New Toyota Supra: 2017 release date, price and BMW hybrid tech

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A new Toyota Supra inspired by the Toyota FT-1 Supercar concept is nearing reality, and it’s going to share a chassis and hybrid powertrains with the next BMW Z4 sportscar.

We already knew Toyota and BMW were collaborating on a joint venture sportscar project, but recent news that Toyota has made new trademark applications in Europe and the US for the Supra name has cast the spotlight on the project again.

The Toyota FT-1 coupe was shown at the Detroit motor show in 2014, although BMW and Toyota announced their joint venture all the way back in 2011 – declaring hydrogen fuel cells, shared battery tech and a new sportscar platform were included in the deal.

While the BMW Z4 replacement and new Toyota Supra will take advantage of the shared technology, the Supra will be bigger than the next Z4 and feature an extended version of the joint venture platform. That will allow the Supra to sit about the GT86 model in the Toyota line-up.

Unlike Mazda’s recent tie-up with Fiat, which has left the new Fiat 124 spider with a very obvious design connection to its MX-5 ‘donor’ car, the BMW and Toyota designs are completely separate. The vital sharing will all be hidden beneath the skin of two very different cars. So expect common running gear, and both cars a BMW petrol engine driving the rear wheels, with Toyota hybrid electric motors powering the front.

It’s likely that the Toyota hybrid tech will have much in common with its Le Mans race cars, so like the TS050 Hybrid, the new sports cars will use electric motors on the front and rear axle, with petrol engine power driving the rear wheels. Electric power will come from regenerative braking, and will be stored in a lithium ion battery. This will allow Toyota and BMW to offer plug-in options too.

Interestingly, the system will implement Toyota’s first-ever dual-clutch transmission, in place of the slow-witted CVT gearboxes we’re accustomed to in existing Toyota and Lexus hybrids.

By designing the motors in-house, and taking advantage of BMW’s weight-saving methods, Toyota is thought to be targeting a kerbweight of less than 1,400kg. However, it’s expected that the BMW will be the lighter of the two models, on account of its smaller size. The cars are expected to debut within a few months of one another, but not until 2017 at the earliest.

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10 Best Off-Road Vehicles

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Modern trucks and SUVs have gotten more comfortable on a day-to-day basis, but they have also gained considerable off-road capability as technological and engineering advances have helped to create virtually unstoppable four-wheel drive systems buttressed by electronic driver’s aides. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to sample some of the best off-road vehicles currently available, but if you want to, there are certainly top-dollar models out there that happily pair up luxury and a go-anywhere attitude. Let’s take a look at 10 of the best off-road vehicles that money can buy.

1) 2016 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X

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The 2016 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X mid-size pickup truck is a great all-around package for those who are interested in leaving the asphalt behind. The Nissan Frontier PRO-4X package includes Bilstein off-road dampers, skid plates to protect delicate components underneath the chassis, a locking differential out back, knobby BFGoodrich tires, and, of course, four-wheel drive. All versions of the PRO-4X Nissan come with a robust 4.0-liter V-6 engine that generates 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque, yoked to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Examples equipped with the automatic gearbox also have the option adding on hill descent control and hill start assist features.

2) 2016 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

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The Toyota 4runner is pretty capable of getting you where you want to go, but the TRD Pro was designed specifically for those who are serious about their off-road adventuring. It’s powered by the everyday Tacoma’s 4.0-liter V-6, which puts out a capable 270 horsepower and is paired to a five-speed automatic gearbox with manual shift mode. The TRD Pro’s off-road credentials are real, though, thanks to a locking rear differential, a terrain select system, crawl control, lifted front suspension, and upgraded Bilstein shock absorbers.

3) 2016 Jeep Wrangler

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The 2016 Jeep Wrangler is the undisputed king of off-road SUVs, with even the base model’s solid front axles, excellent ground clearance, and standard four-wheel drive making it a formidable trail master. Upgrading to the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, however, introduces the vehicle’s most capable four-wheel drive system with a Rock-Trac transfer case, the strongest available axles front and rear, locking differentials, and the ability to disconnect the front sway bar electronically in order to improve suspension articulation. Power is derived from a 3.6-liter V-6 that puts out 285 horses and 260 lb-ft of torque, and buyers can choose between either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The 2016 Jeep Wrangler is available in coupe and Unlimited four-door body styles.

4) 2016 Ford F-150

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The 2016 Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck is designed around a lightweight aluminum body with glued and riveted panels, over a high-strength steel frame. If it doesn’t sound that durable, well, Ford used to make Land Rovers with a similar procedure. The 2016 F-150 offers a choice of four drivetrains, all of which are mated to six-speed automatic gearboxes. The FX4 package adds upgraded shocks, skid plates, and an electronically locking rear axle for off-road chops. Not tough enough for you? Just wait for the F-150 SVT Raptor edition to make its highly anticipated reappearance, due later this year.

5) 2016 Land Rover LR4

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The 2016 Land Rover LR4 is a staple amongst families shopping for a luxury SUV, but the mid-size vehicle does far more than just coddle occupants. The Land Rover LR4 is a formidable trail weapon thanks to its relatively short wheelbase and its advanced full-time four-wheel drive system, which comes with Land Rover’s Terrain Response feature that can automatically adjust a wide range of vehicle parameters to specifically handle mud, snow, gravel, and rocks. A locking rear differential can also be added to the LR4’s list of features, and the vehicle’s air suspension system is adaptable to the driving conditions that the Land Rover is facing. All versions of the SUV are powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine that is good for 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, and a six-speed automatic transmission is standard.

6) 2015 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X

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The 2015 Nissan Xterra PRO-4X is frequently lauded for combining a tough, full-frame, off-road ready platform with the kind of daily driving manners that make it a viable commuter option. The Nissan Xterra PRO-4X enhances the mid-size SUV’s prowess by way of installing special tires and wheels, adding hill start assistance and a hill descent control feature, providing a locking rear differential, and offering additional exterior lighting. Four-wheel drive is of course a major component of the PRO-4X’s personality, and a 261-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 (that is also good for 281 lb-ft of twist) is included free of charge with the Xterra. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic. Though the Xterra was discontinued for the 2016 model year, it’s worth looking around for a leftover 2015 model.

7) 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser

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The 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser is another high-dollar off-road contender. The Toyota Land Cruiser is the priciest vehicle in the Japanese brand’s fleet, and it offers no options (everything is standard), but in addition to its three rows of cushy seating, it also offers a full-time four-wheel drive system, excellent ground clearance, an adaptive suspension system, the Multi-Terrain Select feature for handling a range of different driving conditions, and a crawl control system that allows the vehicle to creep forward while negotiating tricky situations. Off-Road Turn assist uses the brakes on the inside wheels during a tight turn to help better rotate the big vehicle. The Land Cruiser is outfitted with a 5.7-liter V-8 that is good for 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, and a six-speed automatic transmission is standard.

8) 2016 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

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The 2016 Ram 2500 Power Wagon is a serious three-quarter ton full-size pickup that makes use of an extremely aggressive rear axle ratio, locking differentials, a tough four-wheel drive system, a factory winch, skid plates, tow hooks, all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, and the ability to disconnect the front swaybar from inside the cabin. The Ram Power Wagon is a throwback to the days when one could spec out a heavy-duty truck to tackle the great wide open. A 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 is the only engine available with the Power Wagon, and it delivers 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission handling the gear-shifting duties and a Fuel Saver Technology feature for those breaks between climbs. (2015 model pictured.)

9) 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

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The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is not only a comfy people mover, but it also maintains Jeep’s high standards for off-road capability. The Trail Rated Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with the choice of three different four-wheel drive systems, although hardcore drivers will want to go for the Quadra-Drive II edition which offers Selec-Terrain (for configuring engine, transmission, stability, and traction control parameters for a particular type of driving situation) as well as an air suspension with adjustable ride height and a pair of locking differentials. The Grand Cherokee can be equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 putting out 290 horses and 260 lb-ft of torque or a 360-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 that also generates a respectable 390 lb-ft of torque. Both come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

10) 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

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The 2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the most expensive vehicle on this list, and it’s also the only one that was originally based on a military transporter. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class looks like a big box on wheels, and its upright charm conceals a host of serious off-road features, such as three locking differentials, a full-time four-wheel drive system with low-range capability, and exceptional departure and approach angles. The luxury-laden G-Class makes use of a 416-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine that also develops 450 lb-ft of torque, and it comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The AMG G63 version offers a twin-turbocharged V-8 that boasts 563 horsepower, and the new-for-2016 AMG G65 boasts 621 horsepower from its twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12

how long before your car can think for itself?

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It’s the stuff of nightmares for The Terminator’s Sarah Connor: the sentient car that makes moral judgements, and responds to scenarios far better than any human ever could. If it sounds like sci-fi, it’s not; it’s fast-approaching science fact.

Deep-learning frameworks – a form of artificial intelligence – will evolve today’s semi-autonomous cars into self-driving vehicles that can handle all traffic scenarios, in all environments, by learning from experience rather than being pre-programmed for every eventuality. Crucially, these machines will also learn to make the big calls, like choosing between hitting the bus queue or the stray dog.

Toyota has ploughed $1bn into the US-based Toyota Research Institute (TRI), with autonomous vehicles being a key focus. Intel recently acquired Altera, a maker of programmable logic devices with automotive applications, for $16bn.

Cars that think for themselves

Experts at both companies are focused on developing autonomous cars that not only adhere to set protocols – keeping between white lines, for instance – but react to unpredictable scenarios too.

‘Imagine debris falling off a truck,’ says TRI’s Dr Gill Pratt. ‘Should the car think of the debris like another car, and avoid it? Kind of, but the debris might break apart like lots of cars. Should it think of it as a pedestrian? Kind of, but the debris might initially be moving far faster than a pedestrian. Part of our work will focus on augmenting machine learning, and measuring the robustness of systems for scenarios we haven’t yet thought of.’

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UK-based firm i-Abra partners with Altera in developing deep-learning frameworks for autonomous cars. ‘Machine learning has been around since the dawn of computing,’ says managing director Ian Taylor. ‘The computer mimics neurons, creating artificial neural networks. Ultimately you’re trying to replace human sense and action with artificial intelligence by acting on data collected from the car’s sensors, cameras, radar and maybe audio.’

Taylor takes a pragmatic view of the scenarios autonomous cars will face. ‘If bricks fall off a truck, the worst-case scenario is to stop the car as quickly as possible,’ he says. ‘But the cars need that experience, that’s why Google is sending cars into the real world to acquire millions of hours of data, with a driver ready to re-take control. The car can learn from experience, then share that learning across a fleet that’s constantly connected. The moral maze is presented every day to humans – do you hit the deer, or the tree? – but if a human can make the decision, a computer can too.’

AI: a brave new world

Taylor admits that machines are fallible, but far less so than humans. ‘The fully autonomous car would not only have more experience than a 17-year-old driver, but also his father,’ he argues. ‘Autonomous cars will save fuel, cut journey times, and saves lives.’

Nonetheless, Taylor predicts fully autonomous cars are at least a decade away, his sentiments echoed by Pratt: ‘We’re maybe 95% of the way to full autonomy, but that doesn’t mean the last 5% will be as easy,’ says Pratt. ‘It’s like climbing a mountain, where the final ascent is the hardest. And if just a small percentage of the trillion miles Toyotas cover annually is very difficult driving, it’s still many, many miles.’

For now, for much of the time, humans do it better. But there’s no doubting we’re on borrowed time.

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How it works

1) As the autonomous Toyota follows a lorry laden with bricks in lane one of the motorway, so the lorry’s unsecured payload begins to topple into the road. If it stays in its lane and brakes hard, the Toyota calculates it will plough into the bricks. But swerving to avoid them holds its own dangers…

2) Up ahead on the hard shoulder, a family have broken down and are just leaving their car to reach safety. The autonomous Toyota is as likely to hit the stranded car as the bricks. Meanwhile, another car is fast-approaching from behind in the middle lane. If the Toyota moves into the middle lane and the other car maintains its speed, the two will collide.

3) The Toyota quickly assesses the situation. From machine learning over millions of miles of autonomous testing, it knows to rule out both moving onto the hard shoulder and remaining in its lane, where an impact is inevitable…

4) Instead, it knows that switching into the middle lane is the best option. If the fast-approaching car has driver-assistance systems, it will adjust its speed; even if it doesn’t, the driver has time to react. The best human drivers would take the same course, but every autonomous  car should.

2016 Toyota GT86 – facelift details revealed


Toyota has revealed details of the facelifted GT86, following the model’s reveal at the New York motor show earlier this year.

High on the list of improvements is the car’s revised intake and exhaust system, which Toyota claims delivers a more linear torque pattern on manual versions of the GT86, while tweaks to the shock absorbers are said to boost stability. Both ride and rigidity have been improved with Toyota’s addition of more spot welds on the rear pillars. Upgraded shock absorbers will also now feature in the options list. 
Toyota claims the aerodynamics of the GT86 have been improved thanks to revisions across the car’s exterior, while inside a 362mm steering wheel – the smallest the brand has ever used – and a 4.2in infotainment screen, which is now standard on GT and GT Limited models, top the improvements. The new screen can show performance-orientated statistics such as live G-force loadings and power and torque patterns, in addition to more practical information such as fuel economy.
Toyota has only released details of the Japanese-specification cars for the time beins. Final UK prices and specs will be annoucned later in the year, ahead of the car’s launch in the final quarter.
GT86 facelift revealed in New York
Toyota first unveiled the facelifted GT86 at the New York motor show.
The 2016 model gets revised chassis settings and an updated exterior and will go on sale later this year.
Most noticeable are the 2016 car’s aesthetic changes. The exterior gets a larger central air intake and a restyled bumper with new three-slat inlets and LED headlights. The car also sits on new 10-spoke alloy wheels.

In a bid to make the GT86 feel more premium, Toyota has added new leather and Alcantara upholstery to the cabin, with soft-touch, suede-effect material on the door trims. Added to the options list is new cloth upholstery with contrasting silver stitching. The steering wheel has also been redesigned and resized, with integrated audio controls and an ’86’ logo in the middle.
The chassis updates include retuned suspension settings consisting of revised damper and spring rates. Toyota says the results deliver “easier control and increased agility”, suggesting that these settings equate to a slightly firmer ride.
No changes have been made to the engine, so the 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer unit still produces 197bhp and 151lb ft of torque. As before, the 0-62mph sprint takes a claimed 7.6sec and top speed is 140mph.
Prices for the revised GT86 have not yet been confirmed, but they are unlikely to vary greatly from the current car’s £22,700 starting figure. An on-sale date is also yet to be released, but order books are expected to open in the final quarter of 2016.

482,000 Toyota Prius, Lexus CT200h Hybrids Recalled for Curtain Airbags

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Toyota is recalling 482,000 hybrids in the U.S. to repair side-curtain airbags manufactured by the Swedish supplier Autoliv, the companies said on Wednesday.

On 2010–2012 Prius, 2010 and 2012 Prius Plug-in, and 2011–2012 Lexus CT200h models, the side-curtain airbags can partially inflate at random and the inflator can potentially “enter the interior of the vehicle,” which could injure occupants, according to a Toyota press release.

Autoliv said in a press release that it knows of seven inadvertent deployments in Prius models worldwide, all of which occurred in cars that were parked and unoccupied. Autoliv is investigating the root cause, but for now, the company believes no other automakers are affected by this problem since “vehicle specific characteristics” contributed to the issue. A manufacturing problem was corrected in January 2012, and the total number of cars under recall—about 1.4 million worldwide—represent half of all the side-curtain airbag inflators produced before that date, Autoliv said. A crack between the two inflator chambers can form over time due to poor welding, which can cause the two chambers to separate, Toyota said.

Dealers will install a retention bracket on the chambers to prevent them from separating and entering the interior. It is unknown whether there will be additional hardware or software fixes, as the airbags have deployed “without a deployment signal being given by the airbag controller,” according to Toyota. Recall notices will go out to owners at a later date.

Toyota sales rise as big vehicles soar

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Toyota Motor’s U.S. sales rose 4% in April, compared to a year earlier.

Edmunds.com had projected sales growth of 5%, and Kelley Blue Book had projected growth of 4%.

Average incentives per Toyota vehicle rose 14% to $2,017, according to TrueCar. That still trails the industry average of $3,021.

The Toyota brand sold 186,243 vehicles in April, up 5%. The Lexus luxury brand sold 24,882 vehicles, down 4%.

Growth was almost exclusively concentrated in crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks, which are hot because of low gasoline prices and customer preferences.

Toyota brand sales in those categories rose 13%, while Lexus brand sales in those categories rose 20%.

But Toyota brand cars fell 5%, while Lexus brand cars fell 26%.