Toyota Corolla, 4Runner and Lexus RX offer laundry list of features
The 2018 Toyota Corolla SE we recently tested was fun to drive because it handled exceptionally well and sounded like a sports car with its throaty exhaust (equipped with an optional $649 TRD Performance Exhaust system). It also had 17-inch machined alloy wheels, a sporty front fascia, and rear spoiler to enhance the sport-inspired feeling.
Our tester was amazingly quick for having a 1.8-L four-cylinder engine, but that was partially due to the six-speed manual transmission. It was a bit sluggish on mountain hills, but overall performed to our satisfaction, especially since it has an overall fuel rating of 30 MPG (27/city and 35/highway). Since most of our driving was on the highway, we experienced more than 34.3 MPG during the weeklong test.
The Corolla had plentiful safety features including the Toyota Safety Sense P Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure, and Dynamic Cruise Control. The Star Safety System (Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, EBD, Smart Stop Technology, and more), along with eight airbags and Hill Start Assist, were also incorporated in the safety elements.
With a sporty interior, and more than ample seating space, the Corolla SE (one of five trims) offered an Entune Audio-Plus, power tilt/slide moonroof, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Overall we liked the Corolla and appreciated the 13 cubic feet of cargo volume. Base price on our tester was $21,715, and with options (including a TRD rear sway bar) it was just over $23,200.
RX has multiple standard safety features
The 2018 Lexus RX 350L five-door SUV is a pure delight to drive and offers safety, exquisite comfort, abundant technology, and genuine performance with its 3.5-L V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.
Our likes on the RX are the full-time active torque control all-wheel-drive system that works well, 20-inch split alloy wheels (option; 18-inch standard), integrated fog lamps, 10-way power front seats (ours had the optional heated/vented seats), power/folding outside mirrors, a Mark Levinson premium audio system with 15-speakers (optional as part of a package; sound is stunning), and the tri-zone climate control system.
From 10 airbags to the Lexus Safety System +, there are multiple standard safety features on the RX, aluminum roof rails, a power rear door, backup camera, and more.
The solid chassis on the FWD RX features a MacPherson strut and coil spring front with gas-pressurize shocks, and an independent double wishbone with coils and gas shocks on the rear, both with stabilizer bars. The ride and handling are gracious.
Technology is prevalent on the RX 350L, but some that we really liked is optional, such as the blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, and the industry’s first 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display with connection to navigation and other systems.
This is a classy SUV for up to seven passengers that has a base price of $49,070, and with options our tested unit was $57,195.
4Runner runs away with off-road capability
And to top off the lineup, we tested one of our all-time favorites, a 2018 version of the Toyota 4Runner 4x4 TRD Offroad Premium. Long name, but worth it as this tough beast is just exciting to drive, on- or off-road. We love the ruggedness of its body-on-frame construction, yet its comfortable to drive, and its 9.6 inches of ground clearance - perfect for off-roading.
Our tester was powered by the 4.0-L DOHC V-6 with dual independent variable valve timing that results in 270 HP and 278 lb-ft. of torque at 4,400 RPM. Mated to a five-speed ECT automatic, the downfall for rugged and beastly is pretty lousy fuel economy - in this case 18 MPG overall.
A part-time 4WD system with Active Traction Control was on our tested unit (full-time on some models) along with front and rear stabilizer bars and skid plates, as well as 17-inch performance tires. There is also an electronically controlled rear differential with Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control.
In addition, there is Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control.
The most expensive of three options on our 4Runner was the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System ($1,750) - and well worth it in our view. This system employs hydraulics to automatically adjust stabilizer bars and lean resistance. In essence, it optimizes chassis performance which is vital for rugged off-roading.
With up to 89.7 cubic feet of cargo space, the 4Runner can accommodate a generous amount of goods.
This SUV is great for highway driving, but it really shines when it goes off road. Our only dislike is the heavy cargo door can be difficult to close (needs an automatic open/close system).
With an MSRP of $39,495, our tester had a final price with options of $41,895.