Toyota’s longest-running nameplate is sold worldwide in various guises. Americans flock to luxury SUVs so our Land Cruiser overflows with creature comforts. Four-zone climate control, 28 air vents, three rows of leather-trimmed seats and JBL Synthesis audio with 14 speakers are standard. Yet underneath it all, the Land Cruiser is built to go anywhere. The 381-bhp 5.7-liter V-8 mates with full-time 4-wheel drive and sophisticated features like Kinetic Dynamic Suspension and Crawl Control with Downhill Assist. Safety Connect with 24/7 emergency assistance is standard. Want more? Toyota obliges with an Upgrade Package that adds a rear entertainment system, navigation with backup camera, cooler box, rain-sensing wipers and rear seat heaters.
Last year, the Jeep Wrangler was treated to an all-new interior. This year, the focus is on a more powerful and efficient powertrain. The new 3.6-liter V-6 delivers a muscular 285 bhp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, up 40 percent and 10 percent, respectively, from the old 3.8-liter V-6. Yet, despite the increased power, the 2012 Wrangler offers improved fuel economy over its predecessor. A new 5-speed automatic replaces the former 4-speed, or choose the 6-speed manual. While the interior remains tight (made less so with the 4-door Unlimited), an ample selection of luxuries, such as heated seats, steering wheel controls, automatic temperature control and electronic handling features provides an optimal balance between daily driver comfort and weekend trail running. Serious off-roaders should check out the locked-and-loaded Rubicon model.
The Toyota Corolla is a front-wheel drive five-passenger compact sedan, well-known for being reliable and economical, yet refined and comfortable. For 2014 the all-new 11th generation Corolla is distinguished by a new exterior design, an upgraded interior with more passenger room, and a new continuously variable transmission (CVTi-S).
The Corolla is available in four trims: L, LE, S, and new LE ECO. The powertrain for the L, LE, and S trims is a 132 horsepower, 1.8-liter dual VVT-I engine, matched with a six-speed manual, four-speed automatic, or new continuously variable transmission (CVTi-S). The LE ECO includes a 140 horsepower, 1.8-liter engine with Valvematic, combined with the CVTi-S transmission. Safety features include front, side-impact, side-curtain, and new drivers knee airbags, ABS with brake assist, and whiplash protecting front seat active head restraints. Air conditioning and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control are also standard on all models. All Corollas now include LED headlamps, Bluetooth, a USB port, and power windows. Available features include cruise control, 16-inch wheels, tilt-and-slide power moonroof, Entune Audio, backup monitor, navigation, and leather.
Without getting too technical, one of the things we like about small crossover SUVs is that they are so darn handy. Like Nissan's Rogue, which is a conveniently sized people-hauler and yet can be converted into a carry machine with 58 cu. ft. of cargo area. Having a 60/40 split rear seatback is a plus, as is the optional fold-down front passenger seat...all the better to carry long items. While the 170-bhp 2.5-liter four suits the bill for normal driving, we do wish there was a 6-speed alternative to the standard CVT. On the optional list is Intuitive All-Wheel drive. New for 2012 is a Sport mode switch for that CVT, redesigned 16- and 17-in. alloy wheels and the availability of Nissan's terrific Around View Monitor with its bird's-eye view of the vehicle when parking.
The Tacoma sports a fresh look with a new grille, headlights, front bumper and hood. Cabins gain redesigned instrument panels, steering wheels and center consoles. The TRD Sport package adds side mirrors with integrated turn signals plus available 18-in. alloys and waterproof seat fabric. New optional audio systems for Access Cabs include six speakers, XM satellite radio and Bluetooth. Double Cabs offer display audio with HD radio, seven JBL speakers and Toyota's Entune mobile application services. An unchanged lineup features a wealth of choices including a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine, 4.0-liter V-6, plus 4x2 and 4x4 models. The X-Runner targets enthusiasts with a 6-speed manual gearbox, sport-tuned chassis and optional TRD supercharger kit.