What's the best Toyota on sale today? What our car journos would buy
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DRIVEN's headquarters is, generally, one rolling ongoing argument after another about all things four-wheeled. Whether it's cars currently on test or rose-tinted memories from years gone by, the next passionate vehicular debate is never far away.
It made sense to take this excitable energy and turn it into something (hopefully) useful. As such, welcome to DRIVEN's new online content series (published each Monday), where we pick out the cars that we would actually buy with our cold hard cash.
Having investigated the idea of first cars for $20,000 last week, this week we tackle New Zealand's most dominant and prolific brand; Toyota. Every model is famous, but which would we buy with our own money and why?
Editor, Dean Evans: Toyota RAV4 GXL
Given I always go first in these choices, I generally have to go with the safe bet, while the other guys veer off on their weird and wacky tangents like cheap fireworks. But I need to preface my selection by stating that there are a few different versions of me; because if I had the pick of the Toyota range and a monetary carte blanche, 20-year-old me would have chosen the GR Supra, located the traction control button before I’d closed the driver’s door, and torn off and around in a blaze or tyre smoke, boost and youthful glee. But who wouldn’t be that way in a $100k sports car?! Too easy.
Fast forward a decade and 30-year-old me would have opted for an 86, for maybe a year or two. Even though I would never have been able to afford the $50k at that age, I would have found a way. But then I would have traded it in on something a little more daily practical and sensible. Not that the 86 isn’t that way, but I would have matured my need for speed (a little), lessened by competing in organised racing (hence the lack of dollars for a road car). So a C-HR Limited FWD ($36,490) is quite appealing from a styling sense, and it zips around for a comfortable daily driver, despite its modest-on-paper 1.2-litre turbo.
These days, 40+year-old me would go for the $46,490 RAV4 Hybrid GXL, Eclectic Blue with black wheels. I sound like a scratched record recently (that’s an old music-making disc thing that would repeat parts of a song when scratched…), but for me it ticks every box: there’s just something about the angled but smooth styling that takes me back to the 80s styling which, I appreciate, isn’t appreciated by all (like my wife…).
I never would have considered a RAV4 before this model. In fact its whole philosophy and look turned me off and away, so maybe it’s an age thing, maybe it’ a car thing, but I’ve certainly evolved into the car as much as the car has evolved into me.
The extra trinkets in the top-spec Limited I could do without and save $7000: it has proximity key, radar cruise control and Apple CarPlay and that’s 40yo me happy. The fuel economy of 4.8l/100km and the RUC-less-ness of the petrol engine are ongoing reminders of a good choice, with good power and speed from its 2.5-litre engine.
No doubt the other guys will go wild and different and good on them, because I’ll be equally happy to spend my hard-earned on a RAV4 – it’s not the dull choice, it’s the safe, smart and popular one.
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Toyota 86
I secretly love lots of mainstream Toyotas. Secretly, because it’s not always okay to say you think the Camry hybrid is a really good car in car-enthusiast company.
I bring that up because I’ve chosen the 86 coupe as my pick of the Toyota range, and it’s not because I have a problem with any of the brand’s more mainstream offerings. It’s just that I think the 86 is a brilliant sports car and it’s still the Toyota I’d most like to own.
It sticks resolutely to purist sports-car principles: this rear-drive machine is beautifully balanced, but it doesn’t have too much power and it doesn’t have too much grip.
It also doesn’t have too much in the way of elegant style. You could never call it pretty. Which I also kind of like, because it means you’d never buy one for any reason other than driving pleasure. It’s an instant classic because of what it can do, not because of how it looks.
It’d be a manual, but sadly Toyota New Zealand doesn’t offer the basic model any more, so it’ll have to be the GT86 at $49,490. That’s still a lot of characterful boxer engine (thank you Subaru) and chassis precision for the money.
Now, I didn’t say that thing about the Camry out loud did I?
Senior Multimedia Journalist, Matthew Hansen: Toyota Land Cruiser 200
Like David, the Camry option was oddly tempting here — and not just because the idea of barking loudly at all the people in inner-city Auckland who'd mistake me for their Uber would appeal to me. It's a comfy sedan with buckets of room, dashing looks (that sloped dashboard still gets me weak at the knees), and a well priced hybrid or smooth N/A V6 option.
But no, today I go for Toyota's definitive and most iconic car — the Coro ... I mean Land Cruiser. In particular the big 200.
We're in the midst of a phase of SUV throwback nostalgia. The Land Rover Defender and Ford Bronco are things again, Jeep continues to flex its Wrangler muscle, the retro-as-heck Suzuki Jimny is a global sales marvel, and the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen continues to be an Instagram influencer staple.
For me, both versions of Toyota Land Cruiser (the 70 and the 200) are part of that same clan. They're rugged, traditional, dependable vehicles under brooding simplistic skin. No electrification (for now), no trick transmissions ... just incredible competancy when it comes to long road trips (Kiwis love those, so I've heard) and occasional gravel excursions.
To top it off, a February study named the Land Cruiser as the most likely vehicle to surpass 300,000km.
The $112,990 base price on a Land Cruiser might sound expensive ($129,990 for the flagship Limited variant, while we're at it), but you get an insane amount of vehicle that's difficult to match for the money. Apart from the sharply priced $99,990 Nissan Patrol, you're hard pressed to find many other V8-powered SUVs like the 'Cruiser.
Be ahead of the Instagram influencer curve, buy a Land Cruiser 200. And slap a snorkel on it while you're at it.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Toyota GR Supra
Given my reputation for these picks, it’s only right that I go for the Toyota with the most fanboy hype behind it.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, you’d probably be aware of how Toyota joined forces with BMW to make the new GR Supra. This resulted in one end of the spectrum throwing adult-sized tantrums over their sacred Supra not being 100% Japanese anymore, and the others who appreciate a good sports car.
In using a BMW engine and chassis when making this new Supra, Toyota side-stepped all the R&D costs that go into producing a whole new car, and ended up with a car of BMW quality with Toyota styling. On top of this, it is $30,000 cheaper than the BMW Z4, which is more or less the exact same car.
Now that we’ve got the politics of this car out of the way, we can get into why it’s the best Toyota on offer these days.
Sure, the 200 Series Land Cruiser can go anywhere, and the GT86 is the quintessential Japanese sports car, but neither can offer the thrills of the GR Supra. 250kW and 500Nm are the two perfectly rounded numbers that Toyota claims the turbocharged 3.0-litre engine makes, two numbers that have been blown out of the water by real-world dyno runs. Whatever the real numbers are, once it is sent through the eight-speed auto transmission to the rear wheels, the Supra can do 0-100km/h in under 4.5 seconds, which is pretty damn fast.
So while it might not be the most nostalgic nod to the Mk4 Supra that it replaced, or the cheapest (starting from $99,990), it’s an incredible sports car, and is without a doubt, worth the Supra badge.