Toyota 2017 Model Year Wrap-upPosted on September 26th, 2016
New sports car, 50th anniversary Corolla, V-6 and hybrids enter showrooms
By Nina Russin
Toyota enters the 2017 model year with a significant birthday, expanded hybrid offerings for its Highlander crossover, refreshed Sienna minivan and a new sports car. With Scion closing its doors, Toyota is introducing a refreshed FR-S as the 2017 86, paying homage to the AE86, also known as the Corolla Levin.
Core features remain the same: a two-liter boxer engine with available six-speed manual or automatic transmissions in a rear-wheel drive platform. The engine combines port and direct injection, the former for fuel efficiency when cruising around town and the latter for throttle response on the track.
The retuned two-plus-two features new differential gearing for the manual transmission version for better launch characteristics. Redesigned intake and exhaust manifolds help the engine breathe better. Enhanced torsional rigidity from a stiffer transmission tunnel and thicker strut tower brace boosts steering response. Engineers also retuned the suspension.
Styling is refreshed inside and out, with new 17-inch twisted spoke wheels and all-LED front and rear lighting. A smaller steering wheel with audio controls, Granlux shoulder pads on the seats and Granlux inserts in the doors reflect the interior’s driver focus.
Corolla celebrates 50th birthday
This year the Corolla compact sedan celebrates 50 years of production. First introduced in Japan in 1967 and in the US two years later, it was one of the first small sedans to achieve commercial success at the height of Detroit’s muscle car craze.
For 2017, a fiftieth anniversary edition is available in three unique exterior finishes, with special badging and 17-inch alloy wheels. Toyota is limiting production to 8000 units.
All 2017 Corollas get a refreshed exterior and standard Toyota Safety Sense with pedestrian detection as well as a standard backup camera. A continuously variable automatic transmission replaces the former four-speed automatic. A six-speed manual gearbox is available on the sporty SE grade only.
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is standard on all grades.
Driving the newest SE through canyon roads in Southern California, the Corolla reflects its mission of affordability and value, but with a sportier focus. The six-speed manual transmission gives the driver more control over the standard four-liter engine’s 128 pound-feet of peak torque. While it can’t compete against the sportier 86 for acceleration off the line, the Corolla proved a competent partner climbing the canyon’s steep grades.
Highlander and Sienna feature new V-6 gas engine
Both the Highlander midsize crossover and Sienna minivan get a power boost for 2017, courtesy of Toyota’s Atkinson-Otto cycle 3.5-liter V-6 engine: the same block found in the current Tacoma midsize pickup. The engine uses variable valve timing to modify the amount of valve overlap during the combustion cycle, varying the compression ratio according to the driver’s performance or fuel economy needs.
A new direct shift eight-speed automatic transmission has a more precise feel similar to a manual gearbox with large overdrive gears to boost fuel economy on the highway.
All gas-powered Highlander models with the exception of the base LE now come with standard stop-and-start technology that shuts off the engine at stoplights to enhance fuel economy. Since Toyota utilizes electric air conditioning compressors, the cooling unit functions even when the gasoline engine is powered off.
A new SE gas-powered model comes with 19-inch rims, sport-tuned suspension and black interior. While the larger wheels give the Highlander a more aggressive footprint, soft on-center response from the electric power steering system may be a disappointment for some driving enthusiasts.
Consumer feedback on the Highlander Hybrid has resulted in two new grades, LE and XLE, so buyers who like the car’s green focus aren’t limited to upscale models such as the Limited and Platinum.
The hybrid continues to utilize the same technology as that found in the Toyota Prius: developed internally with all operating parts produced by Toyota.
It is heavier than the gasoline car by almost 700 pounds, something most evident when driven aggressively on winding roads. On the other hand, because the electric motors drive both front and rear axles, all models are effectively all-wheel drive. Power for the hybrid continues to come from the Atkinson cycle 2.7-liter four-cylinder fuel injected engine, with revised variable valve timing on the intake side.
Inside, the Highlander’s versatile interior is ideal for growing families, with three rows of seating. Designers added USB ports so passengers can plug in computer games, iPads and phones for recharging on the go.
The Sienna improves on its reputation for safety and reliability with eight standard airbags, available blind spot monitoring, pre-collision warning, adaptive cruise control and hill start assist. It also remains the only minivan in the segment with available all-wheel drive for the LE, XLE and Limited grades.
While Chrysler and Kia have made their exteriors more closely resemble crossovers, Toyota sticks with the traditional one-box architecture. Still, it’s an attractive and contemporary looking vehicle with room inside for up to eight passengers when buyers opt for second-row bench seats.
The new engine adds 30 horsepower and 18 pound-feet of torque for a noticeable difference in acceleration off the line. Despite its size, the Sienna handles very much like a passenger car, with an independent front and torsion beam rear suspension. The live rear axle enhances the car’s towing capability: up to 3500 pounds with the towing prep package.
Electric power steering gives the minivan an exceptionally small turning circle: 37.4 feet for the all-wheel drive version.
Owners can fold third-row seats into the floor and remove the second row for a capacious cargo bay capable of hauling camping equipment, bicycles, kayaks and more. Easy speak, a feature introduced on the current Highlander, enables parents to use a microphone in the rearview mirror to communicate with kids in back.
A dual-view entertainment system enables kids in both the second and third-row to watch DVDs on two screens. All models come with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system.2017, News and Features 2017, 86, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, Corolla, Highlander, news and features, Sienna, Toyota