The RAV4 is number one! At the close of 2016, Toyota’s fourth-generation RAV4 became the bestselling compact SUV in Canada, and by a significant margin. What’s more, its 49,103 total sales surpassed…

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD
Last year’s redesign gave the RAV4 a totally modern new look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RAV4 is number one! At the close of 2016, Toyota’s fourth-generation RAV4 became the bestselling compact SUV in Canada, and by a significant margin. What’s more, its 49,103 total sales surpassed the mighty Corolla (by 908 units) for the first time ever, yet another sign of shifting consumer tastes from cars to crossover sport utilities. This also means the RAV4 is now the most popular Toyota in Canada.

Helping boost sales was a significant mid-cycle update for the 2016 model year, which dramatically changed frontal styling and added a new hybrid version. This said the 2017 model is mostly unchanged, albeit for some new standard features and a totally new top-line trim level.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD
There’s less visual drama from the rear view, but new Platinum trim paints out the bumpers and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As part of the Japanese brand’s plan to outfit every new model with the latest active safety features, all new 2017 RAV4s come with the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) P package. The “P” references “person”, which means its autonomous braking tech will stop for pedestrians as well as other vehicles, while TSS-C (“C” being for “cars”) is the simpler of the two systems.

TSS-C, which comes standard with the Yaris Hatchback, Prius C, and the Corolla iM five-door hatchback (previously Scion iM), includes auto high beams for dimming your headlights when surrounding vehicles come into your line of sight, a Pre-Collision System that immediately slows/stops your car if it detects an imminent crash, and Lane Departure Alert that notifies you if a car is just behind you in the adjacent lane.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD
The new Platinum package builds on already luxurious Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

TSS-P, which gets fitted to the Corolla sedan, the Prius, this RAV4, the RAV4 Hybrid, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, and Avalon, incorporates all of the above while adding Pedestrian detection for the Pre-Collision System, active steering assist that will turn your front wheels back towards your current lane if it detects a car in the adjacent lane when you attempt to change lanes, and dynamic cruise control that maintains a safe distance behind a given vehicle even if that vehicle slows.

The inclusion of TSS-P results in a best possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating, the RAV4 being the only SUV in its compact class to achieve such a high standard safety rating.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD
The seats get covered in Toyota’s exclusive breathable SofTex synthetic leatherette. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While these features improve safety, it’s also important to note that making them standard across its entire lineup as old models get replaced with new ones will make Toyota one of the best-prepared brands for full autonomous driving capability, something many industry players are betting is in the cards for the not-too-distant future.

The other big news item for the 2017 RAV4 is on the other side of the pricing spectrum, a new top-tier Platinum package added on top of Limited trim. Features include fully painted bumpers, wheel arches and rocker panels, plus proximity keyless access for all four doors as well as the liftgate, with hands-free access to the latter, ambient footwell lighting, more upscale interior detailing, Platinum-embossed metal scuff plates, and special Platinum-branded floor mats.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD
Does it look generously proportioned? Find out in an upcoming review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

To be clear, the Platinum model isn’t a separate trim, but rather a $1,460 package that can be added to $38,205 Limited trim, the latter already filled with a bevy of high-grade features such as unique 18-inch alloy wheels, a less comprehensive smart key system, pushbutton ignition, driver’s seat and mirror memory, a 360-degree surround parking camera, an 11-speaker JBL Synthesis Audio System, a powered glass sunroof, a cargo net, plus front and rear parking sensors.

The RAV4 is available in four trims, including the $27,445 LE (with standard FWD and $2,265 optional AWD), $30,800 XLE (also with optional AWD), $36,270 SE (the sportiest version with standard AWD), and Limited (with standard AWD), all of which are motivated by a 176 horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD
The Platinum gets a useful cargo net along with the standard retractable tonneau. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Other notable Limited features that get pulled up from lesser SE trim include LED headlights, LED DLRs, LED taillights, a heatable steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink universal garage door opener, a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, SMS- and email-to-speech capability, advanced voice recognition, soft-touch instrument panel surfacing with stitching, pleather door trim, SofTex leatherette upholstery, and a sliding front centre console.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Limited Platinum AWD
It looks roomy, doesn’t it? Check out our upcoming review for all the details. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

XLE features that get added to Limited Platinum trim include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone auto climate control, front sport seats, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, while items pulled up from the base LE include auto on/off headlamps, power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, variable intermittent wipers, a windshield wiper de-icer, a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display, sunglasses storage in the overhead console, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, SIRI Eyes Free, heatable front seats, a retractable and removable cargo cover, plus all the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees.

I’ve said too much already, so come back for all my experiential thoughts in an upcoming review where you’ll find out how well everything is put together, what the infotainment system is like to use, how all the premium-level features work, what it’s like to drive, and generally how is it to live with…

Remember when the Camry was the poster child for conservatively shaped mobile wallflowers? Its soul mission seemed to be: provide roomy, comfortable, reliable transportation to people who purposely want…

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
The 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid has had sportier lines since its 2015 refresh, along with a much larger maw. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Remember when the Camry was the poster child for conservatively shaped mobile wallflowers? Its soul mission seemed to be: provide roomy, comfortable, reliable transportation to people who purposely want to attract as little attention as possible.

Camry owners can’t fly under the radar anymore. The only four-door sedan with a more conspicuous grille is the slightly larger Toyota Avalon (although not for long as the 2018 Camry will boast the ultimate dog catcher) that shares much of the Camry’s componentry, but the mainstream family sedan’s flashy new attitude certainly hasn’t eroded sales.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
I must admit to missing the previous model’s more interesting taillights, but the current design is clean and uncluttered. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Last year the Camry remained number one in its class in both the U.S. and Canada, and by a considerable margin. Certainly sales in the mid-size family sedan segment have been slowing in recent years, the Camry falling victim to crossover SUV growth that includes the ever more popular Toyota Highlander, a mid-size SUV that also shares underpinnings with this bestselling sedan, but the Camry is still king of cars… no scratch that… king of family vehicles (including trucks not sold for commercial purposes).

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Complex headlamps, deep grille, sculpted fascia, vertical DRLs, and big chromed alloys, this Camry is no wallflower. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Toyota sold 404,301 Camrys in Canada and the U.S. last year, compared to just 204,343 Highlanders, and 2016 was a particularly poor year for the four-door sedan. By comparison, Camry sales for calendar year 2015 totaled 446,160 in the two jurisdictions, while Highlanders only accounted for 169,327 units. 2014? A few more Camrys at 446,851 units compared to considerably less Highlanders at 155,876.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
The Camry Hybrid’s cabin has come a long way since 2007, in style, materials quality, and execution. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That’s not quite the high of 2007 which witnessed 501,326 Camrys leave Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky production facility, a year that saw just 132,930 Highlanders roll off the assembly line in Kurate-gun, Japan (production has since moved to Princeton, Indiana, other than the Highlander Hybrid that’s now built in Miyawaka City, Japan), which shows what we all now know, the current upward trend is in favour of SUVs instead of mid-size sedans, but whether or not the two vehicle types’ sales numbers will eventually even out is anyone’s guess.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Hybrid info is on the left and within the colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While the Camry was nearly twice as popular as the Highlander in North America’s two northernmost countries last year, this isn’t at all the case in Canada. In fact, Camry just barely edged out Highlander with 15,683 deliveries compared to 12,964. And 2016 was the Highlander’s best year ever, whereas Camry rode its biggest wave in 2007 with more than twice as many sales at 28,218 units.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
The large touchscreen infotainment system includes the usual backup camera, navigation, audio, phone, and system features, plus exclusive hybrid info. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Compacts are much stronger here than in the U.S. (at the close of Q1, 2017, the Camry was the fifth most popular vehicle in the States and 28th in Canada), where the Corolla led Toyota Canada’s four-door sedan sales with 45,626 units last year (currently fifth most popular in Canada and seventh in the U.S.), and the RAV4 led the entire compact SUV segment as well as every other Toyota model with 49,103 deliveries (currently tenth in Canada and eighth in the U.S.).

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Use this for extracting more performance or more fuel economy. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So why should Toyota Canada bother giving me a Camry Hybrid to drive and tell you all about? Of course, 15,000-plus Camry sales is nothing to sneeze at, and the Hybrid adds the positive element of greening society, something that Toyota’s been trying to do since introducing its Prius in 2000, and the first Camry Hybrid in March of 2006 for the 2007 model year.

I was on that launch program, part of which included side-by-side drag races against conventionally powered four-cylinder Camrys down an airport runway on Toronto Island (not during spring floodwaters, mind you). The Camry Hybrids came out ahead as you might expect, the exercise helping to dispel a common belief that HEVs were boring to drive.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Sportier looking seats than Camry Hybrids used to receive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the time I noted the 2007 Camry “HV” (the abbreviation then used by Toyota for Hybrid Vehicle, since globally standardized to HEV) sprinted to 100km/h in under nine seconds thanks to 187 net horsepower; provided city and highway mileage of 5.7 L/100km (remember that our old two-cycle rating system was haplessly inaccurate); and had a starting price of $31,900; so other than the styling, a much more refined interior with more features, and a starting price of (are you sitting down?) $29,770, some $2.1k less than a decade ago, not much has changed.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Rear seat roominess has long been a Camry attribute, whether conventionally powered or electrified. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Granted, performance has improved thanks to an updated 2.5-litre Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder internal combustion engine (ICE) that, when combined with the same Hybrid Synergy Drive technology that incorporates an identical 105-kW rating for its permanent magnet electric motor and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery combination, is rated at 200 net horsepower now, an increase of 13 horsepower since inception.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
What about trunk space? Smaller? Less flexible? Check back for our review to find out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While older tech than Lithium-ion (Li-ion), NiMH batteries have served Toyota well over the years; powering some Prius taxi cabs more than a million kilometers before needing replacement. Despite the power upgrade and a change by Transport Canada to a new more realistic five-cycle testing method, the 2017 Camry Hybrid’s fuel economy is actually better than the 2007 model in the city at 5.6 L/100km, and not much worse on the highway (on paper) at 6.2 L/100km (I’m sure it’s improved for real; its combined rating is 5.9 L/100km, incidentally), while the car itself is miles more impressive.

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system is the stuff of HEV legend. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not just talking about its styling (I’m more of a “fan” of the current generation’s pre-facelift 2012–2015 model anyway), but more so of the attention to detail Toyota spent on interior design and quality, plus the way it drives. As you’ll know by now, I won’t discuss either point here in this abbreviated “Garage” review, but will be sure to fill you in on the experiential details in my upcoming road test.

For now, enjoy the photos and prepare for the good, the bad and the ugly of this popular electrified four-door (ok, there really is no bad and ugly about the Camry Hybrid, but it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to mention one of my favourite Westerns and the best Clint movie).

As for what will happen to you if you don’t take advantage of the great fuel economy and advantageous pricing of the 2017 Camry Hybrid, as Blondie once said, “If you do that, you’ll always be poor… just like the crazy rat that you are.”

Toyota’s latest 2017 4Runner is in our garage this week, and this particular example is one we especially like. The TRD Off Road is far from top-of-the-line, actually sitting second in a range that…

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
There’s nothing soft or subtle about Toyota’s 4Runner in 4×4-optimized TRD Off Road trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Toyota’s latest 2017 4Runner is in our garage this week, and this particular example is one we especially like.

The TRD Off Road is far from top-of-the-line, actually sitting second in a range that includes five trims, but the only one we’d rather have is the top-tier TRD Pro. Why?

They’re both fully optimized for hitting the trail, the TRD Pro a $52,195 4×4 stuffed full of nearly everything Toyota has available for the 4Runner, including an intense new blackened matte grille, blacked out front and rear bumper caps, and 17-inch matte black alloys on 31.5-inch Nitto Terra Grappler off-road rubber hiding beefy Bilstein dampers with remote rear reservoirs behind. It looks best in exclusive Cement Grey Metallic paint, although that’s just how we feel. Toyota offers it in Alpine White and Barcelona Red Metallic too, while all get black SofTex pleather upholstered interiors with plenty of TRD Pro branded details.

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
It’s a tall mid-size SUV with superb visibility all-round. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That brutish model is actually based on the $46,720 TRD Off Road we’re testing this week. The latter is less intimidating thanks to a body-colour grille and satin silver bumper caps, these latter items a bit harder to make out with our tester’s Classic Silver Metallic paintwork. Toyota offers a wider range of exterior colour options in TRD Off Road trim, but alas no Cement Grey. Its six-spoke machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black painted pockets more than make up for any lack of exclusivity, as does the bulging scoop atop the hood and circular fog lamps integrated into its angularly carved front corner vents.

The latter two items come standard, but Toyota adds a classier chrome-laden grille strikethrough and unique chromed front fascia design for Limited trims, while chrome mouldings wrap around the sides in an attempt to dress this string-tied cowboy up for a tux and tails black-tie dinner, which is why we like the 4Runner’s purer 4×4 body styles best.

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
The hood scoop is shared with the TRD Pro, but the silver bumper cap and six-spoke alloys are unique. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We also appreciate that Toyota never tried to neuter the 4Runner into a raised family wagon like Nissan did with the Pathfinder, a model that continues forward in name only. Instead, Toyota allowed the 4Runner to remain true to its 4×4 roots and created a completely new model to attract less adventurous families that nevertheless wouldn’t dare drive a minivan, and in hindsight the bigger Japanese brand benefits from a Highlander that regular outsells the Pathfinder, and a 4Runner that still pulls in plenty of diehard customers all on its own.

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
The 4Runner TRD Off Road’s cabin is mostly business yet still reasonably upscale. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 4Runner isn’t completely alone in the off-road capable segment, but it has fewer competitors now that it endured through the ‘80s and ‘90s. Ford’s Explorer might be based on the same mid-size car platform as the unorthodox Flex, but it offers a Land Rover-style preprogrammed terrain system that does well enough off the beaten path for many, and Dodge’s Durango, also unibody in design, remains off-road ready too. Of course, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee (unibody too) maintains its muddy reputation, and VW’s Touareg isn’t quite the 4×4 beast it was initially, but still offers some semblance of trailblazing prowess (although nobody seems to care anymore). Still, if you ask the majority of brazen bushwhackers which SUV they’d trust to take them 50 miles inland on an unkempt cattle trail, most will choose the 4Runner.

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
There’s a second shifter for selecting 4WD behind this main gear lever. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Four-by-four traditionalists won’t be able to complain about too many creature comforts in this TRD Off Road, as there’s no proximity-sensing access, pushbutton ignition, LED ambient lighting, electromechanical parking brake, colour multi-info display, auto HVAC, big screen high-gloss infotainment, brand name audio, heated steering wheel, perforated leather seats with ventilation, panoramic glass roof, powered liftgate, auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, lane departure warning, etcetera.

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
Those are red “TRD” logos embroidered into the pleather seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Then again it does get classic lever-style secondary gear shifter for its part-time four-wheel drive along with a real bull low range, plus Multi-Terrain Select, a rear differential lock, four-wheel crawl control, an automatic disconnecting differential, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (I’ll explain this in an upcoming review), Multi-Terrain ABS, downhill assist control, trailer sway control, fuel tank and transfer case protector plates, and plenty of other 4×4 features.

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
Spacious rear seats for three. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Not to be misunderstood, the TRD Off Road isn’t all about living life in the wild, with additional standard kit including heatable powered side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, lots of piano black lacquered trim, a powered moonroof, colourful Optitron primary gauges with a monochrome trip computer at centre, cruise control, air conditioning, a 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen with a backup camera, navigation with mapping, plenty of stock and downloadable apps, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, SMS/email-to-speech capability, advanced voice recognition, satellite radio, black SofTex leatherette upholstery with red stitching, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, handy 40/20/40 split-folding second-row seats, a power-sliding tailgate window, silver roof rails with unique black end caps, tire-pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road
Standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear setbacks makes the 4Runner ultra flexible for passengers and cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Nobody’s going to buy a 4Runner for its claimed 14.2 L/100km city and 11.1 highway fuel economy rating, but its 4.0-litre V6 is robust enough at 270 horsepower and 279 lb-ft of torque. More importantly it’s proven reliable, as has its comparatively archaic five-speed automatic transmission. Don’t laugh. It’s more likely to get you out of the wilderness in one piece than most of the 4Runner’s peers, while its 2,268-kilo (5,000-lb) tow rating is pretty decent for a V6-powered SUV as well.

I’ll explain how its innovative X-REAS suspension with cross-linked dampers works on the road in the aforementioned review, plus discuss ride quality and what this unique 4Runner is like to live with day in and day out, as well as how it’s doing in the market, its reliability, safety, resale value, and more. Stay tuned for the full review…

I just wrote a story about Canadian Black Book resale values and learned that Tundra retains its MSRP better than any other full-size truck (click “Toyota” under TCM Quick Links below to read the…

2017 Toyota Tundra Double Cab TRD Pro

I just wrote a story about Canadian Black Book resale values and learned that Tundra retains its MSRP better than any other full-size truck (click “Toyota” under TCM Quick Links below to read the entire story), but I’ve covered every recent model year of this pickup in multiple trims as well as generations past (scroll through that same link for previous reviews), plus my dad owned a fault-free first-gen version decades ago, so I don’t need to be sold on how good it is. Then again, the TRD Pro took me off guard.

2017 Toyota Tundra Double Cab TRD Pro
The TRD Pro’s rugged take no prisoners design grabs attention wherever it goes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This truck is bold, brazen, and just plain baddass! Chrome? Not. It’s matte black all the way, except for its superb “Cement” grey paint. I can’t tell you how many neck-snapping looks it’s received from passersby over the past few days, but suffice to say it’s pulled more eyeballs than most of the ultra-exotic hardware I’ve driven this year, and the sound of its big 5.7-litre V8 makes at full throttle is almost as intoxicating as the exhaust note of one of those supercars (the amount of gas it guzzles is almost as dizzying too). At 381-hp and 401 lb-ft of torque it’s quick for a 2,480-kilo (5,467-lb) behemoth too, but its ultimate capability is meant to be experienced off-road.

2017 Toyota Tundra Double Cab TRD Pro
Zero chrome makes the TRD Pro stand out, not to mention matte black detailing, glossy black wheels, and “TRD PRO” stamped onto each side of the box. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Without giving too much away ahead of the full review, initial criticisms include gluttonous fuel economy, poorer interior plastics quality than most rivals, and no integrated rear bumper steps (or anything likewise) for climbing up onto the bed when the tailgate is lowered, but before you think I’ve got nothing good to say, the Tundra TRD Pro’s attributes are way too lengthy to list (here at least) so stay tuned for all the details in my upcoming road test…

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press

If you’re one of almost 50,000 Canadians per year who buy a Corolla, keep reading. If not, you should pay special attention, as the Corolla is the compact car to achieve an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus…

2017 Toyota Corolla Sedan XSE Road Test

What is it about style? Why are most of us so susceptible to it? When the current 11th-generation Corolla was introduced in 2013 for the 2014 model year it was considered the most stylish car in its class. I was shocked by a progressive design that even made base models look both classy and sporty at a premium level, aided by complex standard LED headlamps and taillights. In comparison, previous generations were at best conservatively handsome even when new, but the most recent model was a real head-turner, a total knockout by economy car standards.

Sales immediately jumped, from 40,906 units in 2012 to 44,449 in 2013 when first introduced, and then 48,881 deliveries in 2014, the first full year of availability. People liked what they saw, as well as the much better looking, more refined interior filled with up-to-date electronics, its improved ride and handling, etcetera. Still, sales have ebbed over the past couple of years, sliding to 47,918 units in 2015 and then 45,626 last Read Full Story