When I was a kid living in North Carolina, I always wanted to visit New York City’s Auto Show. I remember Car and Driver and Automobile’s articles and photographs like it was yesterday and lucky enough, my parents were willing to pay for my subscription. I would study the photos closely and imagine what being there was like. Back then, I had a passion for Cadillac. Yes, seriously, Cadillac. And get this, I’m talking back in 1990…all the way into my High School years. I don’t know if kids today have lockers in school and if they dress them up with posters of whatever they’re into…but back in “my day,” we did…and while many of my friends had posters of athletes, cute animals, models (think Saved by the Bell cast) or exotic cars; mine was decked out with hand-cut images of Cadillacs from brochures I ordered via an 800 number. Yes, 1-800-CADILLAC. They never caught on that I was just 13 years old at the time…or maybe they did and figured I’d eventually buy one. Now, why share all of that? Well, that passion for Cadillac eventually landed on Toyota and it is with Toyota that I was able to experience my first-ever press event at none other, the New York International Auto Show. I guess I’m sharing this with you in hopes that whatever your passion is, pursue it…even if it seems a bit misguided at times, in the end…it’ll come together for you.
Arriving to this year’s show had me check-in at the swanky Hotel Eventi in New York City. This casually-plush (is that a term) hotel is perfectly located in NYC; a few blocks from the Empire State Building and Times Square. An invitation to attend dinner in Bryant Park with a 2018 Lexus LS 500 F Sport was one I could not resist. This new F Sport promises to offer the most engaging LS experience ever, according to Lexus. We say goodbye to a V8 power plant and hello to a 3.5-liter V6 with direct fuel injection and twin turbochargers producing 415 horses, 442 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 4.5 seconds. Also, looks like you’ll have a choice of Hybrid and RWD or AWD drivetrains. The F Sport also includes exclusive F Sport design touches, 20-inch allow wheels (staggered), 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brakes. You can catch a montage of Snapchat/Instagram story video here:
FT-4X – New FJ Cruiser?
You probably already know about Toyota’s unveiling of the FT-4X and rumors before the show had folks saying it would be a new FJ Cruiser ready to take on Ford’s eventual Bronco…but alas it was not meant to be. Instead, a versatile and capable vehicle for the “rugged millennial” is what showed up on stage. I did not witness any complaints but I did hear a few grumbling it was “too small” or comparing it to a KIA Soul. While the FT-4X may look small, it is spacious inside, where it matters. The fold flat rear seats opens to a cavernous cargo area (or base camp). There’s a ton of cool multi-purpose design elements too, like the water bottle grab-pulls (that’s pretty genius) and dome lights that double as removable flash lights. There’s a lot more to the FT-4X and we probably won’t see all of them come to a production model, but in concept form, it is exciting to see what designers are thinking about (and creating). Now, my personal fave was with the slot for your smartphone. It is above the instrument cluster and Toyota acknowledged how many folks (I’m one of them) use custom apps for navigation, off-roading and more. Oh, and speaking of off-road capabilities, the FT-4X features a true, mechanical 4-wheel drive system.
Refreshed styling for the 2018 Sienna “swaggerwagon” was on display in two grades, SE and XLE. Toyota Safety Sense – Plus (TSS-P) is now standard across all grades of Sienna and with the radar sensor (used for Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Pre-Collision Alert with Pedestrian Detection) housed behind a large Toyota badge, a new grille came into play along with a restyled hood and lower grille that all comes together and looks like the front end of a Corolla. Now, personally, I like the restyled Sienna and it seems to finally have an identity. I was never a fan of the Toyota emblem on the hood with a big blank grille and I’m sure no one would mistake it for anything other than a Toyota, but again…I’m digging the refreshed styling although it does tell me we probably won’t see an all-new Sienna for another 2 years (maybe more). Folks may shrug their shoulders and think so what, but I’m already guessing Toyota will debut an all-new Tundra in 2019 as a 2020 model. Perhaps Toyota will also have an all-new Sienna at that time, guess we’ll know in time.
Not Just a Pretty Face
There’s more than an exterior refresh to Sienna, Toyota also included Entune 3.0 and that features navigation and App Suite Connect for everyone. Sienna L, LE, SE and XLE grades will come standard with the Connected Navigation Scout GPS Link with Moving Maps. Sienna LE, SE, and XLE grades will come standard with Entune Audio Plus, which includes Safety Connect and WiFi Connect. WiFi Connect will allow up to five mobile devices to connect using 4G LTE. Limited grade will come standard with Entune 3.0 Premium JBL Audio with Dynamic Navigation and Destination Assist and features new advancements in sound quality. There are now five USB ports covering all three rows, updated rear seat entertainment to include streaming capability for Android devices, Bird’s Eye View monitor (available on Limited Premium grade) and a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display. Finally, three new exterior color choices are available including Toasted Walnut Pearl, Alumina Jade Metallic, and Parisian Night Pearl. 2018 Sienna models are due in dealerships this fall.
Compact-loving New York City also debuted the refreshed 2018 Yaris SE (not the Yaris iA which is a rebadged Mazda 2 sedan), the hatch version, which I love (especially with a manual transmission). Styling is tad more aggressive in the front with chrome accents that extend into the large headlights. The rear is a bit boring although additional tail lamps have been added extending the rear, visually, at least. SE grade will come standard with Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation App and boasts a 7-inch hi-res touch-screen display. We say goodbye to Blue Streak Metallic and hello to a new Blue Eclipse exterior color. Yaris will be available this summer at dealers.
Wednesday night featured an after-party of sorts with the all-new 2018 Camry proudly on display. If you caught my Snapchat or Instagram story, you heard all about it. If you didn’t, then here’s a quick video of that evening here:
Special thanks to the folks at Toyota USA for their wonderful hospitality during this year’s New York International Auto Show and thank you for following, til our next adventure, you go out there and make it an awesome day!