Practically Flawless

Photos by Jack G. Beasley
Toyota Celica
The aggressive-looking new Toyota Celica

Jack G. Beasley test-drives the new Toyota Celica

The well laid out instrument panel

Fully redesigned, the seventh generation Toyota Celica has hit the market. The all-new Celica uses aggressive surfaces and sharp lines to captivate onlookers on the outside, and smooth arches to create a sense of union between the driver and passengers on the inside.

There are two models of the new Celica, the SS1 and SS2. I had the chance to drive the SS1. For power, both engines in this lineup use the 1.8 liter, VVTL-i (Variable Valve Timing and Lift-intelligent) BEAMS (Breakthrough Engine with Advanced Mechanism System). The big difference is the maximum output, with the SS1 at 145/6400rpm and the SS2 at 190/7600rpm.

I was impressed with the styling of the Celica. The seats were sports-style with high backs and were very comfortable. The instrument panel was well laid out, offering the driver easy operation of all systems. However, the first thing I noticed on entering the SS1 was the tacky center console. The shape is an upside down teardrop which looks good, but the cheap plastic was out of place in this nicely styled car.

That aside, the Celica was flawless, as with most Toyotas. The SS family is styled to be a sports car, and most sports cars don't have much room in the back. This is not the case with the SS1; there is more than enough room for two. The trunk is also spacious; you could easily go on a weekend trip with as much luggage as you like.

The engine offers good gas mileage

Now, down to the real nitty-gritty: Does it all work the way it should? Steering is excellent thanks to the power-assisted rack and pinion system and the suspension. I could handle the curves of my favorite Route 19 with ease, even with four people in the car. There is plenty of power for a small engine, although I wish I could have had the chance to drive the SS2. The SS1 falls a little short when it comes to aggressive sports car driving in first gear; you just can't get the extra revs required to push the edge of the envelope. It's a very well-mannered car for city driving with an occasional outing for fun - just as long as you don't push it too much.

I liked the Celica SS1 and would have no problem driving it on a day to day basis. Compared to the Honda S-2000 or the Ford Mustang Cobra, the Celica won't match up - but it isn't designed to. This car will give you good gas mileage (14 km/liter), seat four comfortably and presents a style statement of its own. People on the street did stop and look at my red Celica. If you want a really fast, gas-eating sports car look somewhere else. If you want a luxury, high-priced sports car look somewhere else. If you want an economical, good-looking, well-made city and sports car, this just might be your ticket.

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298: Chill Thrills
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296: What a concept
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294: Practically Flawless
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293: The 33rd Tokyo Motor Show
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292: NASCAR comes to Japan
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287: Toyota's big friendly giant
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Following up on the popularity of the Z3, BMW Japan recently launched their new X5 Sports Activity Vehicle and is gearing up to unveil the all new Z8.

The state-of-the-art Z8, scheduled to be launched commercially next spring, is BMW's third "Bond" car and is to be featured in the new James Bond movie, The World is Not Enough, also out next spring. It's a "pure sports" car designed by BMW to mark the year 2000 and boasts a heart-stopping performance, with acceleration from zero to 100kmh in under five seconds and a breaking speed of 100kmh to zero in less than three seconds. In spirit, it is a resurrection of the legendary BMW 507 of the 1950s, upgraded for the 21st century. The new Z8 is on display at BMW Square in Aoyama until November 13.

The X5 is defined as a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), a new genre created to succeed SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) on the world's roads. The model is as fast and maneuverable as a saloon on the highway, while off-road it demonstrates extraordinary performance with its cutting edge 4WD system which ensures maximum traction in even the worst off-road conditions. It has a monocoque body to ensure better handling, and is powered by a thoroughly proven V8 for a top speed of over 220kmh. BMW is positioning it as the ultimate 4WD vehicle.