Toyota’s TRD Pro Challenge

Kudos to the marketing and PR folks at Toyota USA for creating this cool ad series for their TRD models. The most recent episode sees Canadian veteran off-road racer Andy Bell take his two famous motorcycling friends Jamie Bestwick and Roland Sands across Vietnam behind the wheels of three beautiful Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Tundra and Toyota 4Runner models. Having traveled to Vietnam myself, I can attest that it truly is one of the most beautiful and rugged countries in the world. Vietnam’s back-country really is the perfect test ground for Toyota’s incredible off-road TRD models.

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Steam Whistle Brewery’s Vintage Fleet

For anyone who lives in Ontario you are likely familiar with Toronto based Steam Whistle Brewery.  Founded back in 2000 by three former employees of the Upper Canada Brewing Company, Steam Whistle is famous for its premium pilsner lager packaged in distinctive green glass bottles with a non-twist cap.

Along with making great beer, Steam Whistle maintains a fleet of classic vehicles for promotions and delivery of their products. Over the years, they have continued to add to the fleet and each new model has its own unique story. Most recently, they added a 1970 International Scout to the group.  Check out the entire fleet.

Steam Whistle Brewery

Steam Whistle Brewery

 

 

Toyota Reimagines Marty McFly’s Dream Truck with 2016 Tacoma

Growing up as a kid in the 1980s the Back to the Future film franchise is part of your DNA. So it should be no surprise that we were interested in seeing what Toyota would do to capitalize on the 30th anniversary of the blockbuster film. Well, good on them for letting our imaginations go wild and for a brief moment let us dream of going to a dealer to order a 2016 Toyota Tacoma with the “1985” Marty McFly 4×4 look.

"Marty McFly" Toyota Tacoma

“Marty McFly” Toyota Tacoma

Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely this beauty will ever see production, as it will likely end up in some auto museum along with all those other concepts that never come to life. Nevertheless, how cool would it be if they made a “Back to the Future” anniversary model with the 2016 Tacoma?  I would totally park it beside my “Fall Guy” GMC 2500 series…..

“Marty McFly” Toyota Tacoma

“Marty McFly” Toyota Tacoma

“Marty McFly” Toyota Tacoma

“Marty McFly” Toyota Tacoma

Photos courtesy of Toyota.

Toyota Canada’s Tacoma Tour 2016

We recently had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the 2016 Toyota Tacoma at Toyota Canada’s cross-country tour titled #TacomaTour2016. Toyota Canada created the national tour as a way to promote its all new, long-awaited Tacoma truck which is arriving in showrooms this Fall. We recently caught up with the tour at the Vaughn Mills shopping area just north of Toronto.

Toyota Tacoma event

#TacomaTour2016

During the event, we had the opportunity to discuss trucks with esteemed truck editor Howard Elmer and he had nothing but good things to say about the new Tacoma. He described how the new Tacoma builds on its rich heritage while taking us through the “ins and the outs” of the new truck. Along the way we also swapped our personal truck stories which was very cool for me as an owner of a 2006 Tacoma.

You literally could not miss the new Tacoma as it was painted in Toyota’s new “inferno” orange colour making it stand out dramatically from the other vehicles at the event. Toyota also had a range of other vehicles at the event. We ended up briefly test driving the new 4Runner model as well which was very impressive on first impression.

2016 Toyota Tacoma

2016 Toyota Tacoma

With the Tacoma only seeing minor updates since its last major facelift back in 2006, it was time to update this iconic mid-sized truck. Toyota has delivered on their promise to reinvigorate the Tacoma model with its new design as it boosts angular bold lines with a contoured rugged exterior while also providing an ultra modern, comfortable interior. The demo on hand was the double cab TRD sport model which is near the top end trim level. Unfortunately, it was the only model in Canada so we were not allowed to test it on the road…for obvious reasons!

The Tacoma’s exterior has sharper more modern lines with added stamping and a new bold front face. The new interior is sharp and a huge upgrade from the current design. With the addition of all the modern bells and whistles… like wireless charging, bluetooth, sunroof, and a GoPro camera mount, this TRD sport version really does dress up nicely.

The seats seem stiffer and a little higher off the floor which should please some people who have complained about the “low ride” style of the old seats. Not only does the new stamped tailgate look rugged it now comes with a much beefier tailgate.

New stamped tailgate

New stamped “beefy” tailgate

The old tailgate was much thinner and very light while the new stronger tailgate has been added to improve its usability for cottage toys such as four-wheelers and heavily stocked coolers. Although beefier overall, the new tailgate is still light to use thanks to a very innovative lift assist system. In addition, the new tailgate has a much-needed lock which integrates seamlessly with the factory tri-fold tonneau cover which will surely keep your tools and gear safe in the country as well as the city. The sport model also comes with a slick factory tow hitch.

Toyota Tacoma Tailgate

Toyota Tacoma Tailgate

This limited version of the Tacoma also has a bed lamp above the box over the cab access window. This is a great feature to illuminate your truck bed when you need the light most when out camping in the wilderness.

2016 Toyota Tacoma

New bed lamp

As for under the hood: Gone is the old four litre V6, replaced by either a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine or the brand new 3.5-liter Atkinson V6. The V6 features optimized fuel injection and an Atkinson power cycle (similar to a hybrid) for improved efficiency. This new engine should be one of the winners in today’s V6 fuel economy. A six-speed automatic transmission is available with both engines, while a six-speed manual will be available for the V6 only. Toyota has not announced any power specifications or fuel economy estimates yet.  However, if we get 19-20 mpg with our 2006 Tacoma with 225,000 KMs…we’re sure this new model will leave our truck in the dust fuel efficiency wise.

Tacoma TRD models will also offer a multi-terrain system that allows the driver to adjust a rotary dial that optimizes various systems for surfaces including mud, sand and rocks. A driver-selectable “crawl mode” also takes care of the throttle and brakes during low-speed maneuvers. A limited-slip differential and locking rear differential will also be available for the 4×4 off-road versions for increased capability on the trail.  A rear differential lock is nothing short of a life saver when caught in the thick mud or snow.

No official Canadian pricing has been announced, but expect the 2016 Toyota Tacoma to cost roughly the same as the current model when it goes on sale this fall.  We are really looking forward to the Tacoma to hit showrooms as it is a much needed addition to the already hot mid-size truck segment which includes the new GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado. The redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma should remain a top-pick for buyers looking for a fuel-efficient truck with interior refinements, updated technology while still having the off-road prowess the Tacoma has always been known for.

The Ultimate Redneck Ford Bronco

The team over at Motor Trend’s Dirt Every Day, builds the coolest 4×4 trucks ever driven in the bush.  On a recent episode they have outdone themselves once again with an insane 1979 Ford Bronco which has been modified to house a Dillon Aero’s M134D Minigun in the back. Seriously, what is more bad ass than a “Redneck Bronco” with a gatling gun that can shoot 3-4,000 rounds per minute. Be sure to skip to 17:28 to check out the minigun in action.

 

2015 Dodge Ram 1500 diesel delivers outstanding fuel efficiency

Having reviewed the 2014 version of the Dodge Ram 1500 we were very excited to get behind the wheel of this 2015 version of Ram’s award-winning truck.  And, this time around we were going to see if all the media hype for the 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel is warranted.  Ironically, over the last few months we have seen an incredible drop in fuel prices so as of our test week in December gas prices in Canada were at their lowest level in four to five years and diesel fuel was actually priced at a premium in comparison.

Upon getting the keys to the new tester I was pleasantly surprised to see how good the truck looked in its “Western Brown” exterior colour.

Dodge Ram 1500 Ecodiesel

Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Anyone familiar with the luxury standard of today’s full-sized crew cab trucks will not be surprised by the level of detail in the Ram’s cabin – it is comparable to that of a luxury car with its rich leather bucket seats and high-end interior materials.   Some of our favourites include the back-up camera (crucial for parking in tight underground garages) and the nine speaker Alpine stereo system with SiriusXM Satelite radio. Other key features especially useful in the Canadian winter include heated second row seats, dual zone climate control and a heated steering wheel.  However, one feature we did not have, but was in the 2014 tester, was the air suspension system which provides drivers with the ability to raise the frame of the truck enabling more travel for off-road use. This feature also lowers the truck for better fuel efficiency and makes it easier to get in and out. For our purposes in the city this is not a feature we would leverage on a regular basis, but it is cool nonetheless.

Interior

Our tester came equipped with Chrysler’s award winning UConnect multimedia and connectivity package. It’s the most user-friendly setup in any pickup truck we have tested to date, combining an 8.4-inch center touchscreen with a configurable gauge display. UConnect’s touchscreen and steering-wheel controls gives the driver instant access to all the communication and interior features available in the cabin.

Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

UConnect console

As Dodge’s third highest trim level, the Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 model comes in at a starting price of $40,595 CDN MSRP.  However, our tester model came with a base price of $53,695 but was equipped with a range of optional features pushing the actual “total price as tested” to $64,535. The biggest ticket item within all the options is the $4,600 for the EcoDiesel V6.  That is a significant chunk of cash but this EcoDiesel engine is game changing and was named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for 2014.

back truck

During our week-long test where we used the truck predominantly as a city errand chaser, with one trip to cottage country, the truck got an average of 10.4L per 100 KM which works out to 23 MPG.  This is truly remarkable fuel efficiency for an almost 6,000 lb (2,722 kg) full size truck especially considering the majority of miles were in the city.  In fact, the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 is the most efficient engine available today in its class.  See official press release.

Dodge Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

3.0L V6 EcoDiesel

The 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel is a very innovative engine built from a block of compacted graphite iron with aluminum twin-cam heads that put out (240 horsepower and 420 pounds of torque) giving the engine loads of torque for towing (9,200-pound towing capacity).  Realistically, it does not have the same off-the-line speed as the HEMI V8 but who needs that? Since it provides a decent 0 to 60 time of about eight seconds (approx 1 second slower than the Hemi) which is very admirable for a full size pick-up that literally sips diesel compared to its gas-fired brethren.

The only feature our Ram was missing that would be useful is running boards since getting into the truck is a bit tough without them especially for shorter folks.  The running boards also provide some added mud and snow coverage for the driver and passengers upon entry and exit.

Since the Dodge Ram 1500 with its EcoDiesel V6 is the only diesel half-ton pickup currently available in North America there are no direct competitors. However, the key gasoline competitors to the Ram 1500 are the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and the Toyota Tundra.

I know Christmas has come and gone but if you are still in the need of a full size truck with superb fuel efficiency make sure you check out a Ram dealer near you!

 

Awesome funny Holden videos from Aussies living in the US

Going with last week’s Holden Ute theme we came across the following videos which are just too funny not to share.  Ironically, a female colleague who is British shared her Aussie friend’s videos with me.

Got to love the INXS soundtrack in this as some stereotypes really are just too funny not to embrace…..And to be filmed around the sacred ground of Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a nice touch.

 

Australia El Camino meets US McDonald’s drive-thru…….

Chris Harris hoons with the fastest Australian “El Camino” ever built

How To Turn A 1990 Dodge Airport Tug Into A Trail Slayer

The folks over at 4-Wheel & Off-Road turned a well-used airplane tug truck into a killer off-road machine while keeping it street legal. This project was done over nine Herculean days before the so-called Ultimate Adventure 2014, and the team over at Drive Dirt Everyday has kindly documented the whole build process on video.

The vehicle started life as a 1990 Dodge tug truck that hauled around airplanes for a living. The team kept the Cummins six-cylinder diesel, but tossed out almost everything else replacing the stock parts for either custom one-off fabricated parts or custom heavy-duty parts. The build process certainly looks like a ton of work, but the end result created one fantastic crawler. Check out the video above.