Going through a car’s brochure or online page is never easy, particularly when it includes such technical terms like the acronyms for the safety features or talk about new global platforms and the like.
Toyota understands this anxiety and to better explain and demonstrate what these new features are and how they work, they invited us to a test drive session at Clark International Speedway.
The event was conducted by Toyota Motor Philippines, together with Toyota Motor Asia Pacific. The aim was to better acquaint us with the all-new Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid and its many new features.
New Global Architecture
First of all, Toyota took the time to explain the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which is the platform that the all-new Corolla Altis (both hybrid and petrol version) is built on.
Much like the way our favorite Toyota vehicles, the Innova, Fortuner, and Hilux are built on a shared IMV platform, so too is the Corolla Altis. As a review, the Innova, Fortuner, and Hilux share the same essential skeleton, with some aspects (like the wheelbase, suspension, engine and body) changed to suit the needs of the vehicle. The Corolla Altis is now built the same way. Underneath it is the same skeleton or platform found in the current-generation Prius, Camry, and RAV4. Sharing platforms allows Toyota to spread the research and development put into one car into more models. Because they share the same platform, they will exhibit similar benefits that can be slightly tweaked depending on the model.
In the case of the Corolla Altis, it benefits from smoother acceleration off the line and more comfort on the road. Visibility has been greatly improved as well with a lower dashboard, thinner A-pillars, and better positioned side mirrors.
To demonstrate the improvement, we were encouraged to drive a current-generation Prius and a previous-generation Corolla Altis over the same short course. Many would assume that the Prius, being a heavy hybrid, would be at a disadvantage. Yet thanks to the TNGA platform, it easily outperformed the older Altis. The most obvious difference was the lack of body roll in the Prius around corners, as well as less steering input needed.
Toyota Safety Sense
Arguable the more interest part of the event was the demonstration of the Safety Sense features. This new suite of active and passive safety features is currently available only on the Corolla Altis Hybrid and the Super Grandia Elite. The system works by using a camera mounted on the windshield together with a radar hidden behind the emblem or grille. Though late to the safety tech party, Toyota has definitely done its homework and developed one of the most advanced systems available today.
Lane Departure Alert
This system works by scanning the road ahead for lane markings. It still works fine if they are faded or absent completely. This is because, apart from detecting solid and broken lines on the road, the system can also detect the contrast difference between the road and grass/gravel.
Lane Tracing Assist
Aside from warning the driver if the car is drifting out of its lane, the system can also mildly adjust the vehicle’s direction with small steering inputs. It’s activated similarly to how a typical vehicles’ cruise control systems by pressing a button on the steering wheel. Unlike other cruise control systems, Lane Tracing Assist can be activated from a dead stop, automatically setting the minimum speed to 30 km/h.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
Aside from keeping the vehicle in the lane, this feature works in tandem to scan for vehicles in front. Even if there are no lines or markings on the road, the system will follow the car ahead of it. At slow speeds, the system also turns the wheel automatically should the car in front makes a slight turn. Of course, it can’t make sharper turns yet and is only recommended for the highway. Even if the vehicle in front comes to a complete stop, the system continues running, without needing to be reset. It also will automatically move the vehicle forward for the driver provided it was only stopped for a few seconds.
Of course, the system is not intended to drive the car by itself. If the driver takes his hands off the wheel, it will stop.
Designed to mitigate accidents is the pre-collision system. This feature scans the road ahead using a millimeter wave radar and constantly measures the distance to the car in front. If it notices a rapid change in this distance (such as a car slowing down or stopping), it uses an audible and visual display alert to warn the driver of an impending collision. If the driver ignores both warnings and still does not apply the brake, the system will automatically apply the brakes for them. It works in tandem with brake assist to apply the proper braking force needed in an emergency to stop the car.
These are just a few of the features included in Toyota’s Safety Sense suite included in select Toyota models that hope to make driving safer. This is just the beginning as Toyota hopes to include these features into more vehicle models in the future.
Text and photos by Iñigo S. Roces