Toyota RAV4 25th Anniversary Overview

Toyota Celebrates 25 Years of the RAV4 in North America; introduces New SE Hybrid model for 2022

Table of Contents

RAV4 History
RAV4 By Generations
The Current Generation RAV4
What’s New for 2022?
Specifications

A 2022 Toyota RAV4 SE Hybrid

For 2022, Toyota has freshened the RAV4 lineup with some exterior and interior updates and a new, less-expensive SE Hybrid model. (Photos courtesy of Toyota)

BY MARK MAYNARD

The 25th anniversary of the Toyota RAV4 is a coming-of-age story in North America. The small SUV crossover debuted in 1996 when midsize and large SUVs were the dominant herd on American highways.

Small vehicles were suspect, particularly in the U.S., for their safety structure as drivers navigated among the greater truck-based vehicles. The market segment for small SUVs had barely formed in 1996. And most of these were quirky import transplants with few changes for the preferences of North American drivers.

Among the early small SUV choices were the 1988 Daihatsu Rocky, the 1989 Geo Tracker (aka Suzuki Sidekick and Chevrolet Tracker), and the 1990 Isuzu Amigo. The offerings grew in 1996 with the diminutive two-door, two-seat 1996 Suzuki X-90 and the Kia Sportage (which brought the industry’s first knee air bag).

Today, there are around 20 small SUVs in the small SUV segment, and most manufacturers now offer one or two choices.

The driver area of a new RAV4

The RAV4 has reasonably tall front headroom of 37.7 inches, with a moonroof.

Toyota RAV4 History

The first Toyota RAV4 was available as five-door and three-door models. However, the four-door version dominated sales in the U.S. It was the only body style to return with the second-generation RAV4 in 2000.

Toyota refers to the RAV4 as the original small SUV. Now in its fifth generation, the RAV4 has become the best-selling Toyota model in the country. And in its 25-year history, it is on track for 5 million sales this fall.

RAV4 By Generations

  • The First RAV4, 1996-2000
  • Second Generation: 2000-2005
  • Third Generation: 2006-2012
  • Fourth Generation: 2013-2018
  • Fifth and Current Generation: 2019-
A view of the RAV4 front seats from the passenger side

Standard features include fabric-trimmed seats and a 7-inch touchscreen with a six-speaker audio system.

The Current Generation RAV4

The fifth-generation RAV4, introduced for 2019, offers the model’s widest selection to date. Model choices include:

  • The first RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
  • Gasoline-electric RAV4 Hybrid.
  • Flagship RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The RAV4 Prime has an EPA-estimated rating of 42 miles on battery power alone.
A gauge display of the RAV4 Hybrid

The 2021 RAV4 Hybrid has mileage ratings of 41/38/40 mpg city/hwy/combined on the recommended 87 octane.

RAV4 Powertrains

In gas-engine models, the 203-horsepower Dynamic Force 2.5-liter four-cylinder is paired with an eight-speed Direct-Shift, continuously variable automatic transmission. This powertrain has an EPA-estimated 28 mpg city, 35 highway, and 30 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive LE model — the best ever for a gas RAV4, Toyota says.

RAV4 Hybrid models have a 40-mpg combined EPA-estimated rating, which is nearly a 30-percent improvement over the previous hybrid. Likewise, the hybrid’s e-AWD improves over the previous system. Its new independent rear motor operates proactively to maintain traction even before front-tire slippage is detected.

At the top of the model line, the RAV4 Prime PHEV (plug-in hybrid) is both the performance and efficiency leader. Available in SE and XSE trim levels with standard e-AWD, the RAV4 Prime has an EPA-estimated 94 MPGe rating. And it has an all-electric driving range of 42 miles on a single charge. When driven in hybrid mode, the RAV4 Prime powertrain can generate a combined 302 hp and is capable of 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. That acceleration makes it the second quickest Toyota in the lineup behind Supra.

The 18-inch tire and wheel of a RAV4

The RAV4 received a few new wheel colors and designs. All RAV4 models have standard aluminum wheels and 17- or 18-inch tires.

What’s New for 2022?

For 2022, the RAV4 will be available in a new SE Hybrid grade, and all RAV4 trim levels have been given some exterior and interior updates.

The 2022 RAV4 SE Hybrid model pares back some of the features built into the topline SLE model. For example, the SE Hybrid will be offered in a monotone paint scheme, fabric-trimmed seats, a six-speaker audio system, and a 7-inch touch screen.

Available options for the SE Hybrid include the weather package, which adds a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, and rain-sensing windshield wipers with a de-icer function.

The convenience package includes a moonroof, height-adjustable power liftgate, and Audio Plus with a 9-inch touchscreen.

Super sleek headlights on the topline RAV4

RAV4 headlights were updated for style and capability. And the XSE Hybrid gets the super sleek vertical lights that debuted on the XSE Prime in 2021.

Exterior Updates

Calvary Blue with a black roof (shown in the exterior photos) is a new paint-scheme choice for select RAV4 models, including the new SE Hybrid and TRD Off-Road.

There are a few new wheel colors and designs, and the headlights were updated for style and capability. New LED fog lamps are optional for XLE Premium, Limited, Adventure, and TRD Off-Road.

The XSE Hybrid also gets sleek vertical lights that debuted on the XSE Prime in 2021.

Interior updates are also found across the model line:

• All models now have a locking glove box and LED interior lights;

• XLE and above get illuminated interior switches;

• Limited grade gets an eight-way power passenger seat.

The RAV4 back seat

Back-seat legroom is midsize for a compact SUV at 37.8 inches.

RAV4 Pricing

The 2022 RAV4 Hybrid goes on this December. Toyota will release pricing and more details on the 2022 RAV4 in mid-December.

For comparison, the 2021 RAV4 Hybrid is sold with standard all-wheel drive in trim levels of LE, XLE, XLE Premium, XSE Premium, and Limited. Starting MSRPs range from $28,800 to $37,330, not including the $995 freight charge from Georgetown, Ky.

Pricing for the RAV4 Prime PHEV, sold in trims of SE and XSE, has starting prices of $38,250 and $41,575.

The price-step between 2021 RAV4 Hybrid models is about $2,000. If carried through for the 2022 RAV4 SE Hybrid, its starting price could be close to $26,800.

Check current Toyota-model pricing and incentives here.

A rear view of the 2022 RAV4

Calvary Blue with a black roof is a new paint-scheme choice for select RAV4 models, including the new SE Hybrid and TRD Off-Road.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Specifications

Body style: compact, 5-seat, 5-door small SUV with e-AWD

Engine: 176-hp, 2.5-liter direct-injected Dynamic Force 4-cylinder with 16-valves, dual overhead camshafts, intelligent variable valve timing by an electric motor on the intake and exhaust camshafts

Electric motor: Permanent magnet synchronous

Combined power: 219-hp

Battery pack: Lithium-ion with 244.8-volts and a maximum of 650V

Transmission: electronically controlled CVT with sequential shift mode and electronic on-demand AWD

Fuel economy: 41/38/40 mpg city/hwy/combined on the recommended 87 octane;

Braking: Power-assisted, 12-inch front ventilated discs; solid 11.1-inch rear discs; electronic parking brake

Max towing capacity: 1,750 lbs.

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 14.5 gallons

Cargo space: 37.6 to 69.8 cu. ft.

Front head/leg room: 37.7*/41 in. *with moonroof

Rear head/leg room: 39.5/37.8 in.

Length/wheelbase: 180.9/105.9 in.

Curb weights: 3,690 to 3,780 lbs.

Turning circle: 36.1 ft.

Where assembled: Georgetown, Ky.

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Toyota GR Supra 2.0 Review

The turbocharged, four-cylinder 2021 Toyota GR Supra 2.0 is a genuine sports car with a German pedigree, high-quality engineering, and robust construction

The exterior view of a Nitro Yellow GR Supra

The turbocharged, four-cylinder Toyota GR Supra 2.0 is new for 2021. Pricing starts at $44,215. (Photography courtesy of Toyota)

Table of Contents

Supra History
GR Supra Sport Top
What’s New for 2021-22?
Pricing
GR Supra A91-CF Edition
GR Supra GT4 Race Car
GR Supra 2.0 Performance
Ride and Handling
Interior Function
Why Buy the Toyota GR Supra 2.0?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

The return of the fifth-generation 2020 Toyota Supra was an act of blasphemy some enthusiasts shouted. The objection was the joint venture between BMW and Toyota. It was an arranged marriage for the diverse qualities of future development and shared costs.

BMW would benefit from Toyota’s long-term work on alternative-fuel propulsion systems, including a fuel cell. Toyota would reap the rewards of the German carmaker’s expertise in lightweight technologies. And the face of the deal would be represented by the joint development of a sports “vehicle,” which became the 2020 GR Supra.

The howls of discontent were heard before most enthusiasts even sat in the reborn Japanese two-seater.

Joint ventures are becoming common in the auto industry. For example, Toyota also partners with Subaru for its BRZ and Toyota GR86. And there also is the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Fiat 124 Spider.

It is a matter of cost-sharing, but is the BMW-Toyota arrangement a collaboration or a compromise?

The front-seat view from inside the GR Supra

Eight-way manually adjusted seats save weight in the GR Supra 2.0.

Toyota Supra History

The fifth generation of the brought-back Supra nameplate dates to the lineup from 1978 to 2002. But Toyota also credits the 1967 2000GT with its double-bubble roof and inline six-cylinder engine, two hallmarks applied to the 2020 Supra.

While the first four generations of Supra shared a foundation with Toyota’s sporty Celica,

 

 

 

 

the current model shares a foundation with the BMW Z4. For now, BMW keeps the Z4 convertible and Toyota builds a hardtop version with performance engineering from its Gazoo Racing team (GR).

The Z4 is an excellent beginning for a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive sports car. Toyota’s follow-through for the hardtop design provides an ideal 50:50 weight balance. Engineering calibrations for the engine, suspension, and exhaust provide excellent road adhesion. Ride quality has steely determination without battering the occupants.

Automotive News reports that the Toyota GR Supra is due for a “freshening” in 2023.

black Alcantara and leather-trimmed upholstery

Black Alcantara and leather-trimmed upholstery

GR Supra Sport Top

Perhaps the 2023 “freshening” could bring a convertible GR Supra?

Toyota showed the GR Supra Sport Top at this year’s Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA). The roof design has two composite panels that were 3D printed. And the roof panels are contoured to the body lines and the design retains the windshield header.

To maintain structural integrity, the roof’s outer body structures were reinforced. And there is added reinforcement under the engine bay and rearward.

The SEMA  show will run from Nov. 2-5 in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The GR Supra Sport Top concept for a convertible model

The GR Supra Sport Top concept.

What’s New for 2021-22?

A year after its world debut, Toyota has grown the GR Supra family at both ends: an entry-level turbocharged four-cylinder model and a high-performance halo model.

For the first time in the U.S., Toyota has been able to add the 255-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, formerly only available in the BMW Z4.

At the top end is the shut-up sauce for GR Supra complainers: the GR Supra A91-CF (Carbon Fiber) Edition, $64,305. This 2022 model includes a carbon fiber aerodynamics kit, 382-hp 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, and a one-year membership to the National Auto Sport Association with high-performance driving instruction.

Limited to just 600 vehicles, the GR Supra A91-CF is well equipped with just one factory option for the Driver Assist Package, $1,195.

And in between the price range are two six-cylinder models. This year the GR Supra 3.0 and 3.0 Premium were granted horsepower to match the 382-hp in the Z4 M40i. Previously, the six-cylinder models were throttled back to 335 horsepower from 5,000-6,500 rpm with peak torque of 365 foot-pounds at 1,600 rpm. Now, peak horsepower ranges from 5,800-6,500 rpm and peak torque is 368 lb.-ft. from 1,800-5,000 rpm.

A rear angle view of the 2021 Supra

The “S” in the Supra logo was inspired by the Nürburgring “S” curve.

GR Supra Pricing

The fifth-generation 2021 GR (Gazoo Racing) Supra is offered in two turbocharged powertrains: a 255-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder or 382-hp, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder. Both versions have an eight-speed ZF-8 automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Current GR Supra pricing ranges from $44,215 for the entry 2.0-liter to $64,305 for the A91-CF Edition. Pricing includes the $1,025 freight charge from Graz, Austria. The Supra is built at the Magna Steyr plant, which also builds the BMW Z4 among other specialty vehicles.

Today’s GR Supra 2.0 tester was $47,845, including a carpeted cargo mat for $80, wheel locks for $65, and the Safety & Technology Package for $3,485. (Package details are in the specifications chart at the end of this review.)

BMW sells just two versions of the Z4 roadster. The Z4 sDrive30i with the 2.0 turbo four-cylinder starts at $50,895. And the Z4 M40i, with 382-hp 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder starts at $64,695. (But Toyota includes more standard equipment for the GR Supra.)

Check current Toyota GR Supra pricing and incentives here.

The double-bubble roof

The double-bubble roof design bumps headroom to 38.3 inches.

Toyota GR Supra A91-CF Edition

Limited to just 600 cars, the GR Supra A91-CF Edition is the most exclusive Mark V Supra to date, Toyota says, and it’s only for North America.

The 2022 GR Supra A91-CF features a carbon fiber front splitter and larger canards (winglet-like add-ons). In addition, carbon fiber side rockers define the lower edge along the sides. And around the back, there is more carbon fiber in the duckbill spoiler and lower canards.

This aero kit isn’t just for looks, Toyota says. The design improves downforce and stability, whether scooting through the daily commute or hot-lapping the autocross.

Other special features include matte-black textured 19-inch wheels — chosen to set off the optional new paint color of matte-gray Phantom. Absolute Zero White and Nitro Yellow are the other color choices for the GR Supra A91-CF.

GR Supra A91 A91-CF Edition has a red-and-black interior theme throughout its Alcantara-and-leather-trimmed cabin. Details include red stitching on the 14-way power-adjustable and heated sport seats, carbon-fiber interior trim, a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, and sport pedals.

A range of standard intelligent safety features includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and lane departure warning with steering assist.

And every new owner is given a one-year membership to the National Auto Sport Association with high-performance driving instruction.

The Limited to just 600 cars, the GR Supra A91-CF Edition is the most exclusive Mark V Supra to date and only for North America.

Limited to just 600 cars, the GR Supra A91-CF Edition is the most exclusive Mark V Supra to date and only for North America.

The 430-hp GR Supra GT4

There also is a race-prepped GR Supra GT4 for customer teams. It is based on the six-cylinder GR Supra and is developed and produced by Toyota Motorsport GmbH.

The GR Supra GT4 is powered by a 430-hp variant of the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine with a single twin-scroll turbocharger. A seven-speed sports automatic transmission has paddle shifters and a mechanical limited-slip differential. An Akrapovič exhaust system is standard, and Ravenol provides first-fill lubricants.

The front splitter and rear wing are made of natural fiber composite, contributing to an overall weight of 2,976 pounds, which is 424 pounds less than a stock GR Supra 3.0. As is used for the GR Supra road car, the front suspension has MacPherson struts, and the rear multilink suspension uses KW dampers at the front and rear.

An enhanced braking system uses six-piston front calipers and four-piston rear, with tires by Pirelli.

Safety features include a high-strength roll cage on the lightweight steel body and an FIA-standard racing seat with a six-point harness.

The interior has a carbon-fiber instrument panel with a display and a steering wheel designed for GT4 competition.

Pricing starts at around $200,000. Contact TRD at trdusa.gt4@toyota.com  to get more information on the GR Supra GT4.

The GR Supra GT4 race car.

The GR Supra GT4 is powered by a 430-hp, 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine.

GR Supra 2.0 Performance

At 3,181 pounds, the Supra 2.0 is more than 200 pounds lighter than the six-cylinder Supra 3.0. And that weight difference significantly changes the driving attitude of the car, in a positive way. The six-cylinder models are ate-up with power, which sometimes blows past the pleasure of feeling a German-engineered suspension make its graceful transitions.

With less weight over the front end, the Supra 2.0 feels nimble and quick. Throttle uptake is immediate without time lost to turbo spooling. And the engine tone and exhaust note are genuine for a performance car. There is not the high-speed drone of artificially generated engine “sound” that switches on and off.

In standard performance mode, the eight-speed automatic rolls through gears giving eager support to the driver. In Sport mode, the transmission has mind-reading precision, holding shifts for maximum enjoyment and giving heady downshifts.

Various sources cite 0-60 mph acceleration in 4.7 seconds for the GR Supra 2.0. And that compares to 4.4 seconds to reach 60 mph in the Supra 3.0 models. If valid, that 0.3 advantage for the 3.0 models comes at a cost difference of $8,350.

Fuel economy ratings are 25 mpg city, 32 highway and 28 mpg combined on the recommended premium fuel. (Those ratings compare to the six-cylinder model at 22/30/25 mpg.) My driving with liberal use of Sport mode worked up to 27.5 mpg, but I was focused more on fun than fuel economy.

Supra taillights

Rear combination lamps feature the turn, tail, and stop functions integrated into a ring shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ride and Handling

The GR Supra is surprisingly uncomplicated to enjoy. It is an excuse to take the long way to work or to head out for weekend exploring. But it would not be my choice for a long road trip. It has a tight cockpit and the outside noise can be wearisome. However, the sport seats would remain comfortable for the range of the 13.7-gallon fuel tank.

After a few miles behind the wheel, the driver will warm up to the balance of the GR Supra 2.0. It is a rewarding engineering asset. The articulation of the suspension is a delicious experience as it stealthily makes weight transitions. Both powertrains have the same four-wheel-independent suspension with front MacPherson struts and a five-link rear setup. Stabilizer bars are the same gauge all around: 23.5 mm front and 18 mm rear.

Brush the brake pedal when barreling into a corner and the transmission flashes a downshift. Press harder on the pedal and downshifts fire off sequentially.

It is an active and engaging experience for the driver who will quickly forgive and forget that no manual gearbox is offered.

The electric power steering is keenly calibrated for an organic feel and smooth roll of the steering wheel. It takes just a twitch of the wheel to make a lane change, which brings yet another smile.

Despite the low front end, careful steering can avoid the occasional grind (and wince) of chin scraping.

Tires and Brakes

All Supra models get Michelin Pilot Super Sport staggered-size, ultra-high-performance tires. The Supra 2.0 has 18-inch alloy wheels with 255/40 front and 275/40 rear tires. And the Supra 3.0 has 19-inch forged aluminum wheels and slightly wider tires of 255/35 front and 275/35 rear.

Braking is by a matched set of 13-inch vented discs front and rear with a single-piston aluminum floating caliper. Six-cylinder models get 13.7-inch ventilated front discs with a four-piston fixed Brembo caliper; rear ventilated discs are 13.6 or 13 inches, depending on which model.

A tire and wheel on the Supra 3.0

Braking is by 13-inch vented discs front and rear. Six-cylinder models get 13.7-inch vented front discs and a four-piston Brembo caliper.

Interior Function

For such a high-performing car, it is accommodating as a daily driver. The shrink-wrapped body with a double-bubble roof allows headroom of 38.3 inches. With 42.2 inches of legroom and the eight-way manually adjusted seats, there should be room for those 6-feet-plus, but maybe not while wearing a helmet.

The seat-belt anchors are low and can be a struggle to click into position, competing for space with the bolstered seatback. Those of large girth will grumble about the extra effort to secure the belt, but the low anchor position actually improves the safety response.

Standard safety features include eight air bags, a precollision system with pedestrian alert and lane-departure warning with steering assist. Other safety elements are in the specs chart at the end of the story.

A door panel in the Supra

Interior assembly and materials are worthy of a $50,000 sports car.

Entry and Exit

The car is low with a wide sill that creates a duck-and-drop entry exercise. And those coupe doors are about 54 inches long, which is not an asset for access in tight parking situations. Finally, because the point of the spear is about 9 feet from the driver’s seat, I wished for a front camera (as in the Corvette) — in addition to the front and rear parking tones (with braking).

Sightlines out the front are good but compact out the small rear glass. Over-the-shoulder glances are blocked and damning at night. The rearview camera is small but helpful.

Cabin design is smartly organized with several areas for small-item storage, including a lockable glove box. The shift console is somewhat unique for its knee-bolstering brace on the driver’s right, and the left side is an open sweep that creates a sense of involvement for the passenger.

A bold and uncluttered gauge array has a dominant dial for RPMs and a digital speedo.

The 10.2 cubic feet of trunk space is adequate for weekend-getaway luggage.

Why Buy the Toyota GR Supra?

When you give an enthusiast a choice of more power or less, most will choose “more.” But the GR Supra 2.0 is not a cheapened model for a more appealing advertising price point.

The GR Supra 2.0 is a genuine sports car with a German pedigree, high-quality engineering, and robust construction.

Working with BMW is a blue-chip opportunity. The Z4 is a Thoroughbred in critical areas where some brands cheap out.

Toyota took the opportunity and built a family of GR Supras. The compromise might be for BMW, which has just the two Z4 roadster models.

Sales on average for the BMW Z4 convertible run about 280 a month, or 833 for the third quarter ending in September.

Supra sales in September were 436 (but down from 489 in Sept. 2020). But year to date Supra sales were 5,825 vs. 3,798 for 2020.

Maybe BMW will see Toyota’s positive business plan and be granted a hardtop Z4.

A yellow supra cornering on a racetrack

Automotive News reports that the Toyota GR Supra is due for a “freshening” in 2023.

Toyota Supra GR 2.0 Specifications

Body style: subcompact, rear-wheel-drive, 2-seat sports car

Engine: 255-hp, twin-scroll turbocharged direct-injected 2.0-liter, inline 4-cylinder; 295 lb.-ft. from 1,550-4,400 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters and launch control; active rear differential

0-60 mph: 4.7 seconds, Car and Driver magazine

Fuel economy: 25/32/28 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel recommended

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 13.7 gallons

Trunk space: 10.2 cubic feet

Head/leg room: 38.3/42.2 in.

Length/wheelbase: 172.5/97.2 in.

Curb weight: 3,181 lbs.

Turning circle: 34.1 ft.

FEATURES

Standard equipment includes: Smart key entry with push-button ignition, electric parking brake, rearview camera with guidance lines, 8.8-inch full digital gauge cluster, 8-way manual seats with 4-way lumbar, black Alcantara with leather sport seats, carbon-fiber interior trim, leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters, lined and locking glove box, 12-volt charging socket and 1.5-amp USB port, 4 speaker audio system with an 8.8-inch display screen with Supra Command and USB/Bluetooth connectivity

Exterior: 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport staggered size ultra-high-performance tires (255/40 front and 275/40 rear), gloss-black auto-folding heated side mirrors, LED front turn signal indicator and daytime running lights, 6-lens auto-leveling LED headlights (3 low beam, 3 high beam), LED tail lights and brake lights, aerodynamic underbody panel, dual rear exhaust outlets with polished stainless-steel tips

Safety features include: 8 air bags, precollision system with pedestrian alert, lane-departure warning with steering assist, auto high-beam headlight dimming, hill-start assist, brake assist, stability and traction controls

PRICING

Base price: $44,215, including $1,025 freight charge; price as tested $47,845

Options on test vehicle: Carpeted cargo mat $80 and wheel locks $65;

Safety & Technology Package, $3,485, include: Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (full speed), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors with emergency braking function;

Technologies included in the package: 8.8-inch touchscreen navigation, 12 Speaker 500-watt JBL audio system with amplifier, touchpad rotary controller, wireless Apple CarPlay compatible (iOS only), speed limit information;

Supra Connected Services with up to 4-year trial: Included are remote services, remote maintenance, automatic emergency call, real-time traffic information, concierge, stolen vehicle recovery, map updates

Where assembled: Graz, Austria

Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain; ToyotaCare complimentary maintenance for 2 years/25,000-miles, includes all standard factory scheduled service and 24/7 roadside assistance

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2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid Crossover

The Toyota Venza Hybrid is a new urban crossover that focuses on technology, intuitive performance, and design

An exterior view of the 2021 Toyota Venza

The all-wheel-drive Toyota Venza has starting prices of $33,745 to $41,075. (Toyota)

Table of Contents

Overview
Pricing
Warranties
Safety Features
Interior
Performance
Ride and Handling
Why buy the Toyota Venza?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

On several levels, the new Toyota Venza hybrid is next-level transportation. Its advanced technologies are formidable but presented as a buffet to pick and choose, not to force-feed the user. It has user functionality for the electronically sophisticated or a first-time user.

Venza is a very targeted vehicle in the popular sweet spot of midsize, five-seat crossover SUVs. Venza is more of an urban crossover that focuses on technology, intuitive performance and sophisticated design, Toyota says. The two-row Venza is positioned between the RAV4 and Highlander, which are considered more adventurous crossovers.

The Toyota Venza has an electrochromic

The electrochromic glass roof can switch views from transparent to frosted. (Toyota)

Brought-back nameplate

The nameplate was brought back from a prior Toyota Venza that was sold in the U.S. from 2008-2015. The new 2021 Venza for North America shares a foundation with the Japanese-market Harrier crossover SUV. But the Venza is most comparable to the RAV4 Hybrid, with which it shares the majority of hybrid hardware.

Projector LED headlights on the Venza Limited.

Projector LED headlights on the Venza Limited. (Toyota)

2021 Toyota Venza Overview

For the U.S. the Venza is a hybrid-only model with standard on-demand all-wheel drive. The electronically smart system uses a separate rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed. The driver does nothing to engage the system, it’s all done through a multitude of sensors.

The gasoline-electric powertrain is comprised of a 2.5-liter direct-injection four-cylinder gas engine, three electric motors, and a lithium-ion battery pack.

Venza might be compared to such five-seat competition as the Ford Edge or Nissan Murano. But as an all-wheel-drive hybrid, it is in a class of its own. And with its high-quality interior materials, it is more of a premium choice than the Ford or Nissan.

Compared to the RAV4 hybrid, the Venza is 5.7 inches longer with a 1.3-inch lower roofline. And it is heavier by 133 pounds, which cuts about 1 mpg from fuel-economy ratings.

2021 Toyota Venza Pricing

Venza is sold in three all-wheel-drive trim levels. Starting prices range from $33,745 for the entry LE to $37,275 for the XLE and $41,075 for the Limited. Pricing includes the $1,175 freight charge from Aichi, Japan.

Today’s Limited tester was $43,200 with the Star Gaze panoramic roof ($1,400) and Advance Technology package ($725). The tech package includes a head-up windshield display with speed and hybrid-system indicators.

The expansive electrochromic Star Gaze roof is a unique luxury feature in this mainstream segment. The driver can switch the glass from a transparent view to frosted. Back seat passengers will appreciate the softer light and reduced glare of direct sunlight. But is a pricey courtesy that I’d like better for $400.

The Limited is well equipped with such features as smart-key locking and push-button ignition, Softex-trimmed upholstery, a rearview camera with guidance lines, and a bird’s-eye view with perimeter scan. There’s even a rear camera lens washer.

Interior features include heated and ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel, digital rearview camera mirror, nine-speaker JBL premium audio, and a 12.3-inch touch screen and touch-capacitive controls. The dynamic navigation system features an enhanced 2D landmark display that shows lane guidance and freeway exit displays.

Connectivity features include Bluetooth phone and music, Apple CarPlay (with Siri), Android Auto (with Google Assistant), and Amazon Alexa.

Find lease and purchase pricing incentives here.

The capacitive touch screen in the Venza

The capacitive-touch controls for heat-fan-temp are logically grouped,  but it takes eyes from the road to make adjustments. (Toyota)

2021 Toyota Venza Warranties

Standard warranty coverage for Venza is 3 years or 36,000 miles bumper to bumper. It includes 2 years or 25,000 miles of factory scheduled maintenance with 24-hour roadside assistance. The powertrain is covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Hybrid warranty coverage includes 10 years or 150,000 miles for the battery and 8 years or 100,000 miles for the hybrid system.

2021 Toyota Venza Performance

Venza’s gasoline-electric powertrain combines a 2.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine with three electric motors. Two motors are at the front wheels and one at the rear for AWD.

The gas engine has 176 horsepower, which rises to an overall total of 219-hp with the 88-kW (118-hp) permanent-magnet synchronous motors. A rear 40 kW (54 hp) motor powers the AWD. The lithium-ion battery pack totals 252 volts among 70 cells at 3.6-volts per cell for 650 volts maximum.

The continuously variable transmission (eCVT) has a sequential shift mode and selectable driving modes of normal, eco, and sport. An EV mode allows electric-only driving at low speeds for short distances. There’s also a “downshift” feature to boost regenerative braking.

The regen-braking and EV modes will be engaging to some, but I did not feel the need.

The fuel economy ratings seem achievable at 40 mpg city, 37 highway, and 39 mpg combined, on 87 octane fuel. (That compares to the RAV’s 41/38/40 mpg.)

Setting cruise control at 68 mph, I quickly worked up to 38.4 mpg combined on highway runs. My around-town mileage was consistent at 32-35 mpg in my test week of 232 miles. When finished, the computer indicated 312 miles to empty. With the 14.5-gallon tank, a long-distance commuter could expect well over 500 miles to a fill-up.

The hybrid engine system in the Venza

Total system power is 219-hp with the gas engine and electric motors. (Toyota) 

Reading the road

Among Venza’s advanced technologies is the driver-selectable Predictive Efficient Drive. It uses the navigation system to analyze driving habits and memorize road and traffic conditions to help optimize hybrid battery charging. The PED system learns repeating routes and can predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. Through so-called “optimum accelerator pedal release timing guidance” the system can help reduce fuel and battery consumption.

PED can also help optimize battery charging and discharge ahead of hills or traffic congestion. When approaching a downhill section, for example, the system is designed to apply more engine braking to boost the charge going to the hybrid battery.

Venza’s driver-assist systems

The standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. The system integrates all-speed dynamic radar cruise control and lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert, and pedestrian alert.

Always keep both hands on the wheel while using the semi-autonomous features.

The system capably keeps the car centered in the lane, but like most systems, it will randomly shut off. That might be due to variable light and road-surface conditions. This type of safety system will be beneficial for those drivers who have daily commutes in heavy traffic. The sensors are an extra six eyes on the road to watch for less-attentive drivers.

The safety system includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beams.

2021 Toyota Venza Safety features

Venza’s safety designs earn top stars from two testing agencies. The National Highway Safety Administration ranked it five stars overall, with five as the top rating. In frontal collisions, the Venza earned four stars for driver-side protection and five stars for the front passenger. It aced the overall side crash category with five stars each in side barrier and pole tests, front and rear seats. And four stars for rollover risk.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety gave it a Top Safety Pick for the XLE and Limited models with the LED projector headlights and high-beam assist.

Contributing to its high rankings is Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) active safety systems. Other standard safety features on all trim levels are eight air bags, stability and traction controls, brake-force distribution, brake assist, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

Ride and Handling

The Venza might be considered a citified version of the RAV4 Hybrid, but I found it to be very different. The exterior styling is urban-attractive with the look of an electrified vehicle.

It is very quiet rolling over most highway surfaces even with the 19-inch Bridgestone Ecopia tires. These “green” tires have a fairly hard treadwear rating of 600, but that also translates to warranty coverage of 70,000 miles.

Braking is absolute with vented 12-inch front discs and 11.1-inch solid rear. It will take time for the driver to adjust to brake-pedal pressure. Stepping on the pedal can feel like an on-off switch as it passes through the inch or so of regen-gap to the actual grip of braking.

At 3,913 pounds, the Limited can feel weighty on lumpy road surfaces as the independent suspension works to control the heaves of imbalance. The ride quality is robust and secure, yet soft and comfortable. It’s more about easy driving than getting happy on a twisty road, but I’m sure that’s OK for this buyer.

2021 Toyota Venza Interior

Because Venza is an “electrified” platform, it needs some underfloor capacity for battery storage. The result is a high-riding vehicle but without tall interior space, which feels low and wide.

Aerodynamics are maximized by its sleek exterior design and sloping roof. Front headroom for some might be a bit low at 38.1 inches with the Star Gaze roof, or 38.6 inches without. The front legroom of 40.9 inches is competitive but potentially limiting to the big-and-tall set.

The Limited’s interior is well dressed in soft-touch materials. There is neat stitching and the plastics throughout have a quality appearance top to bottom.

A door panel in the Venza shows quality materials and assembly

The Limited’s interior is well dressed. (Toyota)

All models have an eight-way power driver seat (with seat cushion tilt). The front passenger has just four-way adjustment, but it should really be six-way, with height adjustment.

The power driver’s seat smartly includes an auto slide-away function, which automatically moves to the rearmost position. It will be a valued asset to drivers of all sizes. The rake of the windshield and roofline creates the potential for a duck-and-enter sequence.

There is a command-center design to the driver area, but it’s not all that efficient for small-item storage. The shift console is largely consumed by the shifter, but a row of shift buttons would allow more space for a place to lay a phone.

There is a charging e-bin just ahead of the shifter with a pair of USBs, an audio aux-in, and a wireless charging pad. But space might be slim for those with big hands.

The capacitive-touch controls for heat-fan-temp are logically grouped on a tier just above the shifter, but it takes eyes from the road to stab at raising the temp or adjusting the fan speed. Lower-trim models have a simpler pair of large dials for temp control and a tier of hard buttons for fan speed and vent flow.

Digital mirror

The Limited also has a digital rearview mirror, which is intended to improve visibility behind the vehicle. It can be handy when passengers’ heads or stacked cargo gets in the way of rearward views. But because I wear glasses, my eyes struggle to focus quickly enough when I glance at the mirror, so I just flip it to manual mode.

Driver sightlines are generally open. There is a small corner glass at the windshield pillars for a snip of cornering view. Over-the-shoulder views are slightly crimped by the tapering rear side glass and the front seat’s broad upper shoulder bolsters also complicate peripheral views. But the wide bird’s-eye view camera system gives an around-view and a perimeter scan for fully functional parking.

The turning circle is tighter than many midsize sedans, at 37.4 feet with 19-inch tires or 36.1 ft. with 18s.

Back seats and cargo area

The rear headroom isn’t bad at 36.9 inches or 38.1 without the pano roof. But it would help rear entry if the doors were engineered to open a few degrees wider or for easier access when buckling a child into a car seat.

Legroom of 37.8 inches is more than generous, but with long-legs in front the space seems almost cramped. A lowish exhaust tunnel benefits (occasional) three-across seating. But all passengers will enjoy the big pano roof and its light-switching mode.

The lithium-ion battery pack is small enough to be installed under the rear seats, so it does not take up any cargo or passenger space.

Cargo space is tight for a midsize SUV at 28.7 cubic feet behind the back seat. The roofline is low at 28 inches from floor to ceiling and the lift-up to the floor is tall at 32 ½ inches. The entry opening is wide at 39 inches. Fold the 60/40 back seat for 6 feet of long-item length.

There is some deep basement storage (where the standard tonneau cover can be stored) and there is an actual alloy wheel for the temporary spare.

The back seat in the Toyota Venza

Back seat legroom of 38.3 inches is generous unless someone tall is seated ahead.

Why buy the Toyota Venza?

Carmakers can lead the public to fuel-saving vehicles, but the purchase rate is wildly variable. Toyota has been masterful at giving that cup of cold water rather than dumping a bucket of technology over the heads of buyers.

The Venza brings the number of 2021 Toyota hybrids to 10 – and the fuel-cell-powered Mirai makes it 11 electrified vehicles.

There is remarkable simplicity for the highly electrified Venza. Use as much or as little as you wish, while enjoying its forefront styling and upscale interior. It can be driven as “just a car” and still earn more than 35 mpg.

2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid Limited  Specifications

Body style: midsize, 5-seat crossover SUV with on-demand all-wheel drive

Engine: 189-hp, direct-injection 2.5-liter 4-cylinder; 163 lb.-ft. torque at 5,200 rpm

Electric motors: 2 88-kW 118-hp, permanent-magnet synchronous front; 40 kW rear

Hybrid battery pack: Lithium ion; 252 volts; 70 cells; 3.6-volts per cell; 650 volts maximum

Combined net power: 219-hp

Transmission: eCVT with sequential shift mode

Fuel economy: 40/37/39 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane

Base price: $41,075, including $1,175 freight charge; price as tested $43,200

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2021 Toyota Sienna XSE: a toy box of possibilities

The 2021 Toyota Sienna is a complete redesign and exclusively powered as a gasoline-electric hybrid

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE exterior.

The sport-themed 2021 Toyota Sienna XSE adds dark 20-inch split five-spoke wheels, more aggressive front and rear bumpers and an interior black headliner. (Toyota)

 

BY MARK MAYNARD

You can fit just about anything in a minivan — except an ego. These three-row people movers are the most efficient modes of transportation, yet ownership has been traumatized ever since the damning label of “Soccer Mom Mobile” was applied. It nearly killed the segment. Mention of the word brings polarized responses, like “hell-no never” to “make way for the welcome wagon.”

To spackle over the crazed aversion, manufacturers have long tried to offer sporty variants, which were usually received with a shrug and “Meh.” Anybody who wanted a van, didn’t need it to be cladded-up and those who didn’t want a van would not be tempted by cosmetic enhancements.

A side view of the new Sienna minivan

Despite the Sienna’s 17-foot-length, it drives “small” with a high seating position, low step-in height and big windows. (Toyota)

So those carmakers with struggling minivans sales dumped them, including Ford and GM. Today, there are just four 2021 minivan choices: the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona (soon to be replaced by the Carnival) and today’s tester, the Toyota Sienna.

Toyota’s sculpted redesign of its 2021 Sienna makes for a more credible sporty variant in the new XSE model. Whether for minivan-hating parents or their children, the Sienna is a big toy box of possibilities, and now a greener choice.

Front seats in the Sienna minivan.

The shifter and necessary functions are all within easy reach, along with cup holders, wireless charger and yet more storage bins for smaller items. (Toyota)

Pricing for the 2021 Toyota Sienna

The first Sienna went on sale in the United States as a 1998 model and is now in its fourth generation. It has been designed, engineered and assembled in the U.S. since it debuted.

The 2021 Toyota Sienna is a complete redesign and exclusively powered as a gasoline-electric hybrid, with optional all-wheel drive and seating for seven or eight.

A view of the Sienna's rear end

Toyota applied a few styling tricks to tone down the traditional minivan styling. Among them, a “speedy” pillar at the rear cabin is dynamically angled forward. (Toyota)

It is sold in five trim levels of LE, XLE, XSE, Limited and Platinum. Starting prices range from $35,635 for the eight-seat, front-drive LE to $51,710 for the seven-seat Platinum AWD. Pricing includes the $1,175 freight charge from Princeton, Ind.

Some XLE models and the XSE, Limited and Platinum are seven-seat models and feature the super-long-slide second-row captain’s chairs, and the Limited and Platinum FWD models have ottomans.

Electronic on-demand AWD is just a $760 option.

The XSE Plus package ($1,000) adds wireless phone charging, black roof rails, 12-speaker JBL audio, 9-inch touch screen and dynamic navigation with 3-year trial and connected services.

2021 Toyota Sienna front seat features with the under-console storage area.

The broad span of the instrument panel has a step-down shelf, handy for the passenger to lay a phone. (Toyota)

Pricing incentives for APR, cash and lease.

Warranty coverage

Hybrid-related components that require repairs to correct defects in materials or workmanship are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles from original date of first use when sold as new. The hybrid battery is covered for 10-years/150,000-miles and is transferrable across ownership.

The new-vehicle warranty includes 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain; and 2-years/25,000-miles ToyotaCare, free factory scheduled services and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Super long slide second-row seats.

There is nearly 3 feet of NBA legroom provided by the super-long-slide second-row captain’s chairs, which also recline. (Toyota)

Styling

Here’s how Toyota tried to take the minivan out of the styling:
• A speedy pillar at the rear cabin is dynamically angled forward;
• Thin bands of LED lighting at the taillight flow from the body to the rear to create a signature impression;
• Integrated black taillight canard looks cool but also improves aerodynamics;
• Sculpted tailgate with an integrated spoiler is made possible by a molded resin process.

The minivan's gearshift console.

The shift console is cleverly designed to integrate storage and cup holders. (Toyota)

How does the 2021 Toyota Sienna drive?

No tachometer, no wedgie-inducing front seats, no problem.

As a father now graduated from child-rearing years, I always liked testing minivans, and not just because my two charges ran to do homework in the van.

It’s the view from the inside out that mattered — not that I might be judged a “soccer dad,” though my step-daughter was a brutally effective club soccer player.

Ride quality in the XSE is slightly sport-tuned but never harsh or pitchy. There is good driver connectivity between the steering input, braking response and acceleration.

Second-row captain's chairs.

The interior storage opportunities are a vertical ecosystem of tiers, trays and cubbies. In all, there are 18 cup holders and seven USBs. (Toyota)

The front-drive XSE has 20-inch Michelin Primacy all-season tires, P235/50; AWD models get 18-inch tires, P235/60. Its exterior appearance is somewhat sportified by dark 20-inch split five-spoke wheels and aggressive front and rear bumpers.

Despite the Sienna’s 17-foot-length, it drives “small” with a high seating position, low step-in height and big windows, with privacy glass behind the front row. Driver sightlines are open across the hood and over the shoulder and the turning circle is refreshingly modest at 38.2 feet, though you’ll have to swing a little wider when steering into the parking stall.

The XSE has dark chrome wheels and all-season tires.

The appearance of the XSE is somewhat sportified by dark 20-inch split five-spoke wheels. (Toyota)

Four-wheel disc brakes work without regen-grab common to some of Toyota other hybrid models. Ventilated discs front and rear are towing capable (up to 3,500 pounds) with 12.9-inch discs front, 12.5 inches rear.

Safety

The Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) system includes a pre-collision system with daytime and low-light vehicle and pedestrian detection, plus daytime bicyclist detection. Automatic braking is activated by PCS if the driver does not react in time in certain emergency situations. The system also can detect a vehicle ahead, a bicyclist or pedestrian in low light situations.

Other standard equipment on all trim levels are 10 air bags, stability and traction controls, brake-force distribution, brake assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.

Driver-assist systems

The standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package of technologies allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving, while keeping both hands on the wheel. Keeping the Sienna on the correct track is enhanced all-speed dynamic radar cruise control and lane change assist, lane tracing assist, front cross-traffic alert and pedestrian alert.

The system capably keeps the car centered in the lane, but like most systems it will randomly shut off, sometimes due to variable light and road-surface conditions. This tpe of safety syystem will be beneficial for those drivers who have daily commutes in heavy traffic. It is an extra six eyes on the road to watch for less attentive drivers.

2021 Toyota Sienna Softex trimmed seat upholstery.

Softex-trimmed seat upholstery and heated power front seats are standard on the XSE. (Toyota)

Powertrain

The Sienna’s gasoline-electric hybrid system integrates a 176-horsepower, direct-injection 2.5-liter four-cylinder with two electric motors, a front-drive 134 kW (180-hp) permanent-magnet synchronous and a 40-kW rear.

Toyota’s use of a nickel-metal hydride battery pack isn’t as technologically high-powered as a lithium-ion battery pack, but I couldn’t tell a difference, it just works. With  288-volts, the battery pack lets the Sienna roll for blocks on silent battery power at low speeds or creeping in traffic. This is the same well-tested system Toyota has used for years.

With a combined power of 245-hp, there was no lag in launch power and it will cruise comfortably at highway speeds. The electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT) has a sequential shift mode, but I didn’t feel the need. The CVT kept the power easily controlled under my right foot.

Official fuel economy ratings are 36 mpg city, 36 highway and 36 mpg combined for front-drive and 35/36/35 mpg AWD, using the recommended 87 octane. In a test week of 142 miles, my average fuel economy ranged from 27.5 to 29.8 mpg, and it was still building when I had to exit the freeway.

Cabin comfort

The entire cabin of the 2021 Toyota Sienna is well-soundproofed and quiet rolling with the Michelins.

Interior storage opportunities are a vertical ecosystem of tiers, trays and cubbies. In all, there are seven USBs, six of them for charging, 18 cup holders, onboard Wi-Fi and the optional Driver Easy Speak, which is essentially a built-in PA system that carries the driver’s voice through the audio system to the rear seats — and the source of the disturbance.

The broad span of the instrument panel has a step-down shelf, handy for the passenger to lay a phone and the door panels have spacious bottle storage and a shallow tray. Toyota says the unique Bridge Console is key to allocating personalized space to the driver and front passenger. Positioned high between the driver and passenger, the bridge  connects the instrument panel to the center armrest. Beneath the bridge is a large open area to stow out of sight larger items such as a purse or bag. But the bridge takes away the once-familiar step-through for parents to slip into the back seat for child care or discipline.

The shift console is cleverly designed to integrate storage and cup holders, of which there are four. A cutout for the two smaller cup holders nearest to the driver’s elbow are made dual purpose with a tip-back lid that leaves a 6-inch-wide by 1.24-inch slot for a phone, errand list or note pad. One of the larger cup holders nearest the wireless charging pad and a charging USB also integrates a phone-size slot.

There is deep storage in the armrest console (12 inches to the bottom) with a pair of charging USBs. The space is handy for holding the pair of wireless headphones for the optional rear-seat entertainment system.

The Toyota Sienna's cargo area with folded third-row seats

Split & Stow third-row seats are cleverly engineered, but it takes a hefty tug to stow or restore the seats. (Mark Maynard)

Back seats and cargo

Kick-activated sliding doors and the back seat step-in height of 18 inches is child-reasonable. There is nearly 3 feet of NBA-class legroom provided by the super-long-slide second-row captain’s chairs, which also recline. Manual sunshades in the second row are assets as are two more charging USBs.

Power ports in the Toyota Sienna's cargo area.

The cargo area has a 1500-watt household power plug, and third row occupants have access to a pair of charging USBs. (Mark Maynard)

And there is another pair of charging USBs in the third row, which is a Split & Stow design. It takes a hefty tug to stow or restore the seats and the flat area when the seats are stowed has no covering so dog crates or other such materials might not ride flat without bolstering.

Woodland Special Edition

Adventurers will be able to embrace their nomad lifestyle this fall with the Sienna Woodland Special Edition. Pricing has not been announced but is expected to start at around $45,000, including all-wheel drive and raised suspension.

Special features include:
• 1500-watt capable power outlet (to power most household items for a day trip or an overnight camping excursion);
• Tow hitch with a 3,500-pound trailer weight;
• Roof rails with crossbars;
• Exclusive Cement exterior color;
• Black sport trimmed seats with unique stitch color;
• 18-inch wheels;
• Dark chrome-colored accents;
• Black badging;
• Navigation with 12-speaker JBL 1200-watt audio system.

Other standard Woodland Edition equipment includes super-long-slide second-row captain’s chairs, Split & Stow 3rd Row Seat, kick-activated sliding doors, heated front driver and passenger seats, sunshades in the second row and a total of seven USB ports across all three rows.

And with every sale, Toyota will make a $250 donation to the National Environmental Education Foundation. The effort will be a guaranteed minimum donation of $250,000 to support NEEF’s mission to make the environment more accessible, relatable and connected to people’s lives.

The 2022 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition.

The 2022 Woodland Edition will go on sale in the fall in the exclusive Cement paint color, with standard all-wheel drive and a raised suspension. (Toyota)

Why buy the 2021 Toyota Sienna?

With the substantial baggage most drivers drag along with them every day, a rational society might think that a minivan would be a top seller. But minivans are like green vegetables — we know should eat more of them, but for many it is the sexiness of SUV fast food that wins the sale.

The Sienna is a green and very inviting for an extended road trip. My average fuel economy of 28-plus-mpg was impressive, though I never transported a van full of people.

Its exterior styling is attractive and somewhat eye-catching on the road … for a minivan. But it is the inside where this minivan far exceeds any utility of an SUV or its fuel economy or ease of entry — and all that with a tow rating of 3,500 pounds.

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE FWD

Body style: Full-size 7- to 8-seat front- or AWD minivan
Engine: 176-hp, direct-injection 2.5-liter 4-cylinder; 176 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 rpm
Electric motors: 134 kW (180 hp) permanent-magnet synchronous front; 40 kW rear
Hybrid battery pack: Nickel metal hydride; 288 volts; 40 cells, 7.2-volts per cell; 650 volts maximum
Combined net power: 245-hp
Transmission: eCVT with sequential shift mode
Fuel economy: 36/36/36 (FWD) 35/36/35 (AWD) city/hwy/combined; 87 octane

SPECIFICATIONS
Fuel tank: 18 gal.
Cargo space: 33.5-75.2 cu. ft. behind 2nd/3rd rows
Front head/leg room: 40.1/40.3 in.
2nd row head/leg room: 39.3/39.9 in.
3rd row head/leg room: 37.4/38.7 in.
Length/wheelbase: 204.1/120.5 in.
Curb weight: 4,675 lbs.
Turning circle: 39.2 ft. FWD (20-inch wheels); 38.3 ft. AWD (18-inch wheels)
Tow capacity: 3,500 lbs.
Coefficient of drag: 0.28

Safety features include: 10 air bags, Toyota’s Star Safety System (stability and traction controls), brake-force distribution, brake assist and smart-stop technology, blind-spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, includes pre-collision system with daytime and low-light vehicle and pedestrian detection, plus daytime bicyclist detection; full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control; lane departure alert with steering assist; automatic high-beam headlights; lane tracing assist; and road sign assist

PRICING
Base price: $42,000, including the $1,175 freight charge. Price as tested $46,843
Options on test vehicle: Ruby Pearl metallic paint $425; Rear seat entertainment system with 2 wireless headphones $1,415; XSE Plus package $1,000; 1,500-watt power inverter $300; Rear bumper applique $69; Floor and cargo mat package $294; wheel locks $65
Where assembled: Princeton, Ind.
Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles basic bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain; 10-years/150,000-miles hybrid battery; 8-years/100,000-miles hybrid system; 2-years/25,000-miles ToyotaCare, free factory scheduled services and 24/7 roadside assistance

Mark Maynard

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2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition Review

The Toyota Land Cruiser is 62 but not ready for retirement

A trailside view of the Land Cruiser

The Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition has a starting price of $89,070. (Photos courtesy of Toyota)

 

BY MARK MAYNARD

The Toyota Land Cruiser is an institution of overlanding authority. It has been a global expedition vehicle since its launch in Japan in 1951 as the Toyota Jeep BJ, a small 4WD military vehicle. The name was changed by 1954 to Land Cruiser to avoid legal entanglements with the Willys brand and to tread lightly around the Land Rover.

The prototype BJ was not chosen for production, according to Toyota, but it went on to become the first motor vehicle to reach the sixth station on the trail to the top of Mt. Fuji.

In 1958, the updated 20-Series was one of the first Toyota exports to the United States. The next Land Cruiser iteration, the 40-Series (FJ-40), arrived in 1960 and became an all-terrain icon (and now a collector’s item). A larger station wagon model followed in the late-1960s, putting the Land Cruiser on a path toward family adventures.

By 1991, the 80-Series Land Cruiser was becoming a full premium model. A V-8 engine and an array of advanced chassis systems and luxury amenities were added in the late-1990s.

The current Land Cruiser, known internally as the 200-Series, is the most advanced and luxurious in the model’s history, Toyota says.

An interior view from the cargo area

The Heritage Edition interior is luxurious but durable.

Land Cruiser Credentials

The Land Cruiser is not a station-wagon SUV. It is built expedition tough to get you out and back. Its protective armor includes full-time four-wheel drive, frame-mounted tow hooks front and rear and underbody skid plates (at the front suspension, radiator, fuel tank, transfer case).

After an all-new seventh-generation model debuted in 2008, the last major “refresh” was in 2016. That update would add a new front end (for Euro pedestrian crash standards), an eight-speed automatic transmission and a full suite of advanced safety technologies, such as low-speed frontal collision avoidance, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control.

The black leather in the Land Cruiser interior

The cabin is outfitted with black leather-trimmed upholstery and bronze contrast stitching.

Land Cruiser Heritage Edition

To honor the Land Cruiser’s 60-plus years as an SUV icon, Toyota created the 2020 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition. The limited-edition model has a starting price of $89,070 and is only available in a five-seat, two-row configuration to maximize cargo space. (Its MSRP is about $2,330 more than the standard eight-seat Land Cruiser). Pricing includes the $1,325 freight charge from Toyota City, Japan. The tester was $89,369 with one option for a glass-breakage sensor, $299.

It is available in two paint colors, Midnight Black Metallic or Blizzard Pearl, both with a black-accented grille and bronze-colored BBS 18-inch forged aluminum wheels featuring a “TOYOTA” center cap. The vintage-style Land Cruiser badge is a tribute to its accomplished history.

With its mission of off-roading, the Heritage Edition has no running boards to interfere with high-centering and the usual chrome lower bodyside moldings were deleted to avoid trail rash. Other unique features include darkened headlight housings, fog lights with dark chrome surrounds, and side mirrors with darkened chrome.

Special Heritage Edition leather stitching

The bronze stitching is carried onto the steering wheel, door trim, center stack, console, and seats.

Land Cruiser Safety Features

All Land Cruiser models come standard with 10 air bags and Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which uses radar and a camera sensor to detect a preceding pedestrian or a vehicle. The system is intended to automatically apply the brakes as needed to help mitigate or avoid collisions in certain conditions.

Integrated into the TSS-P system are Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beams. Also standard are blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Toyota Safety Connect (with three years of free subscription service) uses onboard cellular technology, independent of the driver’s phone, to provide such services as Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS) and GPS-enhanced roadside assistance.

Off-roading armor includes a multiterrain camera with front, side or rear views, a full-size spare tire, roof rack, frame-mounted tow hooks front and rear with underbody skid plates at the front suspension, radiator, fuel tank and transfer case.

Land Cruiser tire and wheel

Special bronze-colored forged aluminum BBS wheels.

Ride and Handling

With its body-on-frame truck chassis, the Cruiser feels as tough as a railroad spike. But the ride quality is quite composed on all road surfaces I tested and without head toss in turns.

Its hydraulic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension works through the stabilizer bars to steady the on-road ride or to reduce resistance for more wheel travel off road to keep the rubber in contact with the trail. (It is not an air suspension and there is no ability to change the ride height, whether for loading people or cargo or raising it for off-road clearance.)

The full-time 4WD system has high- and low-range gearing and a Torsen limited-slip locking center differential. Active Traction Control works the brake and throttle to help control wheel spin. And the electronic multiterrain select system will fine-tune throttle and traction for a variety of surfaces, including a mogul mode.

Crawl Control takes over the accelerator and braking to wallow along at one of five low-speed settings (1 to 5 mph). It even works in reverse.

Four-wheel vented disc brakes have large 13.9-inch rotors front, 13.6-inch rear.

Endearing features include a manual hand brake and the power liftgate and manual fold-down tailgate (with storage panels) and a soft-close feature.

Land Cruiser's V-8 engine

The 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 has a trail churning 401 foot-pounds of torque.

Land Cruiser Powertrain

With a curb weight of 5,715 pounds, there is good power from the 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 and a trail churning 401 foot-pounds of torque for forceful but not quick acceleration. The eight-speed automatic doles out easy shifts to stay in the powerband.

Fuel-economy ratings are 13 mpg city, 17 highway and 14 mpg combined on 87 octane. I was averaging a consistent 15.7 mpg, with much highway driving. The 24.6-gallon tank allows a decent cruising range.

A side view of the Land Cruiser Heritage model

The Heritage Edition is only available in a five-seat, two-row configuration to maximize cargo space.

Interior Function

The upright cabin, one of Toyota’s highest-quality interiors, is a vertical environment with a short dashboard, which simplifies sightlines over the hood. It is a traffic-calmed space that leaves the commotion outside and you comfortably seated with a clear view down the road. It is an empowering message that not all SUVs provide. My only gripe was sun glare on the touch screen.

The Heritage Edition interior is luxurious but durable. The cabin is outfitted with black leather-trimmed upholstery and bronze contrast stitching, which is carried onto the steering wheel, door trim, center stack, console and seats. With standard all-weather floor mats and cargo liner, it’s ready for the trail, or the commute to work.

Other Heritage Edition equipment includes heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, power moonroof, four-zone automatic climate control with 28 air vents throughout the cabin, and smart-key locking with push-button start. For deeper center console storage, the cool box has been deleted.

The 9-inch touch screen infotainment system has split-screen capability, advanced voice recognition and a 14-speaker JBL audio system with navigation and Bluetooth phone and music. There’s also Qi wireless phone charging.

The second row has a flat floor and adult-class support to the seats, which also recline.

Window seat occupants have overhead and pillar-mounted grab handles. The HVAC system includes a pollen and dust filter.

Land Cruiser stirring up dust on a trail climb

The full-time 4WD system has high- and low-range gearing.

Why Buy the Toyota Land Cruiser?

Big and heavy off-roading SUVs are getting more scrutiny by manufacturers seeking improved fuel economy and emissions for greenhouse-gas ratings.

The Land Cruiser typically sells fewer than 350 models a year, but the Toyota dealers want to keep it, or at least the nameplate. As of now, the Land Cruiser is slated for a redesign in 2023, which might bring a fresh new concept. Toyota isn’t saying which direction it might take, but a return to its more compact FJ roots would introduce fresh new competition for Jeep and the new Ford Bronco.

You will like the Land Cruiser if you are seeking a vehicle that feels vault-secure and safe. For those not sensitive to pricing and fuel costs, the Land Cruiser provides a feeling of calm invincibility on the road.

The underside of the Land Cruiser

Crawl Control functions from 1 to 5 mph.

The Land Cruiser Community

An old Toyota FJ40 with the new Land Cruiser

An FJ-40 model with the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition.

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition

Body style: large, 5-passenger SUV with full-time 4WD

Engine: 381-hp, 32-valve 5.7-liter V-8; 401 lb.-ft. torque at 3,600 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 13/17/14 mpg city/hwy/ combined; 87 octane

BY THE NUMBERS

  • Fuel tank: 24.6 gallons
  • Cargo space: 41.4 cu. ft.
  • Front head/leg room: 38.3/42.9 in.
  • Rear head/leg room: 38.9/34.4 in.
  • Length/wheelbase: 194.9/112.2 in.
  • Curb weight: 5,715 lbs.
  • Turning circle: 38.7 ft.
  • Fording depth: 27.5 inches
  • Max. towing: 8,100 lbs.

FEATURES

Standard equipment includes: smart key entry with push-button ignition, power moonroof with sunshade, multiterrain camera with front, side or rear views, 4-zone climate control with pollen-dust filter, semi-aniline perforated black leather-trimmed upholstery, 14-speaker JBL audio system with Entune app suite and 9-inch touch screen, navigation, bi-level covered center console, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat, 8-way power front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, 18-inch BBS alloy wheels with P285/60 tires, full-size spare, LED low and high-beam headlights, LED fog and running lights, folding side mirrors, power liftgate and manual tailgate with electric release, roof rack, frame-mounted tow hooks front and rear, underbody skid plates (front suspension, radiator, fuel tank, transfer case), 40/20/40 second row seating (with slide, recline, tumble), heated second-row seats, 2 12-volt power plugs, 1 120-volt household plug in cargo area, and front and rear parking alerts

Safety features include: include: 10 air bags, active traction control, multi-terrain ABS, trailer sway control, hill-start assist, crawl control with off-road turn assist

PRICING

Base price: $89,070, including $1,325 freight charge; price as tested $89,369

Options on test vehicle: Glass breakage sensor $299

Where assembled: Toyota City, Japan

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper; 2 years/24,000 miles free scheduled maintenance; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain

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