Chicago Auto Show 2020

Toyota gets trail-ready with new Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner models

Toyota is making a limited number of new Trail edition models.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Building on the success of its off-road ready TRD Pro line of trucks and SUVs, Toyota now will give its trucks and the 4Runner a lighter Trial Special Edition treatment. The automaker introduced the Tacoma Trail, the Tundra Trail and the 4Runner Trail at the Chicago Auto Show Thursday.

All include upgrades that make them more attractive to owners who participate in outdoor activities like camping, fishing, and hiking. Toyota is packing the vehicles with extra storage and dirt warrior styling features.

The three trail editions start with Toyota's SR5 grade models. Buyers have a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. They get black exterior badging and black seating with tan stitching. To help deal with mud and dirt, the Trail models havestandard all-weather floor liners.

Here's how the Trail Editions break down:

2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Built on the SR5 Double Cab, the 2021 Tacoma Trail has dark gray 18-inch TRD Off-Road wheels with Kevlar All-Terrain tires. It has a custom grille with bolder horizontal venting compared to the mesh of a regular Tacoma. Toyota equipped the bed with a 115-volt power outlet for tools and equipment. The lockable bed storage includes insulation on the driver side so that it can double as a cooler for fishing trips, camping or tailgating. The Tacoma is already the top selling mid-size pickup truck in the U.S.

2021 Toyota Tundra Trail

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The 2021 Tundra Trail is built on the SR5 Crew Max with Toyota's SR5 Upgrade Package. That gives the full-size truck a larger fuel tank, front bucket seats with driver's power lumbar support, front center console, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, three front cupholders, and an anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer.

The Trail package gives it the chrome grille from the top-of-line Tundra 1794 Edition. It also has special-edition wheels. Like the Tacoma Trail, the Tundra version has lockable bed storage that can be uses as a cooler.

2021 Toyota 4Runner Trail

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Toyota is packing the 4Runner Trail with equipment to make it an ideal camping vehicle. It gets dark gray TRD Off-Road wheels to navigate dirt roads. To add extra storage, the 4Runner gets a Yakima LoadWarrior rooftop cargo basket. The SUV also comes with a custom, lockable 40-quart cooler and sliding cargo tray.

The cooler has a Freezer-grade gasket to provide an air-tight seal and keep ice frozen for up to seven days. Toyota added tie-down straps and special brackets to safely secure the cooler while driving over bumpy terrain. It has two heavy-duty latches with integrated bottle openers. There's a built-in drain plug with lanyard. And the cooler has a flat top so it can be hauled out of the SUV and used as a table.

Toyota will sell the models with color choices that include Army Green, Cement, Midnight Black, and Super White. It's keeping the volume low, planning to offer just 7,000 Tacomas, 5,000 Tundras and 4,000 4Runners as Trail Editions. The automaker recently confirmed that Tacoma production is moving from Texas to Mexico.

All of three vehicles go on sale this summer. Toyota hasn't said what the upcharge will be to get a Trail Edition model. It has a similar "Adventure" treatment for the compact RAV4 crossover.

Based on that pricing and where the TRD versions of the vehicles fall, expect the Tacoma Trail Edition to be in the mid-$30,000 range and both the Tundra Tail Edition and the 4Runner Trail Edition to slot in around $40,000.

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The 1 millionth vehicle off the line was a red Passat.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant is celebrating the 1 millionth vehicle to roll off its assembly line - Aurora Red Metallic 2020 Volkswagen Passat R-Line. The milestone was reached later than initially anticipated due to production shutdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's gratifying to me that our team is back to work and able to mark yet another key milestone since the opening of VW's Chattanooga plant," said Tom du Plessis, president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga. "Part of us getting back to normal is taking time to recognize these important achievements which are only possible because of the hard work and commitment of our exceptional team here in Chattanooga."

2020 Volkswagen Passat Volkswagen's plant employs approximately 3,800 people.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Before the Chattanooga plant opened, Volkswagen hadn't made a vehicle in the U.S. in 22 years following the closing of the Westmoreland facility in Pennsylvania.

The Passat got its start as a vehicle designed specifically for the North American market.

Ground was broken on the Tennessee plant in 2009 and in 2011 it began producing Passats. It currently employees approximately 3,800 people. In the last nine years, the plant has produced more than 700,000 Passats and 100,000 Atlas SUVs. The new 2020 Atlas Cross Sport and the refreshed 2021 Atlas recently began production.

The Chattanooga facility doesn't just produce vehicles for domestic sale. Chattanooga-assembled vehicles have been exported to Canada, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the Middle East.

Volkswagen has announced that the plant will be the company's North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles including the ID.4, representing an approximately $800 million investment, starting in 2022. The expansion to enable U.S. production of long-range EVs began in November 2019.

Volksagen Chattanooga line The Chattanooga plant produces a number of vehicles.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen isn't just committed to the cars it produces in Chattanooga. The company has invested in its community too. Late last year, Volkswagen donated $1.25 million to The Conservation Fund to purchase land near the plant so it could be donated to the U.S. Forest Service.

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Maserati is promising an electrified future for its brand.

Photo courtesy of Maserati

In his prom "Divine Comedy," Italian author Dante Alighieri wrote, "From a little spark may burst a flame." It is fitting that Italian automaker Maserati is using a spark to tease its future.

That future includes a completely redesigned Maserati Ghibli Hybrid. Maserati has also been showing a pre-production version of the car under wraps on a tour though Italy calling it the MC20. It was designed and engineered at the Maserati Innovation Lab in Modena, Italy.

Maserati electrification 2020 As part of its announcement, Maserati shared images of its headquarters being hit by simulated lightning.Photo courtesy of Maserati

That bit about being straight from Italy is important to the brand. Despite being owned by a company headquartered in the Netherlands (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) that is about to merge with a company headquartered in France (PSA Group), the Maserati team has been given the freedom to design using Italian sports car DNA.

That Italian sports car DNA will be merging with a hybrid powertrain in a move all about sparking Maserati sales. For its part, the company is calling it, "the first in a line of new vehicles at the vanguard of a new era for Maserati." The's a next chapter, if you will.

Throughout 2020, Maserati is expected to strengthen its position in the luxury electric vehicles market as it works to allocate more of its production space to electrified cars.

The Ghibli Hybrid goes first, later this year. The Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabriolet will begin production in 2021 as the automaker's first all-electric cars. The next-gen GranTurismo and GranCabrio will be built at the Mirafiori production hub.

Maserati's Modena facility is in the process of a remodel, which will allow it to be modified enough to begin producing what the company is calling a "super sports car" in 2020.The Ghibli Hybrid will have the first hybrid engine in the history of the marque.

A forthcoming Maserati utility vehicle is set to be built at Cassino in 2021. The automaker is already teasing the model saying that it is, "intended to play a leading role for the brand, thanks to its innovative technologies." Technological innovation is not something Maserati has been known for lately so this could be a welcome change.

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