This is just an anecdotal reflection on my experiences. I’m not bringing facts or figures to bare, just my own experience such as it is.
I’ve owned at least two cars from each of the big three US manufacturers, at least one from each of the big three in Japan, plus a Subaru, 2 VWs, 2 Volvos, and so on. I have access to a slew of luxury, even a few super cars owned by friends and family, I go out of my way to rent cars even when I don’t need to, I drive every car I can, and I can’t escape one inexorable fact: Toyota makes cars REALLY fucking well.
It’s easy to dismiss Toyota when you are an enthusiast. THEY MAKE IT SO EASY TO DO. Their dealer network is AWFUL, a few of their cars are utterly soulless, and it’s like they go out of their way to deny enthusiasts any nods whatsoever.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t and don’t still make some fun cars. The 4Runner, the Taco Truck, Land Cruiser, the MR2, LFA, Supra, AE86, GT86, etc. are all fine objects of enthusiasm. Features like the backside windows of many Toyota trucks and SUVs rolling all the way down, are simply delightful.
Their performance parts division isn’t a total joke either. I like my new TRD intake, for sure, and was actually kind of impressed by the engineering that went into the kit. The fun bits are there if you want them, though they could offer them up at time of purchase a bit more effectively, if you ask me.
In almost ever segment they participate in they are solidly middle of the pack and occasionally pack leaders.
I think it’s finally sunken into me as to why. They make cars extremely well. The fit and finish, like how the windows roll up and down, the feeling of closing a door, the interiors’ longevity, make for a lovable vehicle.
Look, love is weird. Most people don’t actually have a fulfilling relationship with the hottest person they know, and even if they did, it’d be like winning the lotto if they were also the sort of dependable, kind, honest person you want to spend every day of your life with. The sort of person you trust your kids with, the sort of person that never gives up.
Toyotas, likewise, are lovable. Not because they produce all of the horsepowers, not because they are built for a track day (BRO), or because of their looks. They’re there for you when you need them.
I know there’s a good portion of people reading this with a vein popping out of their neck and a twitching eye. I know all you can think about is manual transmissions, apexes and frail BMW’s. Try to relax, put on some Kenny G and run yourself a bath. Because I’m about to say the Corolla has always been excellent car for its price.
The person who dismisses Toyota, the folks who refrain “grounded to the ground” every time Toyota is mentioned, as if a piece of shit ad an ad agency made for a foreign division of a company says anything about that company is missing to point of what Toyota is really about.
The journos are worse. They are smoking on the pipe of initial quality, and drinking the intoxicating draught of driving a car flat out on a closed circuit. In these contexts, it’s hard to look at the Toyota favorably, because it’s not playing to unreal circumstances. They don’t make their cars for that .01% of the time that you hoon it. They make cars for the other 99.99% of the time. They make the right tool for the job, a job that a lot is riding on. Your life, the lives of your passengers and fellow motorists, being on time to your job, or daughter’s dance recital relies on this tool. Driving a car can’t just be about fashion and fun, it’s serious fucking business.
How Toyota Got Me This Time
When it came time for me to shop trucks recently I dismissed the Tundra out of hand. Why would I even consider the 4th best truck? Every truck on the market is newer besides the Titan. Then I an F150, Sierra, and Ram for overnight test drives. I found myself unimpressed with what trucks had become. The F150 felt like a massive crossover, the Sierra felt joyless, and the Ram was like it was designed by drunk people, and have fun fixing those air suspensions a few years down the road...
My wife, equally unimpressed, urged me to check out the Tundra. Academically, I was appalled at the proposition. Such a crude, old vehicle, there’s no way I’m going to like it more than the 3 trucks that were outselling it. Even today I concede, it isn’t the best truck, it gets terrible gas mileage, has middling towing and hauling capacities, and weighs in at the better part of 3 tons.
But driving it was different. Feeling that old fashioned hydraulic steering, seeing how smoothly the MASSIVE rear window rolls down, and just how good everything felt, I was immediately sold. It’s also considerably less hokey than it’s pseudo-cowboy competitors on the inside and sports a back seat that has to be seen to be believed. It’s not the most refined car in the bunch anyway you cut it, but it feels the most like a truck should. Its throttle response is set to brutal, and suspension is tuned to “yeehaw!”
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Toyota does so well at what they do because of the intangibles, because of the soul the put into their cars. It may be the soul of an accountant named Melvin, but Melvin is a pretty solid dude.