor/generators through an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT). A new lithium-ion hybrid battery replaces the nickel-metal hydride battery in most models. Smaller and flatter, the new battery’s size allows it to fit under the rear seat, expanding cargo volume to 27.4 cu. ft., an increase from the previous space of 21.6 cu. ft.

2016-04-19-17-39-53New innovations under the hood also stretch gasoline. All of this technology combine to give the Prius Four Touring that I tested an estimated fuel economy of 54 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 50 mpg on the highway. That’s an increase from the city/highway estimated mileage of 51/48 mpg for the previous model. I averaged 50.9 mpg on the test drive.

On the inside a new instrument panel features a dual 4.2-inch full-color TFT (Thin Film Transistor) multi-information displays that can be configured using steering wheel controls. The driver can also enhance performance with Normal and Power driving modes option that also add ambience. The Power mode produces a red background display while Normal emits blue.2016-04-19-17-43-06

Safety advances include a standard rear backup camera and Hill Start Assist on all six trim levels. The two up-level Prius Four models, however, come with a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert and Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS –(P)) with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams and Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. TSS-(P) is available on Prius Three and Four trims but not, unfortunately, on the base models.

Standard creature comforts included heated Softex front seats, Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite visible on a seven-inch-high resolution touch-screen with split screen display, AM/FM CD player, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth wireless technology), and Siri Eyes Free, among other features.

The test model added the Premium Convenience Package ($1705) with Safety Connect that includes Emergency Assistance, a stolen vehicle locator, one-year complimentary subscription to roadside assistance and automatic collision notification, among other features.2016-04-19-prius-rear

Pricing for the 2016 Prius starts at $25,035. The as-tested pricing came to $32,540.

: The all-new Toyota Prius gets a redesign that moves the segment forward with a provocative new look.

No: Safety features like a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert should be offered on lower trim levels.

Sep 282015


Proverbial wisdom says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As the top-selling sedan in the country for more than a decade, the Toyota Camry would seem without fault, but while its reliability has been solid (the current recall notwithstanding), its looks were uninspired. On a recent test drive of the 2015 Camry XLE for Latino Traffic Report, the iconic midsize sedan sustained its expected on-road performance, but on the outside, a bolder design for the front bumper and grille and wider, sportier stance signaled change, and for Toyota, that’s a good thing.

The new Camry sits on a stiffer body structure, with additional spot welds to enhance rigidity. Better aerodynamics improve fuel economy while reducing interior noise, vibration, and harshness, i.e. it’s a quieter ride, plus a retuned suspension in all models enhances handling agility.

Digital screen in gauge cluster.

Digital screen in gauge cluster.

Toyota equips the 2015 Camry with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 178 horsepower and 170 lb.–ft. of peak torque. Matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, it should achieve an EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy of 25/35 mpg. I drove the 2.5-liter and averaged 27.3 mpg.  I also engaged the Eco mode for more fuel efficiency. The Camry also comes with a 3.5-liter V6 as well as a hybrid version.

The new 4.2-inch digital color screen located in the instrument cluster provided a wide range of vehicle functions, including my favorite, the average fuel economy calculator. It also coordinates with the multimedia system to display audio, navigation, warnings and communications. It’s standard on all but the base (LE) model. I also appreciated that the Tire Pressure Monitoring System displayed the pressure for each tire, taking the hassle out of figuring out which tire is low.

2015-02-25 Camry.interior7There’s a 6.1-inch screen at the center stack for handling the Entune entertainment system. The test vehicle was upgraded with the optional seven-inch screen. Programming radio stations was fairly effortless and I appreciated that you can choose up to 36. I only needed 24 for Satellite Radio and 12 for FM.

The 2015 Camry offers advanced safety features like the Pre-Collision System, Adaptive Cruise Control or Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. While I’d prefer that one or more of these features were standard, adding them won’t hike up the price exorbitantly. The test model included the Blind Spot Monitor for a mere $500 extra.

All Camrys do come with a backup camera, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and stability and traction control among other features.

The XLE grade I drove also included the Safety Connect telematics system (with a one-year complimentary trial subscription) that covers four safety and security features: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), and Roadside Assistance.

2015-02-25 camy.rearCreature comforts include Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls, a USB port, iPod integration, air conditioning, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat with center armrest with cup holders, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and hands-free phone controls, and Entune Audio that includes the 6.1-inch display screen, AM/FM CD player and MP3/WMA capability.

The XLE added dual-zone climate control, push button start, heated leather front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Built in Georgetown, Kentucky it’s available in four trim levels, the XLE being the top of the line. Pricing for the Camry starts at $23,795. The as-tested price that also included the Convenience Package ($845) and Entune premium audio with navigation ($685) came to $30,779.

Sí: New looks on the outside and nice set of standard features.

No: On the XLE, more safety technology, like the blind spot monitor, should be standard.



Jun 112015

2014-06-10 tundra5

Year after year, more trucks are sold in Texas than anywhere else in the country, making Texas the top truck market and the battle over it, pretty fierce.

In a genius move, Toyota opted to build its half-ton entry, the Tundra, in San Antonio in 2006, making it the only Texas-built pickup and Toyota a major employer, bringing more than 2300 jobs to the Alamo city. That number will expand further when Toyota relocates its headquarters to Plano, TX next year.

2014-06-10 tundraIn 2014, Toyota took it up one more notch by introducing a special edition model, the Tundra 1794, a premium pickup named for the eighteenth century ranch in San Antonio founded by Juan Ignacio de Casanova and upon which the Toyota manufacturing plant currently sits.

On a recent test drive in Austin for Latino Traffic Report, the Tundra 1794 lived up to its position at the top of Toyota’s truck lineup.

For starters, it’s a premium pickup and that means the interior should be plush and this one is. The 1794 comes only in the CrewMax (supersized four-door) configuration giving it seating for five full-size passengers.

2014-06-10 tundra42014-06-11 tundraDesign cues on the inside reflect a western theme with exclusive saddle brown (or more like nice burnt orange for Texas Longhorn fans) premium leather-trimmed seating with embossed leather and ultra-suede accents. Matching soft-touch materials also accent the shift console, the front and rear door trim, and the instrument panel.

Standard features like an AM/FM/CD stereo get upgraded to the Entune Premium JBL stereo with a seven-inch touch screen and navigation. Additionally, the power back window facing the bed, fancy floor mats with the 1794 brand, a tilt-sliding moonroof with sliding shade, and heated and cooled front seats are standard.

Parking in a parking garage made manageable with the back-up camera.

Parking in a parking garage made manageable with the back-up camera.

Toyota doesn’t offer a V6 engine on the Tundra, instead a 4.6-liter V8 is considered the standard engine. The 1794, however, comes with an upgrade—the 5.7-liter iForce V8 with 381 horses and 401 lb-ft of torque.

Matched to a six-speed transmission, it has an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 13/17 miles per gallon (mpg). I averaged 16.2 mpg. The powertrain also has a towing capacity of 9,800 lbs. and a maximum payload of nearly 1600 pound in the 5.5-foot bed.

When it comes to safety features, a back-up camera and park2014-06-06 tundra6.licing sensor are standard but the blind-spot monitor with rear-cross traffic detection remains a $470 option, even on the 1794. I’d certainly pay the extra price for these features, especially on a truck.

Pricing for the 2015 Tundra 1794 starts at $46,120. The as-tested price, which included the 4×4 configuration and a few other options like the blind-spot monitor, came to $49,715.

Sí: Attention to details and premium features make the Tundra 1794 competitive in its segment.

No: The blind-spot monitor should be standard on a top-of-the-line truck.