Nov 232022
 

While Toyota excels at reliability, some say that accomplishment comes at the expense of an appealing design, but there’s at least one model in the lineup that represents the exception to that rule, the 2022 GR Supra. Latino Traffic Report recently drove the GR Supra 2.0 and it rumbles and speeds with the aplomb of a sports car, plus it looks good too.

To truly compete in the segment, a sports car needs to be fast. The Supra achieves this with a zero to 60 of 4.1 seconds. While the test model was powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbo engine with 255 horsepower and a 295 lb.-ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, a straight-six 3.0-litre engine with 335 hp/365 lb.-ft. of torque is available and new for 2023, so is a six-speed intelligent manual transmission, ramping up its sporty appeal.

Sports cars should also hug the road, especially on curves. The GR Supra did so on Austin’s famed FM 2222 assisted by a double joint type McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension.

If at all possible, sports cars should sound like they mean it. The as-tested Supra’s 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbo engine had a very nice rumble. It also had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. It averaged 28.6 mpg on the test drive.

As a base model, the 2.0 is a bit challenged when it comes to standard safety features but it did include auto-leveling headlights and pre-collision and lane departure warning. More sophisticated technology like a blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, and parking sensors came with the Safety and Technology package ($3,485). That’s a pricey investment and these features remain optional throughout the line-up, even on the top-of-the-line A9-CF with the manual transmission.

The interior included Alcantara seats with leather trim, a digital gauge cluster and 8.8-inch touchscreen display with a three-month subscription to XM satellite radio. It had knobs to making engaging the infotainment system easier but when programming preset channels, it was less than intuitive.

Don’t expect roominess or much storage capacity, that’s not where sports cars excel. But on the test drive, it seems a hand can get caught by the trunk lid. While it didn’t break any bones, it did bring up a daunting idea—there’s no exterior latch to release it so without the key fob in your pocket or a friend to release the trunk from the inside, a person could remain caught until he or she can flag down help. So be careful and don’t let your hand linger near the trunk.

Pricing for the 2022 GR-Supra starts at $43,645. The as-tested price came to $47,845.

Sí: The GR Supra perform as a sports car should and the combination of speed, performance, and rumble will put a smile on your face.

No: Be care of that trunk lid and safety features like the blind spot monitor should not be stuck in such a pricey optional package.

LTR Annual Truck Guide

 Features  Comments Off on LTR Annual Truck Guide
Sep 262022
 

Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the auto industry have evolved from a fad to a trend that even includes the light duty pick-up segment. EV trucks, however, have just entered the market, and as such, Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has yet to get the chance to drive one but that doesn’t mean we will skip producing our annual truck guide. LTR tested the following models that many truck buyers might like to consider for their capability and strength.

Toyota Tundra Limited CrewMax 4×4

Headlamp detail.

Redesigned for 2022, the Toyota Tundra (above) continues to establish itself within the formidable full-size truck segment. Toyota took this redesign seriously, starting with a new, aggressive exterior, then adding more competitive capability.

The V8 engine has been replaced by a 3.5-liter V6 twin-turbo, like the one on the test model, with 389 hp and 479 ft.–lb. of torque and a towing capacity of 12,000 pounds. With underseat storage in the back, maximum payload comes to 1,940 lbs.

Fuel economy has also improved to an EPA estimated 17 miles per gallon in the city (mpg) and 22 mpg on the highway. LTR averaged 16.7 mpg on the test drive. The hybrid version offers even more power and capability.

The test model or Tundra Limited CrewMax (four door), also included the available 14-inch touchscreen with the infotainment system that was very easy to program.

One of the most comfortable rides in the segment the Tundra now comes in a fully boxed frame that improves ride rigidity and capability.

Safety features on the test model included a blind spot monitor, Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 with dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision and pedestrian detection, and a rear seat reminder.

The test model was not without premium features like heated/cooled quilted seating as well as a heated steering wheel and the TRD Off-road Package ($3,085).

Toyota’s Texas-built truck also earned recognition from the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) who named it the Truck of Texas at its 2021 Truck Rodeo. This recognition was a first for the Tundra. It even scored a thumbs up from some tall Texans, not with TAWA, who took the time to give it a once over during the test drive.

Pricing starts at $35,950. The as tested MSRP came to $60,318.

 

Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab LTD LTZ 4WD

Redesigned in 2019, the Silverado gets significantly updated for 2022, offering more choices, technology and premium accents. LTR drove the Silverado 1500 Crew Cab (four door) LTD LTZ.

Powered by four available engines including an enhanced version of the 2.7-liter turbo high-output four-cylinder engine, the test model came with the 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel inline six capable of 277 hp and 460 ft.–lb. of torque and matched to a ten-speed automatic transmission. This combination increases max towing by 4,000 lbs. to 13,300 lbs. plus it achieved an average fuel economy of 23.8 mpg on the test drive.

Adding to its capability, the Silverado has 89.1 cubic feet of standard cargo bed volume, 12 standard tie-downs, advanced trailering, plus the test model came with 120V power outlets in the bed and instrument panel. The test model also included the six-position Multi-Flex tailgate that configured into a step ladder for easier access to the bed. It took a little time to figure out, but once done it offered an essential leg-up, especially for the vertically challenged. The running boards were a plus too.

It came with the LTZ Texas Edition package ($3,160) that not only added Texas badging, a wise choice for selling a truck in Texas, but premium technology like wireless charging, adaptive cruise control, front pedestrian braking, and a safety seat that emitted a buzzing sensation under the thigh as a warning.

On the inside, the eight-inch-diagonal touchscreen (a 13.4-inch is available) engaged Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Heated and cooled leather front seats, a heated steering wheel, and Bose premium audio elevated the high-end feel on the test model. The oddest feature, however, was a full-time digital rearview mirror. Unlike a backup or sideview camera, the rearview camera stayed on throughout the drive, which proved a bit distracting. Luckily, it can be turned off to return to a traditional mirror.

Pricing starts at $36,795. The as-tested price came to $64,485.

 

 

 

Ford F-250 SRW 4×4 Crew Cab

While a redesign is rumored for 2023, the current model continues to set standards for capability in the segment. Known as heavy duties, Ford prefers to term its three-quarter and one-ton trucks “Super Duty.” Due to the rigors these big trucks face, the F-250 comes in six configurable trim levels for multiple applications. LTR drove the F-250 Lariat 4×4 Crew Cab (four door).

As mentioned, these are working trucks, although more and more are becoming family vehicles too, so capability is king. The F-450 is available with best-in-class maximum gooseneck towing of up to 37,000 pounds. The test model, however, had a max towing of 15,000 lbs. and payload of 3,550 lbs.

There are three available engines, a 6.2-liter V8, a 7.3-liter V8, and the as-tested third-generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 that delivers best-in-class 475 hp and 1,050 ft.–lbs. of torque. It was matched to an all-new 10-speed heavy-duty TorqShift automatic transmission.

With a 21-inch drop from the front seat, running boards will be essential for low statured folks, which the testmodel did include, as well as adjustable pedals, the ladder in the tailgate as part of the Lariat Ultimate Package ($3,495), and a tailgate drop button for added convenience.

For added confidence when behind the wheel of such a massive vehicle, a blind spot monitor and reverse sensing with a reverse camera were included. The available Pro Trailer Backup Assist also came with the test model for an added $2,730.

The standard FordPass Connect comes with a 4G LTE modem with Wi-Fi access for up to ten devices and charge up with wireless charging and USB-C ports.

As an added perk, the test model included an average fuel efficiency calculator, despite the fact that the EPA does not currently require city and highway fuel economy estimates on its Monroney. That rule may change in 2027. The test model averaged 18.6 mpg.

Pricing starts at $41,240. With $29,815 worth of optional features, including $10,495 for the diesel engine , the as-tested pricing came to $82,245.

Check Engine Light, Oh My!

 Used Car Diary  Comments Off on Check Engine Light, Oh My!
Feb 282022
 

It’s never a good thing when the Check Engine light starts to shine, but on a vehicle with over 200,000 miles, it could be time to panic.

She (my 2007 Toyota Yaris, aka “the Bunny”) had sat for a few weeks with occasional starts while I test drove a succession of vehicles. Check out my Reviews section.

I took it to O’Reilly Auto Parts to get an assessment—it took multiple tries since evening staff seemed less enthusiastic about having to go outside— and was told that three cylinders weren’t firing properly. Oddly, the Yaris seemed to run smoothly although she did lack a bit of pep. With an inspection on the horizon, I opted to take her to the nearest Charles Maund Toyota dealership for an assessment. I’ve done so before because they offer shuttles to and from the dealership and I deal with a specific associate, Walter Ortiz. This may not be the most affordable option but I give points for customer service.

After several days of testing, including a weekend, thankfully I had a test vehicle to drive, I was told that the problem was bad gas and that the fuel lines would need to be cleaned. Total cost was $750 but after a 15 percent discount it came to $634.12. Is that a lot? Most of the fee was for labor costs. It also included a tune-up and free car wash. According to my neighbor, Auto Zone or O’Reilly could have done it for much less.

Regardless, the Bunny’s running like a champ. Thanks to #charlesmaundtoyota and #oreilly.

LTR’s SUV Sampler

 Features  Comments Off on LTR’s SUV Sampler
Dec 312020
 
Toyota Highlander

The Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment remains so viable that not even the COVID-19 pandemic could hurt its sales. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association: “Despite a decline for all car segments, sales of pickups, SUVs and crossovers all posted gains relative to this time last year. In the first three quarters or 2020, three out of every four vehicles sold were light trucks.”

Responding to the trend, domestic automakers killed off most of their car models, opting to focus on SUVs and trucks, while import brands just kept expanding their lineups further with more and more models, from crossover compacts to full-size SUVs. Here’s a sampling of the models Latino Traffic Report (LTR) got to drive in 2020. 

Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD

First introduced in 2001 the Toyota Highlander joined the lineup as the first midsize crossover SUV offered by the brand. Over time, the Highlander not only grew in size, it gained a third row and became the best-selling retail model in the segment since 2016.

Redesigned in 2020, the fourth-generation Highlander is still growing, which has translated into greater cargo volume, for a total of 84.3 cu. ft. with the second and third rows folded flat. It also gains more versatility with a second row that slides up an extra 1.2 inches, a handy shelf under the dash for extra storage, and maximum towing of 5,000-pounds.

While Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard on all models, more advanced safety technology, like the blind spot monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, comes standard on four of the five available grades. There is a recall on the 2020 Highlander due to a concern over seat trim covers.

LTR got to drive the top-of-the-line Platinum trim with all-wheel drive (AWD). Equipped with multiple drive modes, from Eco to Snow, maximized the performance from the AWD system.

A 3.5-liter V6 engine with 295 horsepower and 263 lb.–ft. of torque matched to a Direct Shift eight-speed automatic transmission powered the test model. It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. It averaged 19.7 mpg on the test drive. The standard Stop and Start Engine System should have increase fuel economy although it fell short on the week-long test drive. Still, it engaged with minimal clunkiness.

All grades come standard with Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM, and WiFi connectivity.

Added features like the 12.3-inch touchscreen display rather than the standard eight-inch display helped the test model live up to its up level trim. The Platinum grade also comes with a Captain’s Chair second row with seating for seven.

The test model added heated and ventilated front seats and a heated second row, adaptive LED projector headlights, and a panoramic moonroof.

Pricing for the 2020 Highlander starts at $35,720. The as-tested price came to $51,112.

Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.0T FWD

Redesigned in 2019, the fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe became the brand’s best-selling SUV in America that year, with sales of more than 1.6 million units.

It will receive a freshened look for 2021, accentuated by a new grille more in line with Hyundai’s current DNA, but the 2020 model tested by LTR also included some refinements.

The Limited 2.0T front-wheel drive (FWD) test model was one away from the top-of-the-line trim, exceeded only by the AWD version of the Limited. That changes in 2021 when the Calligraphy trim will be top-of-the line.

While not standard on all trims, Smart Sense safety technologies like the blind spot monitor with a camera view displayed in the instrument cluster, forward-collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert were included on the test model. It also had the optional Ultrasonic Rear Occupant Alert that reminds drivers to check the back seat for precious cargo before exiting.

Inside, the Santa Fe offers more cargo room behind the second-row seats and expands space behind the first row of seats with rear seats folded flat to 71.3 cubic feet. For added convenience, the second-row on the test model dropped down with the push of a button,

Hyundai offers two four-cylinder engine options on the Santa Fe. The test model came with the latter, producing 235 horses and 260 lb.–ft. of torque. It has an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 20/27 mpg. It averaged 31.1 mpg on the test drive with a slight turbo lag. All engines are mated to a brand-new eight-speed automatic transmission. The test model also came with three drive modes, Normal, Sport, and Smart, for improved performance.

For owners of an Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone X as well as compatible Android devices, there’s an available Qi wireless charger.

During this test drive there was also a chance to test Hyundai’s 24-hour roadside assistance when the test model developed a flat. While the service was timely and did put on the spare, which was a temporary tire or donut.

Pricing for the 2020 Santa Fe starts at $27,415. The as-tested price came to $38.730.

Lexus RX 450hL Luxury AWD

Lexus ventured into the luxury hybrid SUV market with its RX model more than a decade ago. Refreshed in 2020, the RX 450hL tested by LTR included three rows of seating, improved performance, an updated Lexus Multimedia System, additional standard safety features, and a refreshed exterior design.

As a hybrid, it’s not only the top-of-the-line RX, it’s also the most fuel-efficient. Lexus pairs the fuel injected 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with two high-torque electric drive motor-generators for strong acceleration and passing performance. The standard AWD system, or “all-weather” according to Lexus, employs a second, independent electric motor to drive the rear wheels when needed for optimal traction.

It has an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 29/28 mpg. It averaged 25 mpg on the test drive. A stiffer suspension design helped enhance its performance by reducing the noise and vibration from the road while four drive modes, from Sport to EV, should enhance fuel economy at slow speeds though that wasn’t reflected in the test drive.

Updates to the Lexus Multimedia System now include Apple CarPlay integration for an iPhone accessed through the RX’s standard eight-inch touchscreen dashboard display. The RX is also the first Lexus model to offer Android Auto integration.

Other standard luxury features on the test model included heated and ventilated front seats, as well as heated seats in the rear while the third row folded flat electronically.

While it’s the top-of-the-line model as a hybrid, many features remain optional, like the 12.3 touchscreen that comes with the Navigation Package ($3,365). The display was bright and engaging, especially when the navigation system was on view. The instrument cluster, however, was less vivacious.

New safety technology added to the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 includes daytime bicyclist detection and low-light pedestrian detection along with Road Sign Assist and Lane Tracing Assist.

The standard blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert was also upgraded on the test model to include Intuitive Parking Assist.

Pricing for the 2020 RX 450h starts at $48,845. The as-tested price came to $65,340.

Toyota and Hispanic Scholarship Fund Renew Parnership

 Noticias  Comments Off on Toyota and Hispanic Scholarship Fund Renew Parnership
Dec 282020
 

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Toyota, an Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) partner of 22 years, renewed its commitment of $900,000 for the organization’s 2020-2021 fiscal year. Allocations will fund Scholar Support Services, the Toyota/HSF Scholarship Program, and the Toyota West Dallas Scholarship.

The program’s value is reflected in employees like Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (TMMTX) engineer Nazul Rivera. The youngest of five and raised by a single mother, Rivera gained confidence with an HSF scholarship. “The HSF scholarship gave me a newfound sense of responsibility. It made me feel like somebody believes in me, and that I could go further in school than I ever imagined possible,” said Rivera.

Whether it’s Rivera’s story or one of the thousands of others made possible through HSF grants, the core mission is a commitment to helping Latinos navigate the college track—many for the first time. “Toyota’s generous support will enable HSF to provide scholarships to deserving scholars and support services to students, parents, and alumni across our country. We are grateful and proud of our long-standing partnership with Toyota and look forward to working together to continue empowering families to successfully complete a higher education,” said Fidel A. Vargas, president and CEO, HSF.

Applications for 2021 HSF scholarships must be received by February 15, 2021. To apply, go to https://www.hsf.net/scholarship.

Familia is everything, and recognizing, celebrating, and driving educational opportunities to Latinos is crucial within the Toyota family, and to the communities we serve, and especially to today’s scholars,” said Peggy Turner, vice president, Lexus Guest Relations, and member of HSF’s Board of Directors.

Toyota Issues 2020 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid Recall

 Recalls  Comments Off on Toyota Issues 2020 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid Recall
Oct 302020
 
2020 Toyota Highlander

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing (Toyota) is recalling certain 2020 Highlander and Highlander hybrid vehicles. Incorrect seat trim covers on one or both of the front seats can prevent the seat-mounted side air bag from deploying properly.

2020 Highlander Hybrid

Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front seats and replace the seat trim covers as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 13, 2020. Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-442-8696. Toyota’s number for this recall is 20TB14 / 20TA14.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Sports Car Review: 2020 Toyota GR Supra

 Reviews, Toyota  Comments Off on Sports Car Review: 2020 Toyota GR Supra
Oct 022020
 

After more than 20 years, Toyota opted to bring back one of its most relished models, the Supra. Latino Traffic Report recently got to test the fifth generation of the sports car, the 2020 GR Supra. From its exterior to its performance, the test model lived up to the Supra’s reputation and its fans’ expectations. Sharing much of its chassis with the BMW Z4 doesn’t hurt either.

Its uniqueness starts with its curb appeal. Its twin-scroll turbo charged in-line six, rear-wheel-drive design, low center of gravity, and optimal weight balance set it apart in the Toyota lineup. However, getting in and out of it can be a challenge.

Under the hood, the 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbo charged in-line six-cylinder engine produces 335 horses with 365 lb.–ft. of torque. For 2021, that power is expected to grow to 382 hp. It’s matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and accelerates from zero–60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds. Unlike its predecessor, however, there is no manual transmission option.

 It has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Switching to Sport mode will enhance its performance and engine rumble while sacrificing a bit of fuel economy. It averaged 23.2 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The test model came in Renaissance Red on the outside with a black leather-trimmed interior, including black sport seats, a black steering wheel and black center console with carbon-fiber accents. The instrument panel was a bit plain, though it did include a four-color Head-up Display.

The infotainment system on the test model included an 8.8-inch touchscreen, the JBL audio system with an amplifier, and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Programming presets, however, was less intuitive than other infotainment systems tested on Toyota products.

Standard safety features on both grades, as well as the Launch Edition, include the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams. 

On the test model, adding the blind spot monitor required an extra $1,195 as part of the Driver Assist Package that also included Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Parking Sensors with an emergency braking function. These were particularly handy for protecting the Supra’s front bumper lip.

Pricing for the Supra 3.0 starts at $50,920.  Available in three trim levels, the as-tested price on the mid-range 3.0 Premium came to $58,280.

Si: The GR Supra has the sporty looks and performance that fans have long anticipated. Young men were especially inquisitive during the test drive.

No: Any sports car should offer a manual transmission and while fun to drive, it’s pretty pricey.

Used Cars and Repairs

 Used Car Diary  Comments Off on Used Cars and Repairs
May 302020
 

January 4

ODO 184,684

It’s generally understood that buying a used car carries some risk, but for many, it’s the most affordable option. Tools like CARFAX that tell a buyer what repairs have been made on a certain vehicle can help as well as the car’s total mileage (10,000 miles per year is recommended). Some even spend money to take a the car to a mechanic to give it a good once over. I didn’t do that, nor did I remember to request the CARFAX on the 2007 Toyota Yaris, a.k.a. the Bunny, that I eventually bought. I knew the mileage was high and the tires would need replacing but it drove well and seemed solid, so I bought it.

Six months later it was indeed equipped with four new tires, but on the way back from work, luckily less than three miles from home, I noticed that the hot engine light came on. When I got home, I checked under the hood and found that liquid had spilled inside the engine compartment and on the floor of the garage. What could it be? I had no clue but I knew I couldn’t drive it.

One thing I did invest in as a used car owner was roadside assistance, namely AAA. I knew the Bunny needed to see a mechanic but also that a car this old may need to go to the source to get a proper diagnosis as well as parts, so after I called AAA to get the Bunny towed, I also set up an appointment with Charles Maund Toyota. It may cost more to get your car serviced at a dealership, even with the 10 percent discount they offer and free shuttle to and from the dealership, but I saw it as an investment in my peace of mind.

It took less than an hour to find out that the water pump had broken. After replacing that and the drive belt—I was told that it might start slipping since it had gotten wet—and the rear wiper blade—I thought I’d throw that in for good measure—I was out $481.96.

No car repair is welcome news but as a used car owner, it helps to have a back-up plan, e.g. mechanic and insurance, that makes the process a little less painful. For now, I’m sticking with AAA and Charles Maund Toyota.

Sedan Appeal: New Models Help Sustain the Segment

 Features  Comments Off on Sedan Appeal: New Models Help Sustain the Segment
Apr 292020
 
Volvo S60

Sedan sales may be down, but the segment is definitely not out. While domestic carmakers abandoned them, import carmakers continued to build them, including redesigns of existing nameplates. Latino Traffic Report (LTR) recently test-drove four very elegant 2020 models—the Kia K900, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Volvo S60, and Lexus LS 500—that offered ample legroom and plenty of bells and whistles.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Redesigned for 2019, the fifth-generation Avalon marked its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. As Toyota’s top-of-the-line sedan, it naturally elicits great expectations for its comfort and luxury but as a hybrid, the text model set hopes even higher for standard features and fuel economy.

Its interior roominess belied its midsize sedan designation. Toyota extended the rear cabin further by another seven inches so that rear legroom and trunk space measure 40.3 inches and 16.09 cu. ft., respectively and included numerous cubbies for storage.

At the heart of this hybrid is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Toyota Hybrid System II with a 650-volt electric motor and Continuously-Variable Transmission (CVT). These elements combine to produce 176 horsepower and 163 lb.–ft. of torque. They also give the Avalon Hybrid an EPA estimated fuel efficiency of 43 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and on the highway. Utilizing the Eco and EV modes (Normal and Sport are also included) it achieved an average rating of 38.9 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

Standard safety features in the Toyota Safety Sense package include pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, and range dynamic cruise control among other features. The blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic detection and Safety Connect roadside assistance are also standard.

Creature comforts on all hybrids include dual-zone climate control, the Entune infotainment system with a nine-inch touch screen, access to Amazon Alexa and Apple Car Play, and a seven-inch display in the gauge cluster. For $1,720 more, the test model upgraded the stereo to the JBL Premium audio system with navigation.

On the plus side, the test model came loaded with standard features but on the downside, its exterior design may be polarizing. The blackened grille and rims helped a bit.

Pricing for the 2020 Avalon starts at $36,830. The as-tested price came to $42,259.

Volvo S60 T6 Inscription

According to AAA, Americans on average spend nearly an hour behind the wheel each day. Spending that time surrounded by a luxurious but functional interior can make time fly. Volvo has set the bar when it comes to design, inside and out, and its redesigned S60 is no exception.

LTR recently tested the S60 T6 AWD Inscription, a top-of-the-line trim, and while it included a healthy list of standard features, additional packages did escalate the price dramatically.

Bearing Volvo’s latest design DNA, the S60 sports a unique version of the Thor’s Hammer headlamp on the outside that first appeared on the redesigned XC90.

The S60’s 12.3″ digital driver display.

Inside, Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system sets off the interior design. Its tablet shape and function via the nine-inch touchscreen deliver a fairly intuitive interface for controlling multiple car functions from navigation to in-car entertainment applications (hint, go to Library to save radio presets). Less intuitive, however, was the adaptive cruise control. It increased speed by five miles per hour (mph) at each click rather than just one mph and it wasn’t clear how to reprogram it.

Wood inlays, leather seating with a backrest massage in the front seats (via the Luxury Seating Package $2,200), and a panoramic moonroof on the test model elevated the drive experience even further.

But the brand’s reputation stands on safety and the test model came equipped with several Volvo game changers like the blind spot information system with steer assist, cross traffic alert and autobraking, and low and hi-speed collision mitigation with cyclist, large animal, vehicle, and pedestrian detection, among other features.

In a bold move, Volvo bases its powertrain technology on turbocharged and twin engine super and turbocharged four-cylinders. The 2.0-liter version of the latter with 316 horsepower and 295 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed Geartronic transmission powered the test model. It had an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 21/32 mpg. It averaged 24.7 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The 2020 S60 has a starting price of $37,045. With the extra packaging, the test model’s price came to $58,890.

Kia K900 Luxury

Equipped with suspensions that float like a boat, full-size sedans tend to get the “flagship” moniker. Redesigned for 2019 and with new technology, safety features, and premium touches, the Kia K900 easily lives up to that label. LTR recently test-drove the K900 Luxury, the only available trim.

Blind Spot View Monitor with camera image in the gauge cluster.

The second-generation K900 immediately scores points with its new streamlined exterior. It’s somewhat derivative of its competitors, especially on the inside, but still maintains enough Kia DNA, e.g. the tiger-nose grille with a Quadric pattern, to make it distinctive.

As the name implies, flagships should offer a suspension that fairly floats. Torsional stiffness on the new model, however, increased by 33 percent, gives the K900 a more solid and premium on-road feel. There are also four drive modes—Comfort, Sport, Eco, and Custom—to fine-tune the ride further.

The full-time rear biased and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system adds to its sure-footedness.

It’s also slightly longer and wider than the outgoing model for rear legroom and trunk space that measure 36.6 inches and 15.3 cu. ft. respectively. For added convenience, the trunk comes with a button to close automatically.

Metal veneers (first spotted by LTR on the Volvo S90) combined with a choice of four matte wood options and quilted Nappa leather enrich the interior. The test model also included a surround sound stereo, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, wireless charging (for Qi compatible mobile phones, e.g. iPhone 8, Samsung S7), a blindspot monitor with collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and a parking sensor, among other features. The VIP package ($4,400) added a 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, tri-zone climate control, power adjustable and ventilated rear seats, and a rear phone charger.

The K900 shares the same engine that powers the sporty Kia Stinger, a 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 with 365 hp and 376 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It should achieve a city/highway fuel economy of 18/25 mpg. It achieved 21.8 mpg during the test drive.

Pricing for the 2020 K900 starts at $60,935. The as-tested pricing came to $64,895.

Lexus LS 500

Considered a flagship by Lexus, this four-door sedan, redesigned in 2018, bears a striking exterior design and comes stocked with bells and whistles. The Lexus LS 500 recently tested by LTR, used additional pricey packages to elevate those features.

LS 500 sliding gauge cluster.

It’s powered by an all-new 3.5-liter, twin turbocharged V6 that delivers 416 horsepower and 442 lb.–ft. of torque, matched to a ten-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 19/30 mpg. It averaged 22.6 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

The chrome grille and 20-inch alloy spoke wheels with Vapor Chrome finish accentuated the LS’s premium look, while wood panels, a rear power sunshade, and its twelve-inch touchscreen as part of the Enform infotainment system made the experience inside visibly plush. The Enform system was less intuitive to program than similar systems, however.

Many features like a blind spot monitor and pre-collision system were standard but Lexus added packages to enhance these features, like the Safety System +A ($3,000) that gave the pre-collision system active braking and steering, pedestrian alert, front cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. The Interior Upgrade Package ($3,730) added a massage function in the front seats as well as quilted and perforated leather seating and heated rear seats. Even the trunk received an upgrade with a carpeted mat ($105).

With 38.9 inches of legroom and 16.95 cu. ft. of truck space, the full-size sedan managed to fit in the garage with about an inch to spare.

Finally, run-flat tires on the LS were put to good use during the test drive when the right front tire took on a screw and didn’t flatten until after returning home. Enform Safety Connect with roadside assistance, complimentary for ten years, came to the rescue, loading the LS on a flatbed and delivering it to a Lexus dealership for a replacement tire.

Pricing for the 2020 LS 500 starts at $76,475. The as-tested price came to $94,075.

Toyota Partners With Latino Nonprofits For COVID-19 Response

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Apr 242020
 

Latino Traffic Report has learned that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the United States, Toyota Motor North America announced today a range of initiatives with longstanding national nonprofit partners to serve the U.S. Latino community.

More than $1 million in previously awarded funding to the Hispanic Federation (HF), Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU) Education Foundation, UnidosUS and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) was reallocated to their COVID-19 response efforts.

Funding supports emergency assistance, information dissemination, small business support and academic assistance for the U.S. Hispanic community.

“Together, we can help reach more people with the critical information and resources they need,” said Al Smith, group vice president and Chief Social Innovation Officer, Toyota Motor North America. “We want our partners and communities to know that we are here for them now and beyond the crisis.”

Toyota’s efforts with its partners on behalf of the Hispanic community include:

Academics

  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF):
    • Funding to provide support to K-12 students, parents and scholars
    • Emergency relief for families struggling with food, housing, and tuition payments, as well as support for distance learning.
  • The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU):
    • Funding to provide comprehensive services to scholars.

Emergency Assistance

  • Hispanic Federation:
    • Funding for the COVID-19 Latino Nonprofit Emergency Assistance Fund.
    • Emergency food relief to seniors, children, and families in New York.

Information Dissemination

  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC):
    • Funding to create resources in Spanish about COVID-19, and distribute them via community network platforms.
  • UnidosUS:
    • Funding to ensure accurate information and resources to slow the spread of COVID-19 are reaching the Latino community in English and Spanish.

Small Business Support

  • United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC):
    • Funding to provide economic relief resources and technical assistance to Hispanic and Minority-Owned Small Businesses that are heavily impacted by this COVID-19 crisis.
    • Direct 24/7 bilingual technical assistance support on the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Impact Disaster Loan applications, banking/loan/liquidity questions, and other questions about general support.
    • Connecting Hispanic-owned suppliers in the U.S. to buyers who quickly need supplies including gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other items.

For more information on Toyota’s COVID-19 response, please visit: www.toyota.com/toyota-covid-19-response/