Today, Toyota is making bold bets in a wide range of areas — from alternative fueled vehicles and suped-up tricycles Robocop would sell his hex nuts for, to emotion-sensing AI, household “partner” robots, and smart homes — all in hopes anticipating the shifting mobility needs of tomorrow. Statistics are one way to understand how the company’s master plan will make for a better and Pikachu-cute future; then again, the world’s largest automaker is well aware that practice makes perfect, and that’s on display at their global headquarters, known as Toyota City. We explored the brand’s paradigm-shifting innovations, including personal mobility prototypes, robots, EV infrastructure and more.
Can the world's largest automaker fix the problems ahead?
10 Concepts We're Praying Find their Way to Production
Watching concept cars bow at international auto shows is like watching the festivities at Paris Fashion Week: displays are daring, beautiful and sometimes just downright petrifying. The world gets to see bold, shocking statements or captivating ones that might just make it to market. The best examples are fuel for dreams of what may come. This year, the Geneva Motor Show proved to be fertile ground. From a student-submitted sports car to a practical van, here are our 10 favorite concept cars from the show.
Takes on the flat and the bumpy
No longer just a lame substitute for a real SUV, crossovers have grown in terms of quality, capability and available amenities such that there seems virtually no end in sight. Mercedes-Benz has been busier than just about anyone lately when it comes to redesigning their lineup and introducing new models, and the GLA Class is the latest to come down the Teutonic pike to fill this new crossover mold. We made our way to Málaga, Spain to take two iterations out for a spin: the GLA250 4Matic and the zippier GLA45 AMG.
Get it dirty, just not inside, please
With a long history of producing rugged SUVs before that term even existed, Land Rover could sell incredibly well based on just their name. Still, they decided the all-new aluminum-bodied flagship Range Rover wasn’t enough. They’ve spiffed up their biggest seller, the Range Rover Sport, and we had the chance to drive it through one of Chicago’s snowiest winters see how it performed off the clean tarmac.
Big guns for those haulin' runs
It’s no longer enough for a big SUV to transport seven; it has to look good and feel good (for both driver and passengers) while doing it. Our intrepid Octane crew drove five of the best seven-passenger SUVs out there and found a flavor for just about anyone. While none of these five SUVs are perfect, each is grand in its own right by virtue of style, quality and utility.
Rock Your World, Apocalypse or No
For the fortunate few who need to do serious work in a serious world (or for those with big amounts of extra coin laying around), there are two serious players at opposite ends of the cost spectrum: the Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5000 and the Bremach T-Rex. Whether it’s off-road adventure, payload hauling or search and rescue, both mean business.
Mittens, check. Shovel, check. Big balls, check and check
The Volkswagen Polar Expedition Amarok was specially built to promote the 2014 Winter Olympics by completing the trans-Russia Amarok Polar Expedition, a trip that can’t be made by any ordinary vehicle. We’re talking about 16,000 miles from Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the far southeastern Kamchatka peninsula across snowy Russian terrain, often in the complete absence of roads. We break down the snow beast.
More crossovers than Iverson
Crossovers are the hottest segment in the automotive industry today thanks to solid fuel economy, practicality and bad-weather driving security. And while that popularity means the field is downright dizzying, there are quite a few excellent options from all corners of the earth. GP’s Octane crew drove five solid examples and came away with loads of insight on what the CUV market has to offer.
Wreaking Havoc In A Winter Wonderland
We recently traveled to snowy and frigid Newry, Maine, where the Sunday River Ski Resort hosted the first-ever Red Bull Frozen Rush truck race. Pro 4 off-road racing trucks hit the slopes, racing up and down in a wild, aggressive, violent scramble over ice and snow, aided in no small part by spiked BF Goodrich tires. We rode along in a truck, watched drivers fly their trucks through the air like madmen daredevils and froze our tushes off all in the name of watching racing history unfold. Check it out yourself here.
The gifts that keep on giving
Just about every morning, before our cup of joe, we slap ourselves as a reminder of how lucky we are to drive some of the best cars in the world and get paid for it. 2013 was another year of stupendous privileges, with wheel time in Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Land Rovers, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Porsches, Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, BMWs, Aston Martins and more. We’ve been the beneficiaries of a huge upswing in the automotive marketplace in terms of style, quality and driving excitement through virtually all segments. And you know what that means: 2014 should prove to be even better.
Here are the cars we most covet for the new year, each one a standout in its segment by virtue of its quality, technology, design, driving experience or all of the above. In a stellar field, these are the ones that stir the petrol in our veins the most. As we embark on a new year, here’s a toast to what should be an incredible 2014 on the digital pages of Octane.
Rising Stars from the Rising Sun
Japanese cars have long been the epitome of reliability and trustworthiness, but they haven’t always been beautiful to look at. Things have changed with the current generation of Japanese cars, which boast great design and more personality than ever, along with driving dynamics that can rival (and even best) the Germans in some cases. Their bombproof reliability hasn’t been altered through the generations, either. Here are the ten best rising cars from the land of the rising sun.
Sleighs are for losers
You’re an hour late to the Christmas get-together, but not because that red velvet blazer you love so much is nowhere to be found. No, instead you’re trapped in a snowdrift in your vintage AMC Gremlin. No fruitcake for you. You could’ve fared better this holiday season with some better wheels. May we suggest some truly treaded steeds for your hapless self?
The apple doesn't fall far
When the Porsche Cayenne SUV took front and center for the Stuttgart automaker in 2002, Porsche purists had exhaust coming out of their ears. A Porsche SUV? The move, at least to them, was tantamount to putting a plaid shirt, leather suspenders and hiking boots on Gisele Bündchen. But the Cayenne turned into Porsche’s biggest seller, providing much-needed funding for more ambitious projects. Porsche’s doing it again with the 2015 Porsche Macan ($52,000-$62,000). We break down the small performance cross-over.
Fall for all of them
The end of the summer doesn’t mean that the best driving months are behind us. With the arrival of fall comes cooler temperatures, the rainbow of foliage colors and fewer vacationers on the open roads — all reasons to open up the throttle. But all leaf-scatterers are not created equal. Some have drop-tops for feeling the crisp air zip by your ears and others want to blast snaking backroads; still others will get you, your gear and your family to the annual fall camping spot. These ten cars — our favorites for taking fall driving to the next level — can do it all. If you’re lucky enough to drive one, your winter doldrums just got put on hold.
The next generation
You expect sports cars to be fast but lacking in capacity and oftentimes creature comforts. You expect SUVs to be capable on rough terrain but lacking in performance, comfort and style. There are very few vehicles out there that can change your expectations about a specific type of car, and that’s why the all new Land Rover Range Rover is so special ($83,545). Land Rover’s flagship raises the bar on what a luxury SUV can and should possess — eye-catching design, impressive off-road prowess, a luxurious and refined environment, and uncompromised on-road performance — without losing the iconic Range Rover silhouette and brand identity.
An American Thoroughbred
The pickup truck is an American icon, its ruggedness and no-nonsense utility having long ago made it the workhorse of the blue-blooded. But the new Chevy Silverado ($23,590) introduces a new generation of big pickups that boast great design, posh interiors and improved drivability and toughness. Three great engines are available, including a robust 4.3-liter V6 that’s both economical and capable. Step inside the Silverado’s upgraded cabin and you’ll wonder if you’re in a well-appointed sedan. The new Silverado is also a pleasure to drive thanks to a stronger structure, better ride comfort and improved handling; it’s as impressive on road as it is off. This truck is a shining example of what America does best.
More beautiful beasts of burden
Baseball, apple pie and trucks: all iconic, savory slices of Americana. The urban cowboy may have given the pickup a bad rap, but don’t let that sour the segment. These ain’t your granddad’s haulers. No sir, the trucks of today have taken fuel efficiency to an all-time high in the segment, for starters, and have added touches of interior and exterior class that leave little to be desired, even when compared against luxury makers.
Yes, the beloved truck has changed, but it remains grounded in its roots as a tree-stump-puller. Indeed, the core functionality of the pickup truck has remained nearly unchanged through the years — that is, it still has the ability to blast copious amounts of diesel exhaust over smug, hybrid drivers. We found time to drive and rate the five best full-sized models on the market. Which one you choose is between you and your payload.
No loafers allowed
Let’s say you regularly pine for some rock climbin’, mud-slingin’, feel-good four-wheelin’ — you just love off-the-beaten-path driving and no-holds-barred adventure where others fear to tread. There are several options to choose from, but our favorites are the custom-built and bad to the bone ICON 4×4 CJ3B or the special edition Jeep Wrangler Moab, both of which will conquer rocks, mud, stream and snow with aplomb. One will make you look like a rich adventurer; the other will just make you look cool. You decide. Errr… perhaps your wallet will.
The Poster Child For Invincibility
Mercedes-Benz’s longest-running production model, the Gelandewagen (G-Wagen), is a testament to versatility and timeless style. For $135,000 one can not only look ultra tough in this military-inspired ride but drive like it as well. Plus, the humble 382 horsepower, 5.5 liter V8 from the “regular” G-Wagen goes bi-turbo in the AMG and jumps to 536 wild horses. We got behind the wheel deep in the Catskill mountains to give AMG’s beast a good thrashing and see how much it would bite back.
A performance SUV is something tantamount to a chainsaw with jet propulsion. There’s really no need for it, but to dismiss it is to deny man’s inherent quest for power, in whatever form it may come. Gear Patrol’s wheeled staff had a chance to cruise around in some of the best four-wheeled tarmac eaters that just happen to ride on stilts in celebration of Octane‘s launch. Here’s what they thought.
We dream up our road trip fantasy rides
When it’s time to make tracks — whether you’re escaping the daily grind or heading to the next adventure — few things will make or break your time on the open road more than the vehicle you’re piloting. Sometimes it’s best to tailor your ride to the destination; sometimes, the car itself should play more of a starring role in your road trip story than your map waypoints do. Why not go all out? From fun-to-fling to made-to-cruise to needs-to-be-seen, we dreamed up our ten fantasy road trip cars, one ideal for every getaway.
So bloody good, it hurts
Sometimes being American causes us great pain, especially when it comes to rides we can (1) never afford (which seems to occur often) and (2) never see in the States. Like a hot poker in the eye, Land Rover has issued a celebratory 65th Anniversary all-terrain yak known simply as the Land Rover Defender LXV (~$44,500).
Sportier Utility Vehicle
Time for a driveway upgrade? Gear Patrol’s new series, “Want This, Get This”, moves to the automotive space this week, presenting a lust-worthy SUV along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. Read on for the dream car (BMW X5 M) and its reality-based substitute (Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8).
Get yourself a good air pump
When the Annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari rolls around each year in Moab, Utah, we get a tantalizing look at some of the manliest Jeeps on the planet, crafted specifically for the show. This year, Jeep, partnered with Mopar, has just released details and photos of no fewer than six rock-crushing Moab Easter Jeep Safari Concepts. Each one is lust worthy and rugged enough to make your weak poseur crossover pee on itself.
Trucks. Sure, they’re unnecessary for most of the population, borderline politically incorrect in some circles, and sort of an unnatural presence in the average, mostly-urban lifestyle. But we can’t stop loving pickups. The pickup is about as American as it gets, and until your cute little crossover can haul a boat and a couch simultaneously — in the snow — we’re quite content to keep ‘em around, thanks. This year’s new models all showcase a lot of brawn, and even toss in a bit of green to go with it
We ain't complainin'
Though completely redesigned, the new 2014 Acura MDX 7-passenger crossover, slated to go on sale in mid-2013, isn’t exactly unfamiliar. Gone is the arrowhead-sharp front clip of yore in favor of a more brand-cohesive, sweeping profile. A warmed-over version of Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 stays on board, this time with more torque and higher efficiency. For…
Roads? Who needs roads?
Sand people rejoice. The Mopar Customized Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper, originally introduced at SEMA last year, made a prominent appearance at NAIAS today. The beast marks the inception of the off-road division of Mopar and does so with beefy presence. With tires big enough to to float a barge, the Sand Trooper is the kind…
Over the dry riverbed and through the charred woods
You don’t have to believe that the end of the Mayan calendar signifies the beginning of the end, you just have to go to your local theater and see how many apocalyptic movies are out. It’s like we want it to happen. Whatever the case, make sure your bug out bag is ready, have ample…
Hey There, Sport
How do you really define overkill? Is 510 horsepower too much or just being prepared? If your $100K luxury SUV can climb a 45 degree muddy slope in a forest, but only goes on grocery runs, does it really make a sound? The 2013 Range Rover Sport Supercharged answers the question, “what if you wanted…
Bringing water to Mars
From the revamped A-Class to mysterious Affalterbach gems, Mercedes knows a thing or two about pushing the boundaries of automotive design. Most of their time has been spent developing on-road capabilities — but at this year’s LA Design Challenge, Mercedes gave us a look into the off-road future with their Ener-G-Force. For Mercedes, this isn’t…