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Toyota Prius Tops Consumer Reports Ratings

The hybrid gas-electric Toyota Prius topped Consumer Reports annual list of Best and Worst New-Car Values for the first time, with the magazine saying the car’s cost to operate is about one-half that of a conventional vehicle.

The Prius (at 26,$750 for the Four model) knocked the much cheaper $16,915 base-price Honda Fit out of first place, which that car held for the past four years. CR said the Fit’s lower reliability rating was the reason for its fall from No. 1.

At 49 cents a mile to operate, the Prius costs about half as much to run than the average car, said the magazine. which looked at over 200 models for its annual buying guide.

CR looks at the five-year cost of ownership for each vehicle, road-test scores and predicted reliability.

Toyota and its Lexus cars topped the best values in six of 10 Consumer Reports categories.

These are some of the Consumer Reports best and worst values in the most popular categories:

Consumer Reports Best and Worst Values:

Best Value Small Hatchbacks: Toyota Prius Four

Worst Value Small Hatchbacks: Ford Focus SE

Best Value Family Sedan: Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

Worst Value Family Sedan: Chrysler 200 Limited (V6)

Best Value Large -Luxury SUV: Lexus RX 350

Worst Value Large -Luxury SUV: Nissan Armada Platinum

Best Value Minivan-Wagon: Toyota Prius V Three

Worst Value Minivan-Wagon: Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L

Best Value Small SUV: Honda CR-V EX

Worst Value Small SUV: Mini Cooper Countryman S

Toyota On Nicholasville
Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer


Toyota Excited By Next Mazda-Based Yaris Small Car

Toyota has admitted that its Yaris small car isn’t a marketing priority right now in the U.S.

Instead, much of the company’s efforts are going into the top-selling Corolla line–but when the firm’s next-generation small car hits the streets, things could change.

The next Toyota subcompact isn’t yet confirmed to use the Yaris name, but we do know it’ll be based on the next Mazda2, and built at Mazda’s facility in Salamanca, Mexico.

Wards Auto reports that Toyota is looking forward to the new small car, and some members of Toyota’s U.S. dealer council have already seen photos of the new car. Response to the new vehicle has apparently been positive.

Production of the new car is set to begin in summer 2015, and U.S. Toyota division group president Bill Fay says he expects the car will use an identical powertrain to the Mazda.

Both companies expect to gain economies of scale from the partnership, while Toyota will strengthen its presence in the subcompact market–where it currently lags behind rivals like the Nissan Versa and Kia Rio.

Fay explains that the Yaris isn’t currently a marketing priority for Toyota, the company putting more attention and resources towards marketing the Corolla, a U.S. top seller.

With the Mazda-sourced car on the way however, Fay says that could change in the future.

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer
Toyota On Nicholasville

Toyota puts wireless phone charging in Avalons

Toyota said Wednesday that it will offer wireless charging for mobile phones in its newly redone full-size 2013 Avalon sedan, marching into a technology that has other automakers mostly watching warily.

Toyota joins Chrysler, which will offer a wireless charging pad as a $200 option in its Dodge Dart subcompact early next year. But Chrysler’s charging pad will only be available through its after-market arm, Mopar.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other normally tech-forward automakers remain on the sidelines. Even General Motors, which took a $5 million ownership stake in Powermat — one of the leading companies in so-called inductive charging nearly two years ago — has yet to offer the feature.

It’s a simple concept: the ability to toss your smartphone onto a pad or bin in your car and have it wirelessly charge while you drive. No longer would you have to plug in your device.

But like many things high-tech, the idea gets complicated in a hurry. The holdup for mass adoption has been competing charging protocols that could mean the system might work on some phones and not others. Also, existing charging systems often require sleeves over phones that users might find expensive or cumbersome. Or the device may have to be lined up a certain way on the pad, instead of just tossed on. There are practical considerations, too, such as whether an untethered phone might become a projectile in a car crash.

But changes are occurring that could break down resistance. Toyota says it is the first automaker to embrace a new protocol called Qi, which will be integrated into 34 mobile phones from various makers. The feature will show up first in the Avalon, which has a bin for storing electronics below the dashboard. Inductive charging will be a part of a $1,950 “technology package” available in the spring. Wireless charging is planned in two other Toyota models, which the company declined to name.

Mobile phone makers such as LG, maker of the Google Nexus phone, and Nokia plan to make phones that will charge wirelessly without sleeves. That is proof that the time is right, says Randy Stephens, chief engineer for Avalon. Toyota was also encouraged that battery maker Energizer offers a sleeve, costing about $30 for an Apple iPhone, that fits over existing phones to allow them to charge wirelessly, Stephens says.

Like Toyota’s system, Chrysler’s “power bin” fits into a cubby hole in the center console where drivers can stow their smartphones. Mopar says the bin can charge iPhone and Android-based devices. But the system is considered “conductive,” not inductive, because the phone is placed in a specialized case with metal on the back that connects to metal on the pad. Inductive systems involve transmitting energy over a magnetic field.

GM announced nearly two years ago that it planned to put a inductive charging pad in the Chevrolet Volt, its plug-in extended-range electric car but it never surfaced. Powermat CEO Ran Poliakine says a product is on the way, but putting inductive charging in cars is “100 times” more complicated than in other places.

Powermat, which makes inductive charging pads for home use, is signing deals to install charging stations in Starbucks stores and other public venues to let customers recharge their phones anywhere they go. Poliakine says that GM vehicles will be just one of those places.

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer
Toyota On Nicholasville

2013 Toyota Avalon First Drive Results With Senior Test Drive Comments By Marty Bernstein

by Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor-at-large
The Auto Channel

Going to test drive the new 2013 Toyota Avalon, if you’re expecting just a few minor changes in one of Toyota’s favorite vehicles … forget it! This is a totally new 2013 Avalon. It is nothing like the previous iterations which were seldom more than minor nip and tuck updates and refinements of a fine car. It was the ultimate Toyota luxury sedan for those who did not care to drive a Lexus which is also a Toyota brand.

But in a bold move that frankly may estrange some previous owners, the only Avalon DNA that remains in the 2013 versions is the name and the vaunted reputation. It was a big news surprise to me and will be so for many, many fans. Now, that’s not a negative because change can be good and the new Avalon model is not just good …it’s very, very good.

It is the most American Avalon, built entirely in Kentucky, and designed in Toyota’s design and technology centers in California and Michigan. This new Avalon represents Toyota’s future design language and direction, a change for the usually more staid and reserved company. It’s the shape of Toyota’s to come to paraphrase the ads. The general manager of the Toyota division told auto writers during the recent introduction, “The point of the new Avalon is to show the market that ‘Toyota is back!” that’s their business response to the recent disastrous tsunami which hurt the company seriously, but even more it is a significant move from sedate to sleek and smart, a vehicle that offers a wider generational appeal to a larger market of potential buyers. They won’t or should not be disappointed either.

This is not just an improved Avalon. It’s been enhanced, updated, modernized, updated, changed, okay … revolutionized. New. Better. The exterior dimensions have been trimmed from the previous model to be sleeker and more sophisticated front to rear and top to bottom in new sheetmetal with shimmering, sexy lines and body accents. There’s a new grill with better cooling and pedestrian impact protection. The Avalon’s headlights are in a cluster and are available in Halogen and high intensity versions. Tail-lights are LEDs and optional front LED bulbs can be had too.

Inside it’s the automotive version of big-time-decorators interior décor styling. Soft touch materials – some hand stitched – abound, smoke chrome is accented glossy panels and other elegant textures and touches. Result? Good visual appeal and feng shui. The front seats are comfortable and there’s more rear seat leg room. The instrument panel is clean and clear during daylight. The infotainment dials, knobs, pushers and sliders are within easy reach. Three color options make the selection easy.

Driving the new Avalon was the really big surprise. It’s more agile, more nimble and more responsive than previous generations. The ride is firm and sporty compared to land cruiser languid. It is a better Avalon. Naturally, Toyota has added a Hybrid version as befits the leader in innovative powertrains.

The gas-powered Avalon features a powerful, all-aluminum 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. Avalon Hybrid is equipped with a modified version of the 2.5-liter Hybrid Synergy Drive system that also propels the Camry Hybrid.

It’s on sale now at Toyota dealers everywhere. Take a look. Take a test drive. You will be pleasantly surprised. The pricing for the four different Avalon versions is detailed below:

Model Avalon Gas Avalon Hybrid
XLE $30,990
XLE Premium $33,195 $35,555
XLE Touring $35,500 $37,250
Limited $39,650 $41,400
Senior Test Drive Comments For Those Of A Certain Age

If you’re one of the countless thousands who have purchased an Avalon since it was introduced in 1995 the new model will be a lot different. Gone is the softer handing, lighter steering, and braking. The new Avalon is sportier, has firmer ride, is a drivers’ car with quick and responsive steering and taut brakes. Ease of getting in and out of both the front and back seats remains. I did not drive the car at night so cannot comment about post sundown driving visibility – that will come when a longer test can be arranged as will other comments. What does remain is the Toyota’s reputation for reliability, dependability, reasonable gas mileage and value.

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer
Toyota On Nicholasville

2013 RAV4 gets Toyota back into crossover war

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If there is one thing you can say about the outgoing 2012 Toyota RAV4, it’s distinctive with a clunky spare tire hanging off the side-opening rear gate in most versions.

But Toyota hopes to make a styling statement with the redesigned 2013 model, which it was showing off to journalists here in the desert last week.

Gone is the spare tire on the tailgate, which now opens in the typical way. The front end has a “bolder, more aggressive look,” says Toyota, and the new model got a raft of improvements from stem to stern.

Bill Fay, general manager of the Toyota division, predicts sales for the new model will be up 25%, to more than 200,000 next year, from the 160,000 the company is on track to sell of the outgoing model this year.

Pricing for the new model starts at $24,145 with shipping, an increase from $23,495 for the base 2012.

Toyota needs the new RAV4 to be a hit. Midsize cars and compact crossovers are the two hottest segments in the auto industry right now, and many shoppers consider vehicles in both segments before buying. The Camry midsize sedan and the RAV4 are Toyota’s crown jewels in those categories.

But the compact crossover field is a lot more crowded now than a few years ago, when RAV4, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V had it largely to themselves. Every major automaker now has an entry — even German luxury brands — and their models have gotten much stronger. Toyota says both the number of models and the overall sales for the segment have tripled since 2000.

The outgoing RAV4 was outsold through the first 11 months of the year not only by CR-V and Escape, but also by the Chevrolet Equinox. Nissan’s Rogue wasn’t far behind.

The new RAV4 should have a head start on success. Since the first one in 1995, Toyota has sold more than 1.5 million RAV4s and about 80% are still on the road, says Toyota. The company is betting that many of those current owners are ready to replace theirs with a new one.

“What this is going to do is help Toyota not lose customers to others,” says analyst Jessica Caldwell, who drove the new RAV4 here last week. “It’s going to keep people in the Toyota family.”

To do it, Toyota engineers went through the 2012 model to find features to improve, starting with putting the spare tire out of sight under the rear end and giving RAV4 a modern liftgate with a new rear spoiler for better aerodynamics.

In addition, the 2013 RAV4 has:

• Better fuel economy. It will be rated at 24 miles per gallon in city driving, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 overall. It’s a 2 mpg improvement on the combined rating. The all-wheel-drive version is expected to come in at 22/29/25.

• Six-speed transmission. RAV4 keeps the same 176-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as the outgoing version but replaces the current four-cylinder model’s outmoded four-speed automatic with a six-speed. The powertrain is smooth, though not overly peppy. A “sport” mode button tightens the steering and holds the gears longer. Toyota says the new RAV4 accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, 1.3 seconds faster than the 2012.

• No V-6. No third row. The six-cylinder engine option has been banished. So is the option of a tiny third-row for kids. Still want a V-6? Toyota says its larger Highlander SUV will do for V-6 fans. And it offers a third row, too.

• Two more air bags. In an age when automakers always seem to find a way to pack another air bag in family vehicles, Toyota increases RAV4’s from six to eight, adding a knee-level one for the driver and a seat-bolster bag for the front passenger.

• New standard features. The formerly optional display screen, now 6.1 inches, and backup camera are standard.

• New safety features available. Now optional is a rear cross-traffic alert system that will beep when it senses another vehicle coming while the RAV4 is backing up.

• More space. The cargo area is increased by about 2 cubic feet. And the seats are thinner, which makes for more rear legroom.

• Quieter ride. Winding through the desert hills, the noise level was low. And Toyota says it reshaped RAV4’s mirrors to cut wind noise.

• Fancier interior. Some of the seat combinations now are two-toned, and the interior has been gussied up with details such as a soft-touch panel with “French stitching” that runs across the dashboard. It’s attractive, but it does make it hard to reach the sport- and economy-mode buttons underneath.

Toyota thinks the more popular version of the new RAV4 will be the XLE trim with more standard equipment than the base model, including a sunroof, at $25,135 to start. The fanciest version is the Limited, which starts at $27,855 and has larger 18-inch wheels, push-button start and Toyota’s fancy infotainment system, called Entune. All-wheel drive adds $1,400 to any of the models.

Still, RAV4 isn’t a luxury barge. The upscale version doesn’t come with leather seats. Instead, it has an upscale plastic.

Toyota’s Fay says target buyers include young couples with kids, active single people and empty-nesters. With a target market that large, Fay, says it’s likely that Toyota will use a Super Bowl ad to kick off the 2013 RAV4’s sale campaign.

Will it win back leadership in the compact crossover segment for Toyota? It’s got a shot, says Caldwell, who says the redesign is “a compelling package at the price point.”

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer
Toyota On Nicholasville

2013 Toyota Prius C – Review

The 2013 Toyota Prius C, the smallest and least expensive hybrid offered by Toyota, continues essentially unchanged from the car that debuted last year. Like the rest of the Prius family of four vehicles, it’s a “dedicated hybrid,” meaning it comes only with a hybrid powertrain–there’s no gasoline version offered.

The five-door hatchback is classified as a subcompact by Toyota, and costs about $5,000 less than the Prius liftback that defines the Prius image. The smaller Prius C is simpler in its styling, looking more like a conventional hatchback that happens to have a very smooth and rounded nose and swept-back headlamps. The rear window in its upright tailgate is a single piece of glass, rather than the two-pane design of the liftback, and especially from the rear, it doesn’t necessarily read “Prius” or “hybrid” visually.

Inside, the interior blends some of the Prius traits–the high-level Multi-Information Display at the top of the dash–with a large dose of economy-car upholstery and hard plastics. To keep costs down, some of the interior surfaces are plain painted metal, but it’s cheerfully honest about its thrifty lifestyle. The lowest-level model even has a conventional ignition key, although in pursuit of more mileage, all models come with automatic climate control so the control systems can most efficiently allocate power and energy.

Seats are comfortable, and there’s more room than you might expect–though this is no mid-size sedan. The switchgear is a mix of a few Prius pieces with a lot of Yaris, including a conventional “gear lever,” meaning that from the driver’s seat, you might not know that it’s a hybrid rather than a somewhat underpowered economy car.

Except, of course, for the 50-mpg EPA combined fuel efficiency rating–a number that equals the larger and pricier Prius liftback. The Prius C, however, gets a higher city rating (53 mpg) and a lower highway rating (47 mpg), pointing out that its small 1.5-liter engine and downsized battery pack have to work harder to move the car at freeway speeds. As always, your mileage will vary. But we’ve found that Prius models generally deliver real-world fuel economy that’s close to their ratings, unlike some other new hybrid models that seem to fall short for almost every owner.

That 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at just 73 hp, tuned to work with a new and more compact version of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system with a pair of motor-generators that can power the car, alone or together with the engine, and recharge the battery under regenerative braking. The combined powertrain puts out just 99 hp, lower than the 120 to 130 hp typical even of subcompacts sold in the U.S. today.

Toyota has paid a lot of attention to the packing of the Prius C, cleverly fitting both the small 0.9-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and the 9.5-gallon gasoline tank below the rear seat. This gives a full-depth rear load bay–in contrast to the mild-hybrid Honda Insight, also a subcompact five-door hybrid, which puts its pack under the load bay, making it much shallower as a result.

On the road, the Prius C is far more entertaining to drive than the conventional Prius, which will seem ponderous and numb in comparison. Still, the littlest Prius is far from a performance car. Drivers have to work it hard to keep up with more aggressive traffic, and acceleration is no better than average for the class. Unlike its larger siblings, there’s no Power or Sport mode, but it does offer both an “EV” mode–which keeps it in all-electric drive, though only for half a mile or so–and an “Eco” mode that caps power output and dials down the climate-control settings. We suggest avoiding Eco mode: It turns a car with only average performance into one that becomes maddeningly leisurely.

While the Prius C is surprisingly maneuverable–even nimble around town–it’s far from delivering the dynamics of a hot hatch.

What it does deliver is fuel economy. In mixed driving around temperate San Diego, which included stop-and-go suburban traffic, winding two-lane roads, and a dollop of freeway mileage–we saw an average of 51.4 mpg, slightly better than the 50-mpg combined rating.

A base price just under $20,000 with delivery gives buyers a more affordable way to obtain the best combined gas mileage on sale in the U.S. And the Prius C is both more fun to drive and somewhat less oddball than the conventional Prius liftback. Even the most basic Prius C One model includes automatic climate control and a sound system that incorporates iPod capability and a USB port. One step up, the Prius C Three adds a navigation system with Toyota’s Entune interface. Then the high-end Prius Four adds on top of that not only alloy wheels and heated seats, but also accessories like fog lamps. Buyers can add a few dealer custom items as well, but there’s just one option package, which bundles together a moonroof with alloy wheels.

Last year, the Toyota Prius C was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. As well as the usual safety aids–such as electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist–it comes with nine airbags.

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer

Toyota On Nicholasville

Toyota shows off bolder RAV4

Toyota shows off bolder RAV4

The 2013 Toyota Rav4 was unveiled at the Los Angeles  International Auto Show.

Photograph by: Alexandra Straub ,  Special to The Gazette

LOS ANGELES — The 2013 model year will bring forward an all-new,  fourth generation of the Toyota RAV4.

This popular crossover SUV is a core product in the Japanese automaker’s  model lineup. As the second-best-selling Toyota product in Canada (a close  second to the Corolla), the changeup is significant, with a completely  remodelled interior and exterior, a new engine and transmission and updated  features that are perfect for the Great White North.

Bill Fay, Toyota Group’s vice-president and general manager, debuted the  newly designed vehicle to the world at the 2012 Los Angeles International Auto  Show.

From the outside, there’s a bold and athletic design characterized by strong  proportions and a sleek, sloping roofline.

Speaking with Yoshikazu Saeki, deputy chief engineer for the RAV4, he said  that he “worked with the styling engineer to create a more aggressive  image.”

The end result is a more grown-up-looking crossover that is pleasing to the  eyes.

Inside, the interior takes on a new driver-centric and asymmetrical shape  complete with a new dash panel. Designed with sportiness in mind, soft touch  materials are used throughout, and the panel and gauges feature clear blue  illumination for improved visibility in low lighting.

Powering the new RAV4 is a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine with an output of  176 horsepower and 172 foot-pounds of torque. Gone is the V6 that was previously  offered.

There’s also a new six-speed automatic transmission with Sequential Shift  that replaces the four-speed automatic.

Dimensionally, the vehicle remains very similar to the outgoing model, but  features like the sled-style front seats amp up rear legroom. Futhermore, the  second-row seats can be reclined several degrees to maximize passenger  comfort.

Both a front-wheel-drive and all-wheel drive RAV4 will be available.

“A Toyota first, 2013 RAV4s with all-wheel drive will have Dynamic Torque  Control, a system that automatically shifts from front-wheel drive to AWD when  accelerating or when sensors detect wheel slippage,” the Japanese carmaker said  in a statement.

A significant update comes in the form of abandoning the side-hinged rear  door and replacing it with a convenient roof-hinged liftgate.

The spare tire that was once found on the side-hinged door can now be found  under the trunk’s cargo floor.

If consumers opt for the Limited trim, it also comes with a one-touch power  feature with a driver-selectable height setting. What does that mean? For  individuals or families who live in urban areas, and might not have high  ceilings in underground parkades, you can program the height to which your  liftgate opens.

With the mere push and hold for a few seconds of the one-touch button, you  can set it at a desired height. It can also be changed as often as necessary and  to whatever summits its hinge range can accommodate.

Saeki mentioned that he also had women in mind when deciding on the rear  bumper height. He wanted it to be low enough so it’s easier to load in heavier  items.

Additionally, all RAV4 models come with class-leading eight standard airbags,  Toyota’s Star Safety System, cruise control, power door locks and windows, and a  class-leading 38.4 cubic feet cargo capacity.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is expected to hit the streets early 2013.

Pricing is to be announced.

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer

Toyota On Nicholasville

Toyota Announces 2013 Pricing For Prius C, Camry Hybrid

Toyota has revealed pricing details for a large selection of its 2013 model year vehicles.

Among pricing for many of its SUVs and trucks, the 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid and 2013 Toyota Prius C see small price increases.

The Camry Hybrid now ranges from $26,140 for the LE grade, to $27,670 for XLE models. That’s an increase of $165, or 0.6 percent. 2013 Camry Hybrids achieve up to 43 mpg city, 39 highway, and 41 mpg combined.

Toyota’s 50 mpg Prius C also goes up, prices starting from $19,080 for the Prius C One, through $23,360 for the Four model. That represents a rise of $130, or 0.6 percent.

The Prius C also gets interior upgrades, with ‘SofTex’ material now covering the dash panels of the Two and Three-spec models, and the steering wheel of the Prius C Four.

Official combined economy for the Prius C is 50 mpg, with 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway.

Highlander Hybrids have also risen in price a little, by a maximum of 0.5 percent. Both the Hybrid and Hybrid Limited have risen by $200, to $39,970 and $46,170 respectively.

Both 2013 Camry Hybrid and Prius C will hit dealerships in early January.

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer

Toyota On Nicholasville

2013 Toyota Corolla US Updates

2013 Toyota Corolla US Updates

2013 Toyota Corolla US Updates

Nothing new under the bonnet, but perhaps Toyota is right in changing so little about the 2013 Corolla since the sedan has proven so resilient in the US.

Revisions made to the new model include a revised chrome-accented grille and a new premium package which we’ll get to later in the article.

The second and third trim levels, the LE and S model Corollas now come as standard with the 6.1-inch touch screen, as well as an iPod connector, Bluetooth hands-free, standard six-speaker stereo and USB port.

Both the LE and S are also available with new options packages, called Premium, Premium Interior or Premium Complete packages. The first adds 17-inch alloys, and a power tilt/slide moonroof. The interior package brings automatic headlights, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and automatic climate controls, while the last package combines the two.

For 2013, Corrollas will continue to roll out the factory doors with a 1.8-liter engine, good for 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque (173 Nm).

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer

Toyota On Nicholasville



2013 Scion FR-S sport coupe recreates affordable rear-wheel drive fun

The secret is out: You don’t have to be a fanatical driving enthusiast to love Scion’s new-for-2013 FR-S sport coupe.

Yes, the sleek, sexy-looking two door recreates affordable rear-wheel drive fun in a small car the way the old Nissan 240Z and Mazda RX-3 did in the 1970s.

But the FR-S — for Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive Sport — grabs attention from onlookers no matter who is behind the wheel and even if the car is being driven leisurely. This new model puts some verve into a commute or a trip to the relatives’ house, too.

The FR-S also looks pricier, at least on the outside, than its starting retail price of $24,955 with manual transmission and $26,055 with automatic. All models come with a 200-horsepower, naturally aspirated four cylinder.

Perhaps best of all, the smartly handling and well-balanced FR-S is rated above average in predicted reliability by Consumer Reports.

Competitors include the 2013 Hyundai Veloster, which has a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $18,225 with manual and $19,475 with dual-clutch transmission that can be operated like an automatic. The base Veloster’s four-cylinder engine produces 138 horsepower, but the upscale 2013 Veloster Turbo, with a starting retail price of $22,725 with manual, has 201 horses. All Velosters are front-wheel drive, rather than the rear-wheel drive that many driving enthusiasts prefer.

Meantime, the twin to the FR-S, the rear-wheel drive 2013 Subaru BRZ, has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $26,265 with manual and the same 200-horsepower four cylinder that’s in the Scion.

Toyota and Japanese automaker Subaru worked together to develop the FR-S and BRZ, with Toyota officials doing the styling, while Subaru engineers took care of the chassis and powertrain.

They added Toyota’s direct and port fuel-injection system to the 2-liter, boxer four cylinder, where the cylinders are horizontally opposed. Boxer engines are a hallmark of Subarus, and the new injection improves the power.

The result is a strong four cylinder that has great sounds coming from its chrome-tipped exhaust. There’s decent “oomph” as the car is a lightweight 2,700-plus pounds. But peak torque of 151 foot-pounds doesn’t come on until 6,400 rpm, so the car doesn’t reach 60 miles an hour until some 6.5 seconds after launch, according to estimates.

Still, the six-speed manual was a precise, satisfying shifter, and the nimble handling and weight balance of the FR-S go a long way to making the driving experience fun.

The engine sits low, which Scion officials say gives the FR-S a dynamically low center of gravity like that of exotic, high-priced sports cars.

This helps explain why the FR-S tester was eminently tossable in curves and corners. There was only a bit of predictable understeer at the limits. There was nary any body tippiness in these maneuvers, and the FR-S always conveyed a strong, palpable connection to the pavement.


The electric power steering was tuned just right and didn’t have any artificial feel to it.

The flip side of these laudable driving characteristics is the plentiful road noise that came through all the time from the 17-inch summer performance tires. It was necessary on the test drive to regularly adjust the radio volume as the FR-S traveled from smooth asphalt to a rough stone-and-concrete-mix road surface and back again, for example.

Still, even with the low-profile tires and firm body control, the ride in the test FR-S wasn’t punishing. Indeed, the test car provided a decent ride on uneven city street surfaces. The suspension — MacPherson strut up front and double wishbone in the rear — worked to reduce the harshness in the ride that might be expected.

The FR-S isn’t bad on fuel, but it’s not a top-performer as a small car that stretches just 14 feet, from bumper to bumper. The manual transmission model is rated by the federal government at 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. The test car, which was driven with spirit, nonetheless averaged 25 mpg in combined city/highway travel.

But the Veloster Turbo is rated higher at 24/35 mpg with manual. Even a 2013 Mini Cooper S is rated at 26/35 mpg.

Additionally, the FR-S specs sheet says premium gasoline is required, meaning a fillup of the car’s 13.2-gallon tank can cost nearly $50 at today’s prices.

That’s for a car with two minimal back seats — they basically look like shelves and don’t provide much legroom — and two firm, deeply bolstered, cloth front seats.

In the tester, the black, shaped front seats with bright red accents looked like race-car seats and were great at keeping passengers in place.

The other prominent racing accent was silver-colored, aluminum pedal covers that are standard equipment on every FR-S. The steering wheel was covered in leather.

In other areas, though, the FR-S seemed a bit cheap, with flimsy-feeling cargo area material and cheaper-looking grained plastic on the dashboard.

This is a bit at odds with the fact the FR-S arrived this year as the flagship of the Scion brand, and it has the highest starting price of any Scion, including the better known, boxy, small-van-like xB.

At least every FR-S comes standard with a 300-watt Pioneer audio system with iPod and USB connectivity as well as Bluetooth technology for hands-free phone calling.

Standard safety equipment on every FR-S includes electronic stability control, traction control and six air bags.

Drivers don’t get great views out in front of them in traffic, because the FR-S rides low to the ground.

Some 1,100 FR-S models were recalled in June because the owner’s manual gave incorrect information about the front-passenger air bag deployment. Scion mailed a correct owner’s manual insert in the summer, and the recall did not require any physical change to the cars.

Lexington Kentucky Toyota Dealer

Toyota On Nicholasville