Hello, human beings of the Internet, and welcome to Jalopnik, your leading automotive site for stuff about cars. This is Letters to Doug, your leading automotive column for letters to Doug.
The concept of Letters to Doug is simple: you send me a letter, I reply to it. It’s so simple, in fact, that even you can do it: just e-mail me at Letters2Doug@gmail.com or send me a Facebook message on my Facebook page. You can also ask me a question if you see me randomly on the street. And don’t worry: I’ll change your name in case your letter admits something embarrassing, like the fact that you really want a first-generation Audi Allroad.
This week’s letter comes to us from a reader I’ve named Claire, who’s asking about Toyota. She writes:
Hi, Doug. I mailed you mostly because I love you cause you are the best thing that have ever happened to the universe. The other reason is to ask you why do Lexus and Toyota get so much hate.
I believe for the most part, they are doing a good job. Take Camry’s design as an example; I believe it’s the most honest and humble design in its class. I think other cars in this class are trying so hard to look grown up and classy. That’s why I think as a whole Toyota’s designs are free of pretendings and honest.
As another example, look at GS-F. If you have driven it, you know its driving dynamics are on par with M5 and it’s 10K less while having less power and weighing less. Almost every reviewer have praised it yet you see under the reviews, people shit on it. Across other segments also they make some of the best cars and I think most of the shitting is undeserved.
It seems like that if you say you like their products, others would think that you don’t know about cars.
Thanks in advance,
Claire, your question is a good one, and the answer is this: no legitimate car enthusiast hates Toyota. We all respect Toyota for building automobiles that will outlast human beings; automobiles that will one day be driven by cyborgs who wield machine guns built into their arms.
These cyborgs will flash their cyborg lights and use their built-in cyborg radar systems and say to each other: “HELLO CYBORG 43297-J. I AM CYBORG 736-F09. HERE IS MY TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HYBRID.”
Where car enthusiasts start to get a little disappointed in Toyota is the fact that, for a period of very many years, it almost seemed like they were going out of their way to not build anything fun.
In the mid-2000s, for instance, the fastest car Toyota made was a tie between a two-wheel drive Tacoma with a stick shift and ground effects and a V6-powered RAV4. I am not kidding. While Honda was out there making the S2000, and Subaru was making the WRX, and Mitsubishi was making the Evolution, walking into the Toyota dealer and asking for “something fast” meant they put you in a compact crossover with a spare tire mounted on the back.
And Toyota’s history of making exciting cars has been kind of spotty. You mention the Lexus GS-F—and it’s worth noting that the brand also has recently made the IS-F, the LFA, and the Scion FR-S. But they also gave us “sports” cars like the Scion tC, the last-generation Toyota Celica, and the MR2 Spyder, which was seen as the destruction of an icon by MR2 people with tattoos.
Beyond the fact that it appears Toyota doesn’t make many exciting vehicles, it’s worth noting that they also seem to tailor a lot of their products specifically to people like, well, our parents. Nobody knows this better than me: when I was born, my dad owned a 1987 Toyota Camry, which later gave way to a 1998 Toyota Camry. Now he’s in a 2005 Lexus RX 330. So when I think “Toyota,” I think “sensible car my dad drives.” And when I think “sensible car my dad drives,” I think “I want to drive something completely the opposite.” Which is probably why I own a British vehicle.
The good news is, it seems Toyota has sensed the prevailing sentiment against their lack of “fun” vehicles, and it appears they’re actively trying to fight it. While opinions about the FJ Cruiser were mixed, it was a lot cooler than the Highlander. After giving us the lackluster Scion tC, they came back with the FR-S. And now they seem committed to developing some sort of high-performance Lexus brand, even if there are more vehicles badged “F Sport” than “F.”
And so, Claire, I think Toyota is a great brand that for a long time made excellent, well-built cars without a focus on performance or excitement. Fortunately, they’re starting to change this focus. I know this because my dad went to look at the new RX, and he came away thinking that its design was a little too daring for him. Maybe now I can consider them again.