Sunday, February 28, 2016
First Drive: 2016 Toyota Innova 2.8 G
Toyota is serious about their Innovative Multipurpose Vehicle or IMV that a team of its senior engineers circled the globe and listened to customers, including those from the Philippines, to find out what their vehicles go through. Armed with this knowledge, the result is the much-improved second-generation IMV capping off with the most-awaited iteration of them all: the all-new 2016 Innova.
Already the country’s best-selling MPV, the Innova didn’t need a drastic change to win sales, but Toyota isn’t resting on their laurels. Understanding that it is set to expand to other markets, they need to toughen up this no-nonsense, practical family car. And toughen it they did.
Hiroshi Nakajima, Chief Engineer of the IMV sums it up as having to design a second-generation Innova that’s every bit an MPV, but with the added authority of an SUV. In short, he’s going for something he calls: multi-performance. Buyers aren’t just keen on having a car that does one thing well. They want something that’s versatile—something he sums up in three aspects: an exterior that leaves a lasting impression, an interior that’s flexible, and performance that’s stress-free.
The first aspect is achieved through the Innova’s new design form. Though it doesn’t seem to share much with other Toyotas in terms of design language, it does have a stronger presence thanks to added angularity. The chiseled form starts from the wide grille that visually connects to the slender headlamps. At the side, the Innova gains a more prominent character line that projects a livelier vibe along with 205/65R16 tires at each corner. The window treatment at the back is somewhat odd, but it’s nonetheless unique. The rear end gives a strong finish with the fang-like tail lamps.
As changed as it is outside, it’s on the inside where it sees the biggest improvement in both design and quality. Toyota has certainly done their homework and it shows. The asymmetrical dashboard, a theme seen on the RAV4 and Corolla Altis, gives a visually odd look, but contributes to a driver-friendly experience. The controls are slightly canted towards the driver and together with the large and clearly marked buttons, make for easy operation. Compared to the previous model, the most comfortable seating position now is lower, giving a car-like feel. The seats themselves are also more supportive and the steering actually adjusts for both tilt and reach. The expansive dashboard top and low set instrument cluster does take some getting used to, but once adjusted to, visibility is quite good throughout.
With a body that’s stretched in all dimensions, the 2016 Innova feels bigger inside. In terms of numbers alone, it gains more headroom for the first (+5mm) and third row occupants (+10mm) while increasing the seating distance between occupants by as much as 19mm. The second row seats are noticeably spacious while retaining its cargo flexibility by having a 60/40 split fold, slide, and tumble mechanism. The third row retains its 50/50 split side folding layout, but thanks to a spring loaded mechanism and anchors at the back, as opposed to the door handles, makes for easier storage.
The family man is already rejoicing at this point, but it only gets better from there. Another substantially improved area is the driving feel. Like before, it’s offered with both gasoline and diesel engines, though the diesel is the one to get. The 2.8-liter Euro-4 compliant diesel engine is equipped with variable geometry turbo enough for a 171 horsepower output as well as 360 Nm of torque from as low as 1,200 rpm. Mated to a six-speed automatic (no paddle shifters), it makes for brisk acceleration. At idle, it’s quiet and refined, and will easily cruise to highway speeds with little difficulty. There’s almost no ruckus from the engine bay except at full throttle application. Surprisingly, occupants will easily converse with each other with controlled road, tire, and wind noise.
Still equipped with a double wishbone front and 4-link coil spring rear suspension, it manages to absorb bumps well thanks to its highly rigid frame. With the frame’s side rails as thick as those in the Land Cruise Prado, it makes for added durability that quells chassis flex, especially on rough roads and/or full loads. What’s more, the Innova has something called Body Control with Torque Demand. This fully transparent system uses sensors to quell unwanted pitching potion by controlling engine torque. Whenever the center of gravity shifts front or back, say going over large bumps, it smoothens power delivery to lessen the jolting position. The polished ride is capped off with a nicely safe and stable handling. Although the steering is still a bit lethargic because of the hefty steering and the brakes are still too grabby.
As a company, Toyota has set a challenge to create ever better cars and with the all-new Innova, they have delivered on that promise. Toyota didn’t need to improve it by leaps and bounds to maintain market leadership, but with a name derived from the word, “Innovate”, the all-new Innova has certainly lived up to its name. This is one vehicle that’s managed to live up to all the hype and then some.