2017 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited Premier AWD (Staff Photo)

2017 Toyota Sienna Limited Premier AWD (Staff Photo)

Writer : Bill Boekholder - Photos : Toyota USA

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the new 2017 Toyota Sienna minivan for a working trip up north to Battle Creek Michigan. This being a 4.5 hour trip, one way, I knew I would be able to use most, if not all the bells and whistles this minivan provided, and I was correct for the most part, but yet, it was a minivan

Photos provided by Toyota USA

Photos provided by Toyota USA

First impressions where, it’s a minivan, another young couple (with kids) or older persons (with grandkids) mode of transportation. To say the least, I wasn’t happy because I was expecting a vehicle with a little more pop and pizazz, some flash, some cool rims and a kicking stereo, not a minivan. It didn’t take long for me realize how nice a vehicle it was to drive and relax in.

Let’s talk a little about the nuts and bolts of this minivan. The 296 horsepower, 3.5 litre V6, AWD, makes it more than a minivan. This vehicle has a lot of get up and go, something I was seriously surprised by. For just putting around the town it does seem a little lacking in power, as it should, you’re just going to get groceries or pick up the kids from soccer. Once you get it out on the highway, the surprise comes the first time you go to pass a vehicle and you smash the gas pedal down. It might not be necks snapping speed, but it did get my attention and put me back in my seat a bit. Combined with the AWD, this so called minivan, handled like a sports car on rails. Power was there, steering was tight and neutral. It got around cars and trucks with no problems at all running at the speed limits provided and all with the giddy up and go of a smaller car or a luxury sedan.

Photo provided by Toyota USA

Photo provided by Toyota USA

The exterior was typical minivanish, solid color paint job; maybe a two tone paint or body strip would break it up a little, boring rims are just that, boring. What I liked was coming up on the van at night and pressing unlock on the key fob. The exterior lighting for the driver and passenger side lite up the side door areas real well. The passenger back doors take a little getting used to; I’m not used to using door handles with a delay in the door actually opening. The same can be said of the rear hatch style door. It would be nice if it was motorized like the side doors are when you manually opened it. It’s not a heavy door and is motorized, but if you don’t use the key fob to open it, it can be a little awkward. The roof rack really needs to have some cross bars to help with the various attachments you might need to haul a kayak or maybe some bikes. The two sun roofs are both adequate in size and are a nice feature for the passengers in the back to have their own.

The interior is spacious and accommodating. The third row of stow and go seats are easy to store and just as easy to put back up. The second row of seats move all the way up for easy entry and egress from the third row. With the second row seats all the way up, you have massive amounts of room to put stuff in the back. Since the seats move independently of each other, you can still haul one person and have plenty of room to haul stuff. The front seats are comfortable with plenty of electric adjustments to fit virtually anyone. The nice feature of two preset positions for the driver seat will definably come in handy if you are 6’ 2” and your wifey is 5’4”.

Photo by Toyota USA

Photo by Toyota USA

Sitting in the driver’s seat is like sitting in your own little world of funness. The gauges and controls are strikingly easy to read and operate. Nothing seems out of reach of any driver of any size. Knobs, buttons and the touch screen are well marked and easy to operate. I had to reset the clock because of the time zone changes; it was an absolute snap to do, just like the rest of the controls. The rear doors and rear hatch buttons are in their own little overhead console, combined with the sun roof controls, make this a nice feature. The steering wheel controls are also easy to use, but I wish they would put the cruise control on the steering wheel as well. My only complaint about anything is the location of the cruise control stalk, it’s awkward to use and when you’re on the highway and have to constantly use it, it becomes a bit annoying. The driver’s cockpit is generously equipped with the usual collision avoidance switches that are easy to turn off and on if they become a bother. The headlights are bright, maybe too bright as I was flashed at a couple of times while the lights where on low beam, but they did what they were supposed to do and that is to light up the road.

My only complaints were the cruise control, which I feel Toyota could and should do better. The other would be the outlets for plugging in 12 volt chargers and such. The middle passenger had none in the back of the center counsel or on the sides. There are plenty up front and in the rear of the vehicle. The 110/120 volt plug in the back area would be much more useful if it was a three prong grounded outlet. The USB ports are easily accessible and there are enough to go around, except for the middle seated passengers.

Overall I thought this was a well-equipped and well laid out vehicle that would suit any number of people. If I were to scale it, I would give it a solid nine out of ten. It was pleasant vehicle to drive and it didn’t disappoint me, my passengers or my equipment.

Like to thank Toyota USA for the opportunity to review this vehicle.  Any questions please contact your nearest dealership. 


2016 Lexus RX 450h AWD F Sport

2016 Lexus RX 450h AWD F Sport

Starting price - $ 57,045

Price as tested - $ 60,015

The newly redesigned Lexus RX 450h AWD F Sport was first revealed in 2015.  Since then, there has been a lot of talk regarding the fresh new look.  Since the first crossover model was revealed in 1998, Lexus has really set the bar high for the luxury crossover market.  Four generations later, the Lexus RX has become one of the top selling vehicles in its class.  Lexus was sure to provide everything that one needs for everyday driving, from performance to traveling with a family.  Further enhancing the experience is the hybrid motor, which has increased efficiency and reliability since the first one was produced in 2005.   

At first look, you can certainly recognize the new styling Lexus has introduced during the redesign of its lineup.  From the IS to the RX, the massive grill has become an instant identifier of the newer Lexus models.  The RX received a facelift in its redesign, as well as 5” in additional body length.  We were able to review the F Sport model, which has additional features to contribute to the upgraded performance look, such as 20” aluminum alloy wheels.  It also has a tighter suspension than the traditional model, but I don’t really think it makes a huge difference.  The F-Sport designation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s faster, just has a sportier look and badging.  Perhaps most noticeable, the grill on the F-sport model is different.  The standard models have a straight grill where the F-Sport model has the honeycomb look.  The front has a lower front defuser and small aero trim along the edge.  The back, since this is a hybrid the exhaust is slightly hidden.  On non-hybrid models you’ll have a dual chrome tip exiting the back. 

The interior received a massive make over, for which I give big applause.  In previous models, I was never too thrilled about the small dash screen being hidden far back into the dash.  Immediately I noticed bigger 12.3” monitor that is way more visible than previous models.  The dash has been lowered giving a cleaner look than a bulky rounded off dash.  Sitting in the driver’s seat is so much better...you really feel like you’re in a sports car rather than an SUV.  It really wraps around the driver with all everyday needed controls right at your fingertips.  Everything looks easy to navigate through and flows very well.  The center console might be my favorite part of the interior. 

To control the display, Lexus moved away from the mouse pad and returned to the control mouse.  I personally like it better than the pad, my wife absolutely hates it.  Where your palm would normally rest, on both sides of the mouse you have an enter button to quickly accept setting changes.  There is also a small compartment where you can store keys, chapstick, a stick of gum, etc.  One of the coolest features is in the cup holders.  Don’t you hate when the cup holders are too shallow for a water bottle and it is always in danger of tipping over?  Well now you can adjust the depth of the cup holder to match the beverage you have with a touch of a button.  Really creative.  Lexus still has the signature grandfather time clock on center dash but also added a digital clock on the driver’s instrument panel.  Really, everything is completely redesigned.  Depending on model you get, you will have your heated and cold seat options just in front of the shifter.  If you take a look at a close up of the driver’s seat, you’ll think you are seeing a picture of the RC sports coupe interior. 

As I mentioned earlier, the vehicle was stretched out by 5”, which means the already roomy back seat of the previous model RX models just got bigger.  You can have the front seats all the way back and still fit a tall person in the back.  I am 6’ tall and sitting in back I still had about 4-5 inches from my knees to the back of the seat.  The back seat still reclines and slides forward.  You do have an option to add motorized back seats so it will fold down and up automatically.  Cool, but I don’t think it’s really needed (and it’s slow).  Having the extra room in the back seat is so nice, especially with kids as there is no more sacrificing front seat leg room to accommodate massive infant or convertible car seats.  The back really feels gigantic with the leg and head room, and a large cargo area.  Though you lose a bit of room towards the rear with the way the body curves, it’s still larger than a BMW X3 or Mercedes GLX.  You also have option to add two monitors to the back of the front seats for an additional $2,000.  I don’t recommend it if you plan to use an infant seat as the back of the infant seat is perfectly leveled to the screen and can possibly damage it.  Otherwise, you are all set.  It’s a pretty large monitor and you can easy navigate through the on screen settings. 

I live in downtown Chicago.  So being a hybrid, I was really curious to see how it will do in the stop and go traffic we have 24/7.  Most hybrids don’t do anywhere close to what the advertised mpg ratings are.  This Lexus is equipped with a 3.5L 24 valve DOHC V6.  The combination of the engine and electric motor produces 309 horsepower.  Lexus advertises 30mpg in city and 28 mpg on highway giving you an average of 30mpg.  I was averaging 26mpg in the city and about 29mpg on highway.  I have to say I was impressed with the mpg I was getting in the city from a big heavy SUV.  I was driving it pretty aggressively and it still gave me that average.  You have 4 power options you can choose from.  Eco, normal, Super & Super+.  Nothing too crazy but it’s nice to have the option to have the power to your liking.

The RX 450h AWD drove great throughout the wonderful roads that Chicago has to offer.  Being an F-Sport model, it is equipped with a tighter suspension and low profile tires, but honestly it was still a smooth ride.  The turning ratio is average being an AWD vehicle.  This is an electronic AWD, meaning this vehicle is designed for inclement weather and not for off roading.  Most of the power is towards the front wheels, but you can still tow up to 3,000 pounds.   It’s really not a car designed to be a workhorse but it’s definitely enough to haul your wave runners, motorcycles and small trailers.  The cabin is well sealed and really reduces a lot of the outside noise.  I really like the heads up display for the driver.   One of my favorite features is the 360-degree view of your surroundings on the dash display.  It is great for parking and maneuvering in small areas.  I have seen various models with this feature but I really like it on this one.  It also has all your basic needs with blind spot warning, park assist, brake assist and my favorite proximity cruise control, something my wife not a fan off. 

Overall, in the past I don’t think we would have considered purchasing an RX, but after having spent time with this one we have changed our minds and were sad to give it back.  I like that you really don’t feel like you’re driving a cross over.  It feels and looks very sporty.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped asking me questions about it.  Everywhere I drove people would point and just stare.  I liked everything about it, though ideally it would have the addition of a power inverter to plug in a 2 or 3 prong plug, rear heated seats and more aux charging plugs.  This model could also use a rear passenger climate control.  Being the 4th generation I am sure eventually they may add these options.  Oh, and last I can’t forget mentioning about the massive panoramic sunroof.  Not only does it have a massive glass roof, but you can have the sunroof in tilt mode and still have half the sunroof covered by the shade, preventing sun getting to the kids in the back seat.  Big plus!!!  Thank you Lexus.  Little things like that are what I look for when having children on board.  Who doesn’t like a sleeping child during long trips?  Please make your way to your nearest Lexus dealership if you’re in the market for a cross over.  You won’t be disappointed on the new models.  I’d like to thank Lexus USA for the opportunity to review this vehicle. 

Click on Image to be redirected to full photo album

Click on Image to be redirected to full photo album

Photographs taken by Chris Chavez Photography

2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport

2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport

List - $42,790

As Tested - $54,815

Ever since Lexus released the RC line up, it’s really set the future path for what they have planned for the luxury performance market.  Earlier I had the opportunity to spend some time with the RC’s bigger brother, the RCF…a machine that is unbelievable.  I had great time with it and only wish I would have had it when it was warm and not when it was the beginning of winter.  But I can say it got my wife and our soon to be born newborn to the hospital FAST!!! 

Click on image to be redirected to the 2015 Lexus RCF review. 

Click on image to be redirected to the 2015 Lexus RCF review. 

This time around I had the pleasure to drive the RC 350 F Sport.  With the RCF starting at $62k pushing out 467hp in a 5.0 L V8, the RC 350 F Sport is more on the affordable level and geared towards someone not looking to have that much power.  A starting price of $42k and a 3.5L V6 pushing out 306hp is more realistic for today’s roads. 

Having already spent some time with the RC line up, I knew what I was in for a treat.  The RC is such a cool and sporty looking car that certainly will turn heads wherever you drive.  It is ever so slightly different from the RCF that you’ll really have to know the differences between the two to even notice.  As with the rest of the Lexus line-up, from the IS all the way to the SUV’s, the big front grill was the real focus point upon first look.  I received the F-Sport model, so the grill was complemented by bigger wheels and interior accent pieces. 

On the exterior, the RC 350 has quite a bit of subtle aerodynamic changes from the RCF.  First the front is different with smaller intake holes and fog lights.  The hood has intake holes, the fenders are smoother and don’t have the side ventilations, the lower side skirts are slightly different and the rear bumper is completely different.  The RC 350 has small fish scales on lower corners of the rear bumper that is a black plastic.  The exhaust is still dual exhaust but with single outlet.  In contrast, the RCF has a smooth back bumper and the traditional quad tip exhaust.  The roof is traditional on the RC, without the carbon fiber roof option on the RCF.  Lastly the RC 350 doesn’t have a retractable wing, whereas the RCF has a rear wing that will raise up after it exceeds a certainly mph.  It may seem like a lot of changes but honestly you really have to know both vehicles in order to see any differences other than the badging.  My wife didn’t notice a thing and she was in both cars multiple times.

The interior has a sporty feel with carbon fiber trim along the dash and door panels, while retaining a touch of the Lexus luxury.  The seats are slightly different then the RCF, which has more of a bucket seat that hugs you while seated, but they are still very supportive and comfortable for long rides.  The interior is specious and really accommodates tall people.  I had plenty of room to stretch out and think it would be great for long trips.  The dash controls are pretty easy to navigate through.  The control mouse pad does have a learning curve to get used to, and it can get a little frustrating until you do.  Other than that, everything flows well and there is great driving visibility.  This is the top model so it has a kick ass Mark Levinson Premium sound system. 

Having a 3.5L V6 is certainly fun to have while driving around the city.  The 306hp is enjoyable and provides plenty of power to get up and go.  Be careful!  You can still get in trouble if you don’t pay attention to how fast you’re driving.  It really grips the road with the tight f-sport suspension and upgraded 18’’ alloy wheels.  At times driving it I looked down and was in the triple digits.  You really can’t tell how fast you’re going, it’s that smooth.  There are four drive settings you can play with - Eco, Normal, Super and Super+.  Really they just adjust the rpms to how aggressively you are planning to drive.  For mileage I was slightly off from the advertised mpg, averaging 16 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.  The pedal shift is a nice touch, but I found it more distracting than anything (as my wife would say, if you want to manually shift, get a stick shift!)  With all of that horsepower, it has great acceleration.  This model is a RWD but you have option to purchase the AWD model, which will increase the price by approximately $2,000.  I highly recommend it if you live in the upper Midwest or areas that get more snow than summer.  Why just restrict yourself to driving it in summer when you can have fun year around?

Overall this is an awesome vehicle to own.  It’s fun to drive around town and definitely turns heads.  It also has sufficient power to put a grin on your face but not break the bank.  It has good amount of room for everyday use, and the trunk is even big enough to hold some luggage.  Don’t get too ahead of yourself, it’s not huge, but still a good size.  For all you dads out there that wondered if a car seat will fit…yes it does.  It will fit most cars seats, but I have to note that if you have a rear facing seat, you might have a little problem getting the seat in the car.  The front seats only fold down a certain amount and it’s all motorized, so you are limited in room.  Long story short, if you have toddler seat, you are all set. 

Lexus is really making a stand in the luxury performance market and the RC line is a great start.  There is tough competition with other brands like with Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, but they also have been making luxury coupes for some time now.  Lexus does have several other models as in the RC 300 and soon to be released RC 200t (early 2016), which will start at $39k.  Stay tuned for update on the 200t. 

Click on image to be redirected to full photo album

Click on image to be redirected to full photo album

I’d like to thank Lexus USA for the opportunity to review this vehicle. 

2016 Toyota Land Cruiser

Words by: Bogdan Poplacean
Photography by: Mark Scire II

I’m sitting in my favorite armchair. It’s a sort of smoking chair with large, dark, thick leather cushions. There is a heavy, early 20th century style to this chair, something which you would more likely see in a cigar smoking lounge with dark wood paneling and Tiffany lamps. The Toyota Land Cruiser is a lot like this chair. It has been around for what is an automotive eternity, and has driven all over the world, including into the Jungles of South America. While this 2016 model is a far departure from the canvas roof versions of the 1950’s, there is no mistaking the lineage of this model. Toyota has given the Land Cruiser a series of updates and improvements for the 2016 re-design including an 8-speed transmission, LED headlights, styling updates and, many new safety features. At $83,825 it’s the most expensive and well-appointed Toyota you can currently purchase. The Land Cruiser is also one of the most reliable and off-road capable suv’s for sale.



Toyota powered this 5,800lb behemoth with a 5.7 liter V8, mated to an 8 speed automatic transmission. While 381 horsepower is adequate, it would do better at the 500hp level. The power delivery is smooth, and at times you even hear the faint growl of a V8 through the well-insulated cabin.



All of the usual accoutrements are present including heated and cooled seats and a heated steering wheel. Navigation, a nice JBL stereo loud enough to disturb your neighbors, and separate temperature controls for the back seat are present. Unfortunately, the back seat on long trips gets cramped with 3 average sized adults. There is a 3rd row seat that splits and folds out of the way, that is best left for the 12 and under crowd since it’s short on space for “adults.” A pleasant-smelling leather interior, wood accents, and buttons make up the Land Cruiser’s interior.



Buttons, lots of buttons to press, many that have letters that mean something, and do stuff.  I wish I could tell you more about all the buttons, but on the long hours of our road trip, we spent more time trying to avoid the constant warnings from the lane departure system. A function that was difficult to get used to was accessing the fan speed through the main nav/radio/climate control screen. The automatic climate control works well, but we wished for an easier to access layout. On the drive, we found ourselves wanting for more power outlets, however we also carry around more battery-powered items than most people. Most importantly, the 4wd system works extremely well. It snowed for part of our trip, and even on an icy parking lot, it was a challenge to induce a prolonged slide.




There’s nothing shocking or off-putting about the outside. We liked the subtle chrome accents around the outside, and appreciated the bold statement the large front grille makes.


Driving impressions

It’s a pleasant truck to drive, but never mistaken for a sports car. Toyota has added a feature called KDSS. The sway bars are aided by computers, and make this top-heavy body on frame truck handle tighter corners and crosswinds with much more confidence than previous models. Despite the large size, added front, side, and rear view cameras make it easy to see around the bumpers. Highway manners are sedate, and the Land Cruiser never feels unstable or high-centered.



-Toyota reliability

-One of the most capable 4wd systems available

-Smooth ride, even fully laden

-Excellent outward visibility; LED headlights perform flawlessly

-Many cameras around the car help confidence in maneuvering



-Could use more power

-No remote start

-Same key fob as a Prius

-Rear seat room is lacking leg room if over 5’8” tall

-User interface with entertainment, navigation, and climate control is outdated and lags at times

Mischief.tv photographs provided by Mark Scire II and Chris Chavez Photography. 

2016 Scion TC


If I had to sum up the 2016 Scion tC in two words, they would be fun and economical. With its 2.5 liter engine pumping out an unstressed 179 HP and 172 lbs-ft of torque, there’s plenty of power for all of your needs; it even has an Eco mode! Its styling has remained largely unchanged since 2011, but it doesn't need of a revamp to evolve over time while retaining its muscular lines.

The tC touts the seven-inch Pioneer touchscreen display audio, which includes convenience features such as Bluetooth and voice recognition. Bluetooth was a breeze to connect and the Pioneer was crisp and gave great sound. A smart key and pushbutton start are standard features on the 2016 model, but it lacks navigation and phone controls on the steering wheel which I found distracting.

The ride on the tC was stiff yet acceptable, and the cabin road noise was upgraded from the previous model years I have driven. I did enjoy the tC's aggressive looking front end and headlights, and was pleased to have the rear folding seats to accommodate my groceries.

Driving the tC both on the highway and in city, I found the fuel economy great and the steering crisp and responsive. In conclusion I found the 2016 Scion tC not only a great buy starting at $19k, but a great everyday driver for the city or highway alike.  And with its new aggressive styling, this is definitely a car to appreciate.

Photographs provided by Web and Video provided by Scion.  

By Fred Torres