2008 M6 New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Sienna is all new for 2004. Bigger and better than last year's model, it's the first in a parade of redesigned minivans and may be the new class leader. What makes the new Sienna impressive is not ground-breaking features. (Of course, it has power sliding doors, a power tailgate, and a rear-view camera.) What makes the new Sienna impressive is that it does everything well.
For starters, the new Sienna is big and roomy. It's considerably larger than last year's model, and about $1,000 cheaper. It offers more cargo space than the full-size Sequoia sport-utility yet retails for $10,000 less.
Sienna's interior is comfortable and comes packed with features that make life easier and more convenient. On the road, it offers a smooth ride, responsive handling, and brisk acceleration performance. Its V6 engine has been bored out for more power and now produces 230 horsepower, while a new five-speed automatic improves response and fuel economy. All this adds up to a compelling people mover. The Toyota Tundra is available in a new four-door crew cab model for 2004 called the Double Cab. The Double Cab features a deep, six-foot bed and brings Toyota closer to having a true full-size pickup: The Double Cab is three inches taller, four inches wider, and is built on a longer chassis than the other Tundra pickups. With the addition of the Double Cab, the Tundra is now available in regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab bodies.
Though classified as full-size, the Tundra models are not as big as the Nissan Titan, Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Silverado, and GMC Sierra models. Toyota makes up for this in other ways. The Tundra feels lighter on its feet, more agile and more refined than the domestic trucks. The Tundra is quick and responsive. And it's built to Toyota's high standard of quality, durability and reliability.
The Tundra is one of the smoothest, quietest, and most refined pickups we've driven. Its 4.7-liter V8 engine is exceptional, with enough power to run with the big dogs. A properly equipped Tundra can tow up to 7,100 pounds or haul up to 1,800 pounds. A V6 engine is available, and there's a bare-bones work truck that starts at $15,955. If the Volkswagen New Beetle is a smile on wheels, then the Beetle Convertible is an ear-to-ear grin, looking at once more whimsical, and more like its vintage ancestor, than the Beetle hardtop. Both are back for 2004, with new safety features, new colors, and new options. Plus, an even more modern and efficient diesel engine is available for the coupe.
The New Beetle isn't just smart and stylish. Because it's a Volkswagen, it is refined. It combines German engineering and performance with exceptional fit and finish, and it represents a good value. As in other retro-mobiles, however, driver and passengers must make some concessions for style. Interior ergonomics are not as good those in a more traditional car, such as VW's own Golf. Nor is there a lot of trunk space.
Furthermore, the New Beetle no longer enjoys exclusive status in the retro-car market, now that the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Mini Cooper, Ford Thunderbird, Mustang and other retrospective designs are stealing headlines. And when the PT Cruiser convertible arrives early in 2004, followed by the Mini convertible, the New Beetle won't even be the only low-priced retro to offer open-top motoring.
Still, the New Beetle does offer a good measure of distinctive charm. And once you drop the top, the New Beetle convertible is good fun. It's also tight. Volkswagen has engineered a winning chassis with none of the cowl shake common on most convertibles.
The standard Beetle is still cool. It comes in an assortment of bright, happy colors. Its exterior and interior design details are fun and creative. It now offers OnStar telematics as an option. On the road, the Beetle is smooth and sophisticated and handles well. It's considered a safe car. Beetle earned top scores in the federal government's crash tests and comes with Volkswagen's excellent safety features. Just don't expect to see people looking, smiling and waving at you every time you come around a corner as much as they did when the New Beetle first hit the streets. After all, the Beetle is now a familiar face in America.
Toyota Sienna comes in four trim levels: CE, LE, XLE, and XLE Limited. All come with the new V6 engine and the new five-speed automatic transmission. All are equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, which help the driver stop quickly and maintain control. Seven- and eight-passenger configurations are available and there's a choice of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
All models, starting with the base CE ($22,955), come standard with a 60/40 Split & Stow third-row bench seat, power windows, door locks and mirrors, sliding doors on both sides with power windows, keyless entry, AM/FM/cassette/CD with six speakers, dual (front and rear) air conditioning with rotary dial controls, 16-inch steel wheels with 215/65R16 all-season tires, dual front captains chairs, folding tray table between the front seats, tilt/telescopic steering column, black lacquered interior trim, tire pressure warning system, variable intermittent front and rear windshield wipers, 10 cup holders and four bottle holders, three 12V power outlets and a heavy-duty rear window defogger with timer.
The most popular model is the Sienna LE ($24,260), which comes with nicer cloth fabric, upgraded trim and a host of convenience features: engine immobilizer, heated power mirrors, a roof rack, privacy glass, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, driver's side power window with auto up/down and pinch protection, driver's seat manual-adjustable lumbar support, illuminated vanity mirrors, color-keyed license plate garnish, and a fold-flat front passenger seat. Also available is an eight-passenger LE ($24,410) and an all-wheel-drive LE ($27,875).
Sienna XLE ($28,260) is more luxurious, with upgraded fabric, power dual sliding doors and a power open/close back door, tri-zone (driver, front passenger and rear) HVAC with air filter, 16-inch alloy wheels with 215/65R16 tires, eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, rear seat audio controls with wireless headphone capability, JBL Synthesis 360 watt AM/FM/cassette/CD with 10 speakers, overhead console with trip computer, outside temperature display, HomeLink universal transceiver garage door opener, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, wood-grain trim, chrome door handles, color-keyed heated power mirrors, auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, an anti-theft alarm, and a removable center console. XLE is also available with all-wheel drive ($31,465).
The top-of-the-line XLE Limited ($34,480) adds leather-trimmed seats, driver and front passenger side airbags, curtain airbags for all three rows, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/60R17 all-season tires, VSC with TRAC and brake assist, rear disc brakes, front and rear parking sonar, wood grain/leather steering wheel with audio controls, JBL Synthesis AM/FM/cassette/CD changer with 10 speakers, dynamic Laser Cruise Control, high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, driver and front passenger heated seats (adjustable temperature), chrome accents on bodyside molding, grille and rear license plate garnish, daytime running lights, windshield wiper de-icer grid and an auto-dimming electrochromic driver's side mirror and inside rear view mirror, second- and third- row sunshades. The all-wheel-drive XLE has a base MSRP of $36,930.
Numerous option packages are available for all grades.
Safety features: A new LATCH system (Lower Anchor with Tether for Children) is used in all second-row seating positions to accommodate new-design child seats. Front side and side curtain SRS airbags covering all three seat rows are standard on the XLE Limited, optional on all other grades. Additional standard safety features include: three-point seatbelts in all seats; driver and front passenger frontal airbags; adjustable seatbelt anchors for front- and second-row seats; driver and front passenger pretensioners, force limiters, and ELR with height adjustable anchors; ALR/ELR on all second- and third-row seats, heigh. Toyota Tundra is available as a two-door Regular Cab, an extended Access Cab with auxiliary rear doors, and the new Double Cab. Two- and four-wheel-drive versions are offered, employing similar suspensions and bed heights. Three trim levels are available: base, SR5, and Limited. Access Cab buyers can choose a full-width or stepside bed.
Two engines are available: The double-overhead-cam, 32-valve 4.7-liter V8 produces 240 horsepower and 315 foot-pounds of torque and comes with a four-speed automatic transmission. The double-overhead-cam 3.4-liter V6 is rated at 190 horsepower and 220 foot-pounds of torque; it comes with a choice of four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.
Base models are pretty plain, and come only with the Regular Cab, V6, and two-wheel drive ($15,955). A five-speed manual is standard, but it's also available with an automatic ($16,795). Bumpers are painted. Air conditioning ($985) is optional. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard.
SR5 models offer the option of an Access Cab ($21,365), a Double Cab ($25,645), and four-wheel drive. SR5 models come standard with air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/cassette stereo, tilt steering, tachometer, color-keyed front and chromed rear bumper, styled steel wheels, and other trim upgrades. The V6 and five-speed manual are standard, but an automatic is available. SR5s are also available with the V8 and automatic.
Limited models come standard with the V8, and are available in Access Cab ($27,075) or Double Cab ($29,270). The Limited's long list of standard equipment includes an in-dash CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, keyless entry, and an anti-theft system. Limited models also get a power rear window.
The step-side is available only on V8 Access Cabs in SR5 ($24,295) or Limited ($27,825) trim. A Sport Suspension Package for 2WD V8 models features Tokico shocks, springs tuned for handling, and a 3.916:1 limited-slip differential. Graphite-tone 17-inch alloy wheels wear P265/65R17 tires. New Beetle is available as a coupe or convertible, and with an assortment of gasoline and diesel-fueled four-cylinder engines. For 2004, the coupe is offered in GL ($16,330), GLS ($18,520), GLS 1.8T ($20,480), and Turbo S ($23,850) trim. The convertible is offered in GL ($20,900), GLS ($22,640), and GLS 1.8T ($24,820) trim only.
The standard engine in the GL and GLS is a 2.0-liter inline-4 rated 115 horsepower. GLS 1.8T is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four rated 150 horsepower. With both engines, a five-speed manual transmission is standard. The coupe offers an optional four-speed automatic ($875), while the convertible offers a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic control ($1175). In the Turbo S model, the 1.8-liter turbo four is tuned to 180 horsepower. The only transmission available is a six-speed manual.
Volkswagen also builds diesel-powered versions of the GL and GLS coupe. At the beginning of the model year these still used a 1.9-liter Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) inline-4 rated 90 horsepower, mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic ($875) transmission. However, during the 2004 model year VW plans to replace this engine with a more advanced 1.9-liter turbo-diesel using high-pressure injection technology. The new TDI-PD diesel will produce 100 horsepower and run quieter than the current unit. Volkswagen anticipates a highway fuel economy rating of 46 mpg. A five-speed manual will be standard, and an all-new six-speed automatic with Tiptronic control will be optional ($1075). The new models will be designated GL 1.9 TDI-PD ($17,630) and GLS 1.9TDI-PD ($19,760).
All Beetles are well equipped. Base GL models come with air conditioning with an integrated pollen filter; a six-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo (ten-speaker on convertibles); central locking with keyless remote; anti-theft system; four-wheel disc brakes with ABS; tilt/telescoping steering column; clear-lens halogen projector headlamps; heated power exterior mirrors; cruise control; power windows; and 205/55 all-season tires on 16-inch steel wheels. Options include a six-disc CD changer and electronic stability program (ESP). Leatherette upholstery is available as a no-cost option on coupes, and is standard on the convertible.
GLS adds front fog lamps, 16-inch aluminum wheels, power sunroof, eight-speaker AM/FM/cassette Monsoon audio system, and a center armrest with storage box. And the option list expands to include leather-trimmed seating surfaces; heated front seats; a three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel; leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake grip; heated windshield washer nozzles; and Xenon HID headlamps.
GLS 1.8T adds a speed-activated spoiler at the top of the rear window, an electronic locking differential, traction control and, on the convertible, ESP. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels with 225/45 all-season tires are optional.
Turbo S comes with all the same luxury and go-fast goodies as the GLS 1.8T, plus leather, sport seats with heaters, and a Cold Weather package. ESP and 225/45 tires on 17-inch alloys are also standard.
The convertible is available with a manual or semi-automatic cloth-lined top that features three layers to ensure excellent insulation and appearance. Volkswagen's standard Automatic Rollover Supports deploy automatically behind the rear seats to provide added protection in the unlikely event of a rollover, whether the convertible top is up or down. The exclusive system works in conjunction with the New Beetle's active head restraints.
Standard safety equipment on all New Beetles includes driver and front passenger airbags, side-impact airbags mounted in the seatbacks, a safety-belt tensioning and load-limiting system, and rear-seat tether anchorage points (LATCH system) for securing a child safety seat. The side-impact airbags have been enhanced for 2004; Volkswagen says the New Beetle is one of the few small cars with side-impact bags designed to protect t.