Toyota to debut GRMN Hybrid Concept II at Nürburgring race

June 23rd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota got import car fans excited at last year’s Tokyo Auto Salon when it unveiled a hybrid-power MR2 roadster-based concept car that was developed in partnership with Japan’s Gazoo Racing.

Now, over a year later Toyota is following up on that concept machine with its successor the GRMN Sports Hybrid Concept II. The new hybird sports car will receive its official unveiling and on track debut this weekend at the 39th Nürburgring 24-hour endurance race.

The name “GRMN” has special meaning for the Japanese brand and stands for Gazoo Racing tuned by Meister of Nürburgring. The car has been named in honour of the late Hiromu Naruse (1944-2010), Toyota’s chief test driver and head of the Gazoo Racing team who died in an accident last year driving a prototype of the Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition in Germany (read news).

The car is an evolution of the earlier concept and features a mid-mounted 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine that puts 183kW of power to the rear wheels. The car is also equipped with an electric motor that adds another 37kW and runs the front wheels, giving the hybrid concept all-wheel-drive handling capability. Total power output is rated at 220kW. Continue reading “Toyota to debut GRMN Hybrid Concept II at Nürburgring race” »

Toyota releases first images and details on 2012 Yaris

June 20th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota has dropped the official details and some images of it’s new third generation 2012 Yaris hatch. The new Yaris has been initially shown in European-spec form but expect few changes to the model we ultimately see here in NZ.

Toyota’s newest supermini will be firstly manufactured at the Japanese firm’s Valenciennes factory in France with sales to begin in Europe around September.

For the continent the the 2012 Yaris will be launched with a choice of three engines. Two will be petrol powered, a 1.0-litre VVT-i and a 1.3-litre dual VVT-I, and the third motor will be a 1.4-litre D-4D diesel mill. A hybrid version is also in the works and will be based on the 2011 Yaris concept car that featured at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. More details on the hybrid Yaris are expected in the coming months.

Features on the 2012 Yaris will include a new multimedia connectivity system named Toyota Touch & Go. This unit will  feature a rather large 6.1-inch touch screen display and will be standard kit on almost all Yaris vehicles. Continue reading “Toyota releases first images and details on 2012 Yaris” »

Toyota’s Top to Bottom NZ off-road adventure reaches the Bluff

June 2nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota NZ’s FJ Cruiser ‘Top to Bottom’ off-road adventure reached the Bluff on Monday, concluding the adventure for Marc Ellis and his support crew. The special journey was part of 60th Anniversary celebrations for Toyota’s iconic Land Rover and included two weeks trawling over 4,980 kilometres of rugged off road country.

In typical Land Cruiser fashion the new, retro-inspired vehicle survived in good nick, except for a healthy caking of mud, a cracked windscreen, one blown tyre, and a some dog wee where the farm dogs from Molesworth Station got a bit over excited as they checked out the inside of the FJ Cruiser.

The off-road challenge, with Marc Ellis at the helm of a specially fitted-out new FJ Cruiser, restarted on 15 May at Puhoi, north of Auckland, and journeyed through Waikato, King Country, Taranaki, Wairarapa, Wellington, Marlborough, Canterbury, and Otago. Continue reading “Toyota’s Top to Bottom NZ off-road adventure reaches the Bluff” »

New Mazda RX-9 could use Toyota’s hybrid drivetrain

May 26th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Mazda’s next rotary powered machine is often the subject of rumour and speculation with claims that the RX-Series of vehicles may end with the RX-8. But fresh reports are suggesting that there will be an RX-9 and what’s more, it will use a hybrid drivetrain borrowed from Toyota.

These latest rumours have some weight behind them because last year an agreement was signed between Mazda and Toyota that would have the Zoom-Zoom company licensing the same hybrid tech that powers the Prius. Back then, Mazda announced that its first hybrid vehicle would reach the market in 2013. But nobody really thought it would come in the form of an RX-9.

Naturally a rotary engine will still spin under the vehicle’s bonnet, but it will likely take on a low-powered form with the hybrid system adding extra grunt. Doesn’t sound so flash right? Well not when you consider the rotary motor’s traditional design flaws of weak torque at low rpm, leaky seals and high fuel consumption. If the borrowed hybrid system can solve these issues it may be what saves the rotary engine from production car extinction. Continue reading “New Mazda RX-9 could use Toyota’s hybrid drivetrain” »

Toyota Hilux SR5 2011 Review

May 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota’s long-serving Hilux ute is a bit of a legend really. Not just for its ongoing sales success but also for the stories of ridiculous robustness and unlikely war zone application. Crossing the Sahara desert without a drop of oil or having surface-to-air missiles launched off their decks, some Hiluxs certainly have to earn their reputation.  But the Hilux’s battles aren’t just fought by militias in Africa or the Middle East it’s caught up in a war right here in NZ. The dominance of Toyota’s pickup is no longer total, it faces threats from all sides, the torque thumping Nissan Navara, Great Wall’s low rent V240 and the slick VW Amarok.

How can the Hilux best arm itself for the challenges ahead?

With a new safety package on its top spec SR5 model double cab, that’s how. Sure, it’s not as exciting as another 50Nm of torque from its diesel mill or some fierce new exterior styling but safety upgrades extend the Hilux’s appeal as a true work/play proposition. It’s also reason enough for Car and SUV to get back behind the wheel of a Hilux and revisit this ageing superpower of the ute segment. Continue reading “Toyota Hilux SR5 2011 Review” »

Toyota’s larger Prius V goes on sale in Japan

May 17th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Despite severe production and supply issues after the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster Toyota has just put its Prius V on sale in its domestic market.

The second model in Toyota’s growing Prius range will be sold in Japan as the Prius Alpha. The new Prius V is based on the current third-generation Prius but is a larger vehicle and will be sold with seven- and five-seating capacities. It also features a much more advanced lithium-ion battery pack. Even in five-seater form, the Prius V offers an impressive 60 percent more luggage capacity than the standard Prius. It also is longer and higher which means extra head and legroom for passengers.

Mechanically the Prius V differs little from the standard model using the same 1.8 litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine matched with an electric motor. Power output for the petrol engine is rated at 73kW and 142Nm, with the electric motor chipping in another 60kW and 207Nm of torque. Continue reading “Toyota’s larger Prius V goes on sale in Japan” »

Toyota’s profits drop 77% after Japan earthquake

May 12th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Like all Japanese carmakers, Toyota has been severely affected by the March 11 earthquake that saw huge damage and loss of life in Japan.

Despite plant shutdowns the world’s largest carmaker still announced profits of $314 million USD for the first three months of 2011, down 77 percent versus the same period in 2010. The $314 million profit is only a fourth of what analysts were expecting Toyota to make. With very low sales through the quarter, profits have been affected as a result.

While the announcement is disappointing for Toyota, things are set to get worse with even lower numbers expected for the period through to June. Supply issues are still hurting Toyota, with many plants running at only 50-percent capacity and some not running at all. These supply issues will see less stock being shipped to big markets like the U.S. and China which will lead to much lower revenue.

Toyota is fighting hard and says that production should ramp up to 70 percent of capacity by June, which is ahead of previous estimates. Continue reading “Toyota’s profits drop 77% after Japan earthquake” »

Suzuki Swift dominates NZ new car sales in April

May 10th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Suzuki Swift, is re-establishing its dominance as the top selling passenger vehicle in the New Zealand market. The Swift was the number one new car choice in April, according to Motor Industry Association figures, with total sales 66 per cent ahead of its nearest rival – the Toyota Corolla.

A new version of the Swift was launched in New Zealand in February and has reignited the strong sales figures achieved by its predecessor in the last six years. In year to date sales, the Swift is still running second overall to the Toyota Corolla.

“Total new car sales in New Zealand for the opening third of this year are up by 11 per cent but the average sales rate for new Swifts is 29 per cent higher,” said Tom Peck, general manager of marketing for Suzuki New Zealand.

“Swift has a well established history in our country dating back 27 years. However, it was the arrival of the fifth generation model in 2005 that really saw the car take off,” he said. Continue reading “Suzuki Swift dominates NZ new car sales in April” »