From A Toyota Enthusiast
A solid defense of Toyota’s sporting credentials and the believers of same
By Bruce McCulloch
The words “Toyota” and “enthusiast” go together about as well as oil and cake – or so I’m told. As a Toyota enthusiast myself, I am getting a little sick of hearing how Toyota (and affiliated) is a brand for those with little interest in cars whatsoever. So often are we (yeah, you can be sure there are at least a few of us) stereotyped as a bunch of knowledge-stricken, blindly-biased snobs with a lack of appreciation for performance, driving experience but above all else, stylistic elements – both inside and out.
Whilst I don’t think it can be denied that such individuals exist, I am most certainly not one of them and feel obliged to stand up for the rest of us Toyota enthusiasts who commonly get stereotyped as something we aren’t.
Now, admittedly I have a great deal of appreciation for Toyota products, but I’m not the biased and blind bat that I may be perceived as by stringing the words “Toyota” and “performance” together. Additionally, it’s a shame that just because I’d rather have a Lexus LS460 over a Mercedes-Benz S550, BMW 750i or Audi A8 4.2 Quattro, my credibility must be called into question.
A great many of us even have to forego a scolding because according to our rivals (on the ‘Net) “we” also apparently can’t take criticism of our favourite brand. We are just a group of biased, scathing dogmatic maniacs with little sense. Well, I hate to break it to the master critics, but I personally haven’t any concern with criticism of Toyota and Lexus. I very much welcome criticism of my favourite brand – as any good fanatic should – and even like to offer my personal criticism to boot. That, in my humble opinion, is the difference between a fanatic and a so-called “fanboy”. But then that in itself is a whole different ball of wax, and as well we all know, fanboys exists for every brand. It is important to remember that Toyota isn’t the only brand with them scoundrels.
Furthermore, I am one who actually cares about both exterior and interior styling, performance and yes, even driving experience. Of course, I freely admit it, if you’re looking for a performance car the Camry is going to be the last thing you look at it, but that’s not to say Toyota hasn’t had its fair share of entertaining vehicles – even though most think such a fact is absolutely impossible. True, Toyota doesn’t have a great deal of “sporty cars” at the moment, but does that mean we should just forget about the Supra & MR2? The latter of which was once one of the most entertaining and exciting drivers car on the market; specifically the ’88 supercharged model which was guaranteed to bring a smile on the face of anyone. Resembling the size of a shoe, with a kerb weight similar to that of a loaf of bread (998kg for the Japanese market, 1066kg for the American market) and a supercharged four-cylinder motor mated to a chassis co-developed with Lotus, it was an absolute hoot to drive. No doubt, later models were considerably softer than the AW11 (the code name for the late 80’s MR2’s), but still very much offered an enjoyable drive.
And though the Supra may have been a heavy (and nose-heavy) beast and one notably lacking the driving excitement of such vehicles as the MR2, it always was good fun, and still makes for an enjoyable drive to this day. The late 80’s, early 90’s Mark2 was an excellent vehicle – both solid and surefooted in its execution.
Additionally, there are even a few “sporty cars” throughout Toyota’s history that are often ignored; like the wonderful and beautiful sports car that was the 2000 GT, and the last generation Cressida. I don’t think there should be any question as to why I mention the 2000 GT. This was a fantastic little sports car, even if it was slightly underpowered when compared to its rivals from across the world. And it is simply the most attractive sports car that has ever come out of Japan, period.
I, however, could understand if you question my mention of the Cressida as it’s a car considered to be styled in a manner resembling a stone brick. Most would tell you it’s about as interesting as one too, but I’d beg to differ. Oh yes, strip away that simple exterior – which I quite like for the record – and you’ve got a highly involving car. Precise steering, a chuckable chassis, decent handling and a road-connected feel like few other Toyotas. And actually, in my opinion, nearly comparable to a BMW E34 5-Series of the same vintage. My great experience with Toyota’s can attest to the 1990 Cressida being amongst the most involving and entertaining Toyota’s to drive – even though you’d never know it by looking at it’s plain-jane exterior. And hell, I haven’t even mentioned the various selections of Celicas…
That all being said, I do believe it’s important for critics to look at Toyota’s past history before being overly critical of the company’s operations and philosophy. Conversely, I do realize we are not living in the 1980’s and 1990’s anymore and this means I must move on. Nowadays it’s clear that Toyota has pretty much attempted to rid their line-up of any real fun and exciting cars – specifically those which are RWD – so that they can obviously promote the Lexus brand. And even with that particular brand there isn’t a whole lot of sport to be found, quite frankly; just about everything and anything they have is focused on luxury, but one should mention their compact IS saloon. Yeah, it’s not quite as exciting or intoxicating as some of their previous vehicles (from a drivers point of view in my eyes), but it still offers a more than somewhat decent and sporty ride.
Let’s not forget about the very near future. What greater display of talent from Toyota’s fine engineers could you ask for than by displaying their arriving-soon performance flagship, the “IS-F”? With a top speed on the north side of 170 mph and 5.0 litre V8 pushing 423bhp and an insane 372lb-ft of torque you can be sure it’ll be won’t fail to bring a smile to its driver. Will it be as fun and entertaining as the BMW M3 and/or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG? Maybe, maybe not – that remains to be seen, but you can count on an entertaining drive no doubt.
And lastly, but certainly not least, I am a Toyota/Lexus enthusiast who has a great deal of appreciation for all automobiles – no matter the make, no matter the type. The automotive world does not start and end with my favorite manufacturer, as it does with so many other single-make fans. For instance, and as I’ve made evident in the past, I am a great admirer and fan of exotics/supercars; specifically the crazier ones.
Can the words “Toyota” and “enthusiast” ever co-exist? Is such a union possible? Is it logical? Most certainly, and as I mentioned up top, you can be sure there are more than a few of us out there.
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