2009 Toyota Tundra
Toyota says for 2009, its entire Tundra model line will be available with E85 ethanol flex-fuel capacity "in select regions." Far less efficient than diesel and even gasoline, burning ethanol results in lower fuel economy and higher prices as the fuel is currently more expensive than gasoline. It's not all bad news, we suppose: if those gas prices have you down, just feast your eyes on the "unique wheels and color-keyed exterior" of the brand-new TRD Sport and TRD Rock Warrior option packages.
Also tweaked for 2009 are the Tacoma and 4Runner; the former does get a new SR5 Trail Edition, the latter some new colors, audio systems, and standard STAR safety system (ABS, EBD, VSC, and traction control) among other changes.
On the flip side, Toyota is announcing a fuel-miser version of its popular Highlander. Powered by a big 2.7-liter four-cylinder, Toyota says the four beats the 3.5-liter V-6's mileage but "still keeps performance brisk." This new engine will be available in two-wheel-drive Highlanders beginning in January '09.
Also more efficient (and more powerful) is the 2009 RAV4, which benefits from a new 2.5-liter four, cosmetic upgrades, and a new sport appearance package.
Over at sister division Lexus, they are still chasing that elusive 3 Series magic. Both IS 250 and IS 350's suspension and steering have been revised for better handling and feel. Both also now feature paddle shifting for the automatic while in the "D" position, new wheels, and side mirrors incorporating turn signals. Finally, Lexus' VDIM (Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system) is now standard on the IS 250.--Colin Mathews