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.

The all-wheel drive system of the 2020 Toyota Camry was put to the test in Park City, Utah in early February by the AutomotiveMap team.

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

Toyota introduced its first all-wheel drive Camry in decades this year. They have made all-wheel drive an option for the 2020 Toyota Camry LE, SE, XLE, and XSE. Pricing has not yet been announced but will be revealed before the models go on sale later this year.

The 2020 Camry, along with the 2021 Toyota Avalon, has dynamic torque control all-wheel drive.

Mechanically this means that the car has two axles that each attach to two wheels. The axles are connected by a drive shaft.

2020 Toyota Camry Park City Utah course When wheels start slipping, the car's all-wheel drive system kicks in.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

At the intersection of the front axle and drive shaft is the transmission and a single speed transfer case. The transfer case is a mechanical device that transfers power from the transmission to the front and rear axles via the drive shaft.

At the intersection of the drive shaft and the rear axle, there is a differential. The differential is a set of gears that allows the car's wheels to revolve at different speeds.

On the drive shaft, between the differential and intersection of the drive shaft and transfer case is a coupler. The coupler doesn't sit in the middle, but rather about two-thirds of the way back toward the differential. The coupler is there to provide a mechanical backup in case one of the sets of wheels in the vehicle starts to slip. When this happens, the coupler applies additional torque to the non-slipping wheels in an effort to keep the car going in the direction the driver intended rather than the direction the skid is trying to force the car to go.

2020 Toyota Camry Park City Utah course The Camry has part-time all-wheel drive allowing drivers to take advantage of the technology as needed.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

In some vehicles, torque can be delivered to one, two, three, or all four wheels to varying degrees depending on what the road conditions require. In the Camry, the torque can only be delivered in equal amounts to both rear wheels.

Not all all-wheel drive systems operate all of the time. The ones that don't are called part-time all-wheel drive systems. This allows the driver to receive the benefits of an all-wheel drive system as well as the fuel efficiency that comes with front- or rear-wheel drive when the conditions are right.

2020 Toyota Camry Park City Utah course When traction is lost in either the front or back, Toyota's all-wheel drive system applies more torque to the wheels with traction to keep the car driving in the right direction.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

In the Camry's case, when the all-wheel drive system is not enabled, the car runs as a front-wheel drive model. This is the same as Camrys not equipped with all-wheel drive.

Toyota is celebrating the history of baseball's Negro Leagues in its new commercial.

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

When baseball players in the Negro Leagues showed up, they showed out. That's what the redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander is trying to do with its sleek new exterior and refined interior. A new commercial from the Japanese automaker called "Home Team" looks to shine light on both.

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of Negro Leagues Baseball, the segregated alternative to Major League Baseball that existed prior to integration in the late 1940s. In honor of the centennial, Toyota opted to include a player from that era in their latest commercial.

James "Jim" Robinson, former captain of the Kansas City Monarchs is featured as the family patriarch in the spot, titled "Home Team." Robinson's career started after Jackie Robinson had made it to the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1947. The young Jim Robinson played his first Negro Leagues game for the Philadelphia Stars at Yankee Stadium.

After also playing for the Indianapolis Clowns, Robinson earned an invite to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Korean War interrupted his chance to try out then, but after serving 21 months in the military, he got another chance. After his tryout, the Cardinals assigned him to a Class B minor-league team.

Instead of accepting his fate, Robinson instead left the Cardinals affiliate and took his chances with the Kansas City Monarchs. It's a replica of that Monarchs jersey that Robinson wears in the Highlander commercial.

The Toyota commercial was filmed partly at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

"We are truly delighted that Toyota has chosen to honor the unsung heroes of the Negro Leagues this way," says Bob Kendrick, President, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. "The passion, determination, and unwavering spirit from these individuals is truly an American story."

"Home Team" will begin airing on March 30, 2020.

Go behind the scenes of the commercial below.