Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dogs Ride Inside Say Ford and Humane Association

  • dogcarAmerican Humane Association experts caution that pets should never be transported in the bed of a pickup truck. According to the Association, 100,000 dogs die each year riding in truck beds. Remembering some simple, basic steps can help keep pets safe and driver distractions down.

*All animals should ride inside a pickup truck cab, NEVER in the bed of the truck, whether in a crate or tied up.

*Pets should always ride in the back seat of your truck. An animal riding in the front seat can become a driver distraction, putting the driver’s life and the animal’s in jeopardy. The F-Series trucks-F-150 SuperCrew and Super Duty Crew Cab have spacious second-row seats, even accommodating a crate. There are also pet seatbelts on the market.

*Allowing the dog to have his head hang out the window is not good for his health. Rather, crack the window some so there is air in the cabin.

*Be sure all ID tags are properly and securely attached to your dog’s collar in case of separation. Micro-chipping your dog is also an added security measure.

Ford and the American Humane Association have teamed up in a new pet safety campaign to remind pickup truck drivers that dogs should never ride in the bed of a pickup truck. Called “Dogs Ride Inside,” the campaign reminds all drivers that simple, basic actions can prevent serious injury or death while transporting a beloved family pet.

“It is estimated that 100,000 dogs die each year riding in truck beds” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association, the country’s first national humane organization. “Unfortunately, we have all seen dogs riding in the bed of a pickup truck, which is an extremely dangerous way to transport your pet.”

“As America’s truck leader, this is an issue that’s close to the heart for us,” said Doug Scott, Ford Truck Group Marketing Manager. “We’re not asking that people go to onerous lengths while driving with pets, but even the smallest steps can make a difference in keeping all passengers in our vehicles safe.”

2013 Toyota Avalon XLE Limited

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Presenting with a new look and some new features, the 2013 Toyota Avalon is an improvement over previous models; mostly so because it looks a little less like all the other sedans on the road. The 2013 Avalon seats five and is equipped with a 3.5-liter engine, accompanied by a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. A hybrid version is also available. TheV-6 offers plenty of power to move this sedan that competes with the Buick La Crosse, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus and Dodge Charger. An unlikely bunch, we’d say. The 2013 Avalon’s fuel economy is a respectable 21/31 mpg, slightly better than other affordable large sedans. The V-6 engine is much refined with exceptionally smooth gear changes, and the ride in the newly redesigned Avalon offers a comfort-tuned ride. Handling better than previous generation Avalons, the 2013 is still a large car with a ‘floaty’ feel. Reminds one somewhat of the old Buicks of days past.

2013toyavaThis writer has considered the Avalon a somewhat superfluous model, not really having that large of a following. But then, one must compete at all levels in carland and so it is with the Avalon. Statistics escape me right now, but there must be enough buyers that it is still considered a necessity in the Toyota lineup. Not a ‘performance’ vehicle by any stretch, the Avalon finds itself competing with more sporty competition; namely, the Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. As said above, an unlikely bunch. The interior of the 2013 Avalon is crafted well and luxuriously with solid construction and premium materials. Feeling more like a Lexus (no surprise that it would borrow from its first cousins), the 2013 Avalon has spacious rear seating and comfortable driver seats. 2013-Toyota-Avalon-5

Equipped with a list of the goodies expected in this category, the Avalon sports dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker sound system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB port and push-button start. Of course, it’s all power and higher-end options can be had on the top models, including upgraded stereo ,fancier trims, tri-zone automatic climate control (std. on Limited), satellite radio and a back-up camera, as well as radar-based cruise. As with all vehicles tested for, the 2013 Avalon isn’t without some annoyances: one is the size of the side mirrors. They are smaller than most. In addition, although its new shape is very appealing, the Avalon resembles those now-popular vehicles coming out of Korea. A new benchmark?

On our top-of-the-line test model the Avalon XLE Limited, the rear-view mirror was loose. Easily fixed, of course. Standard airbags number 10, ABS, VSC and TRAC are standard equipment, as are Brake Assist and Smart Stop Tech. Options on our 2013 test Avalon included the Technology Package (Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beam, Pre-collision system, $1,750); First aid kit ($29), and Carpet mats/Trunk mat, $225. The 2013 Avalon is available in three four trim levels: XLE ($30,990), XLE Premium ($33,195), XLE Touring ($35,500) and Limited ($39,650), pricing from $30,005-$38,182, all with the same engine.


MSRP: $39.650; total vehicle price $42,449; destination $799 Engine: 3.5-liter,V-6, 268 hp., 248 lb. ft. torque

Transmission: FWD, six-speed automatic ECT-1, w/paddle shifters

Wheelbase: 111 in.

Height: 57.5 in.

Length: 195.3 in.

Width: 72.2 in.

Weight: 3,461 lbs.

Tires: P225/45R 18” (standard P215/55R17) all-season

Wheels: 18” allow (standard 17×70”)

Fuel tank capacity: 17.0 gal.

EPA fuel economy: 21/31 mpg.

Warranty: 3 yr./36,000-mile basic; 2 yr./25,000-miles free maintenance; 5 yr./60,000-mile drivetrain; 2 yr/25,000-mile roadside assistance;

2014 Toyota 4Runner

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Every state has its beauty, just as every new automobile stirs those who are partial to them. Such is the case with Toyota’s 2014 Tundra and 2014 4Runner, introduced to the media in a gorgeous setting of mountains, forests and some of the greatest roads in America.

downloadpixsep2013 342Toyota hosted a group of journalists at the Blackberry Farms resort in Walland, right outside Knoxville, in the heart of the Smokey Mountains and Foothills of Tennessee. A more appropriate setting couldn’t have been chosen to put the 2014 Tundra and 4Runner through their paces. Challenges were had by all, especially this writer as she struggled to find her way back out of the maze that is Rte 129. Traveling the infamous Tail of the Dragon (complete with 318 turns) highway, which winds through the Foothills is an experience all enthusiasts must have; particularly in a pickup truck!

A fellow blogger and I headed for the Smokies early Wednesday morning in a 2014 Toyota 4Runner prototype. Designed for a different buyer, the 4Runner was launched back in 1984; a –wheel drive body-on-frame truck, 4Runner remains the last of its kind on the market. Filling a special niche, 4Runner rides less like a truck and more like a large SUV these days (which of course, it is).

While the 4Runner’s mechanical pieces remain much the same, Toyota has updated and refined the interior and exterior design; giving it a more “muscular” appearance. New for 2014 are redesigned headlights, grille and hood scoop. A roof rack is standard. Adding comfort and conveniences not to be rivaled, Toyota has managed to keep its hallmark performance capability for those who still desire a ‘real truck.’ Available in three trim levels: SR5, Trail, Limited, 4Runner offers enough to choose from. Buyers will get fabric upholstery (or optional Softex) in the SR5 and Trail versions, while if you move into the Limited edition, genuine leather is standard faire; as well as Toyota’s own standard X-REAS (X-Relative Absorber System) automatic suspension system.

downloadpixsep2013 338downloadpixsep2013 339New features also include redesigned taillights (LED) and wheels,  and upgraded radio. The redesigned 2014 4Runner made its global debut in California earlier this year.

The 4Runner comfortably seats 7 passengers with its optional third-row seating. If you forgo the third row of seats, Toyota provides a nice slide-out floor that is useful and flat. Hauling stuff is much easier with this configuration.

A more civilized off-road vehicle than let’s say the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the redesigned 4Runner has managed to stay true to its roots. A more practical hauler and daily driver, 4Runner is as comfortable as it gets in a body-on-frame vehicle. Those who have owned and driven the 4Runner over the years are a loyal bunch. Justifiably, they are very proud of their ‘truck,’ off-road and on. The multi-mode 4×4 system, with a locking center differential is not disturbed when navigating mud and rocks. But let’s face it many of us don’t drive in those conditions on a daily basis.

Our test vehicle was a 4×2 prototype 4Runner, in ‘Attitude Black Metallic,’ and sporting Toyota’s hearty 4.0-liter V6 engine. Optional equipment on our test car included automatic running boards, 20-inch standard alloy wheels, full-size spare tire, and tow hitch. Although one might think the automatic running board is a great idea, my co-driver and I found it cumbersome and potentially unsafe. Unless one exiting the vehicle is aware of the running board moving, and waits for it to be in position, we envisioned a passenger-or driver getting their foot caught up in it.

The 4Runner is equipped with the Smart Key system with push-button start, offers leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise control, audio, Bluetooth hands-free telephone controls, and Toyota’s Entune Premium JBL audio system with navigation.  AM/FM single CD with CD MP3 playback stereo is standard, with 3 months Satellite and eight speakers.

The 2014 4Runner is quiet and offers a smooth, even ride. However, we found the steering to be somewhat loose and the brakes a tad spongy. In all fairness, our test vehicle was a Prototype. The steering wheel also seemed large.   

On sale the early part of September, 4Runner holds its own in a shrinking market.



Engine: 4.6-liter, V6, DOHC, 24-valve, 270 hp., 278 ft. lbs. torque

Transmission: 4×2 drivetrain, 5-speed shiftable automatic

Wheelbase:109.8 in.

Length: 189.9 in.

Width: 75.8 in.

Height: 71/5 in.

Fuel Economy: 20.6 mpg.

Weight: some 4,400 lbs.

Tires: P25/70R17

Wheels: 17×7.5-inch


2014 Toyota Tundra TRD

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Every state has its beauty, just as every new automobile stirs those who are partial to them. Such is the case with Toyota’s 2014 Tundra and 2014 4Runner, introduced to the media in a gorgeous setting of mountains, forests and some of the greatest roads in America.

downloadpixsep2013 348A compact and full-size truck, the Tundra has arrived. Taking a few years to get off the ground, it now appeals to many a truck buyer/owner and has become a favorite, known for its reliability and dependability. On fiercely competitive ground, the 2014 Tundra does have its loyal following. In addition, the Tundra is available in several configurations, with upscale amenities.

While Tundra is not available in automatic all-wheel-drive, it does have part-time 4-wheel drive, and comes in compact and full-size versions. Pitching a two-truck strategy, Toyota commands 68 percent of the market. Introduced in 1999, Tundra became full-size in 2009. Having overcome a few glitches, the 2014 version is fifth in sales behind U.S. brands. Driving the backroads of Tennessee it became obvious we were in Dodge Ram territory. While the Toyota Tundra dominates the southwest, Tennessee is good-ole-boy country. Nevertheless, other drivers were polite and we received plenty of stares.

For the second generation, Toyota added the 5.7-liter V8 engine in 2006, and then later for its third iteration, Tundra offered three engines. Competing in the same category are the Dodge Ram 1500, Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. Available in three versions: Regular Cab (work horse), Double Cab with more features and the CrewMax model, offering 4-doors.

Built in San Antonio, Texas, Tundra sports a redesigned exterior styling and interior upgrades. Better quality materials and more features are there to woo buyers from the U.S. brand trucks available.  A new Platinum and 1794 edition have been added, the later a western-themed truck ( I suppose to compete with Ford’s King Ranch version). The 1794 is the ultimate in trucking with perforated leather upholstery, glass sunroof, premium audio (including Toyota’s Entune connectivity), navigation and sonar front-and-rear parking assist. Optional blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional.

downloadpixsep2013 358The 2014 Tundra is available in SR, SR-5 and Limited models. One can opt for the regular cab, double cab and CrewMax four-door models with two-and-four-wheel drive and short, standard and long beds. Standard equipment includes a rear backup camera, tire-pressure monitoring system, power windows/mirrors, A/C, cruise and the latest in safety equipment.

Available engines include the 4.6-liter, V8 (310 horsepower), a base 4.0-liter, V6 (270 horsepower) and the 5.7-liter V8 (381 horsepower) engine.

We tested the Tundra TRD, not off-road but rather, navigating the 318 turns on the Tail of the Dragon (129) route in Tennessee/North Carolina. Much of the old bounce one associates with pick-ups has been eliminated, although on rough roads it can be felt. Swinging wide around tight corners is suggested as the rear wheels may bang the curbs. Driving this twisty Foothills highway was a test and the Tundra passed with flying colors. Although I have to admit my passenger kept urging me to slow it up a bit. A new system on the 2014 Tundra detects and corrects trailer sway-handy in high-wind areas.

Toyota’s Rick Lofaso, Corporate Manager Light Truck manufacturing shared with the group that Toyota sold 1.4 million units in 2012. With consumers purchasing more trucks, Toyota aimed to upgrade their Tundra with premium interiors, increased capability and more safety features. One can easily drive this pick-up on a daily basis. The 2014 Tundra offers a new look and distinct personality for each grade, of which there are five.

More features have been added to the Tundra entry-level SR, including a standard back-up camera and Bluetooth capability. The SR-5 is equipped with a standard V8 engine and Satellite radio, and the Limited with 20-inch wheels, chrome mirror caps and heated front seats and GPS navigation.

downloadpixsep2013 350Tundra buyers are ‘family guys,’ says Lofaso, traditional boomers and traditional skilled workers both. Toyota will take an integrated marketing approach with the 2014 Tundra, utilizing print, TV, Internet and social media. Built exclusively here in America (MI, TX, CA, AL), the 2014 Tundra is probably as American as a Japanese vehicle can get.

According to Chief Engineer Mike Sweers, Toyota expects to sell 130,000 Tundras in 2014, up from 107,000 in 2013; 25,920-47,.320 of them in the SR versions.


MSRP: $39,480; total vehicle price $41,105

Engine: 5.7-liter V8, 381 hp.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift control

Length: 228.9 in.

Gross weight: 7,000 lbs.

Height: 75.8-76.0 in.

Wheelbase: 145.7 in.

Width: 79.5 in. (largest of any pick-up)

Towing capability: 10,000 lbs.

Tires: Michelin, P255/70R18

Wheels: 18×8.0 in.

EPA fuel economy: 13/18/15 mpg.

Warranty: 3 yr./36,000-mile basic; free maintenance: 2 yr./25,000-mile; drivetrain: 5 yr./60,000-mile; roadside assistance: 2 yr./25,000-miles.