From Toyotas to Lexus and Kia, a few favorite ride reviews of 2018 revisited
We’ve been blessed with a plethora of delightful cars, trucks, and SUVs during 2018, most of which we have already reviewed in this column. The following is a brief summary of some of the vehicles we enjoyed in the past several months.
The Toyota Tundra 4x4 Limited Crewmax offers exceptional interior and box space, plus its powerful 5.7-L I-Force V-8 DOHC engine exudes energy. Our tester was mated to a six-speed automatic with Sequential Shift that provided excellent shifting both loaded and unloaded.
While we had plentiful standard mechanical, safety, tech, and convenience items, our tested Tundra did have three extensive packages, including the very likeable TRD Off-Road Package, plus 15 single options. With those more than four-dozen add-ons, the base price of $44,195 moved up to $50,321.
Overall, this beast has all the towing and off-road capabilities with a 5-star government safety rating. As expected, fuel economy suffers with the 5.7-L engine (13 MPG/city and 17/highway), but that power is essential for hauling, towing (up to 10,200 pounds), and off-roading.
For better fuel economy (20/23), we also liked the Toyota Tacoma pickup, the smaller brother of the Tundra, that offers towing capacity up to 6,800 pounds and a genuine feel of a pickup truck.
Lexus IS 350
The Lexus IS 350 is a refined sedan that we found to be exceedingly comfortable and usable. Our tested unit had the 3.5-L DOHC V-6 engine that was reactive and purred with its paired eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters. The powertrain provided overall fuel economy of 22 MPG (19/city and 28/highway).
Standard on the IS 350 is the Lexus Safety System + that includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, High Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Intelligent High-Beam Headlamps, and more.
Our unit had the F Sport Package ($3,155) that included special bumpers and front grille, heated and ventilated seats, 18-inch split spoke wheels, F Sport suspension, and more. We also had a navigation system package ($2,815) with a 10.15-inch display that also included an exceptional Mark Levinson audio system with 15 speakers, plentiful apps, and other items.
Also on the option side was a Blind Spot Monitor, heated outside mirrors, an F Sport leather and heated steering wheel, cargo mat, illuminated door sills, and truck mat that, with other optional equipment, popped the MSRP from $41,370 to $48,915.
The IS 350 is a delightful car to drive. It offers relaxed seating, lots of tech, and LED lighting.
Kia Rio EX
The 2018 Kia Rio EX 5Door, the top of three trim levels, is simply a fun subcompact sedan to drive. It’s priced right (MSRP of $18,700), has superb fuel economy with its 1.8-L GDI four-cylinder engine (28 MPG city and 37/highway), and for the price has considerable standard equipment.
Included EX standard features are traction control, electronic stability control, Vehicle Stability Management, Hill Start Assist, fog lamps, heated outside mirrors, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel, wireless technology, and Forward Collision Warning among others.
For a small car, the Rio is quiet and has amazingly smooth ride and handling qualities. The cabin is usable and seats are comfy, plus there is up to 17 cubic feet of cargo space (hatchback).
The Toyota 86 is a rear-wheel-drive coupe that basically has two trim levels. Our tester had a 2.0-L flat four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission. With the manual, fuel ratings are 21 MPG/city and 28/highway for a combined 24 MPG; OK for a sports car.
Likeable features on the 86 include 17-inch alloy wheels and tires, Star Safety System, Torsen limited-slip rear differential, chrome-tipped dual exhaust, and the largest cargo space in its segment (6.9 cubic feet).
The 86 has a reinforced unibody design with a low center of gravity and sport-tuned suspensions (independent MacPherson strut front; double-wishbone multi-link rear) with solid stabilizer bars. From our perspective, it handled like a sports car.
Tech is not overlooked on the 86, which comes with navigation on a seven-inch screen with streaming, Bluetooth, apps, and an eight-speaker audio system.
Our base 86 (there are GT and GT Black versions) had an MSRP of $26,255 and no options.