November 02, 2015
Yes, what happens in Vegas often stays in Vegas, even if it happens at the annual SEMA Show. That's the industry-only expo for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, where automakers and aftermarket specialists alike introduce some of their wildest custom concepts. However, each year, a few of the vehicles do attract enough buzz to go into production, and that just may be the case with the five entries built by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) for the recent 2015 SEMA event. After all, not only did the Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander and Land Cruiser get their share of TRD accessories and an exclusive Silver Pearl finish for the show, but they also were part of an event-wide voting program held with an eye to bringing at least one of these vehicles to life as a production package. It will be a tough choice, though, as highlights for the eye-catching quintet included:
- Aero-style upgrades for all cars, backed by front chin spoilers, rear diffusers and rocker panels
- TRD lowering kits for improved traction and handling, as well as a more aggressive stance
- High-performance tire-and-wheel enhancements
- Sport-tuned TRD suspension components
- Individual touches like the quad-tip cat-back exhaust installed on the SEMA Avalon
Riding on aptly named 20-inch "Colossus" wheels by Ultra Motorsports, the hyped-up Highlander gains an additional 10 inches in altitude from a Bulletproof Suspension lift kit, yet what really attracts the eyeballs here is the truck's matte-black-and-yellow Tonka graphics package. Toyota also went big with the Tundrasine pickup truck/limo, which stretches an extra 7.5 feet in length as compared to a traditional Tundra. Just don't think that additional +90 inches went into a bigger bed. Instead, building on the first-class foundation of the range-topping 1794 Edition production pickup, the Tundrasine relies on its 26-foot footprint, and two extra doors, to serve as a surprisingly luxurious limousine.
Even the Toyota Sienna got in on the SEMA action. For example, earlier this year, Toyota had mounted a Sienna body onto the rugged body-on-frame hardware of a Tacoma 4X4 pickup to launch the Ultimate Utility Vehicle. Originally envisioned as the main support vehicle and mobile command center for the Toyota Ever-Better Expedition in North America, the UUV took a from its 16,500-mile trek to wow the crowds in the wilderness of Las Vegas. Certainly making an impression was a cabin stuffed with high-tech electronics, like a 2,500-watt JBL audio system, TracVision mobile satellite-television receiver and a 60-inch Sony TV, but the exterior of the vehicle didn't lack for attention either. Indeed, by leveraging a 4-inch increase in ground clearance and a long-travel suspension with 15.75 inches of articulation, this is one minivan that will get you noticed both on the road and off.
As for the Sienna R-Tuned concept, it extended the vehicle's expertise to the track, with a motorsports-oriented makeover. Now, that may seem like an unlikely goal, but Toyota scored an impressive upset when it came time to put the concept to the test. When that happened, at the Willow Springs race course near Los Angeles, Toyota reported that its souped-up Sienna lapped that circuit at a "blistering" pace, "sailing past the 6.2-liter V-8 Camaro by a full second around the 1.7-mile sports-car course."
Moreover, just to be clear, that was despite the Sienna settling for its stock V-6 engine and six-speed automatic powertrain. The secret, said Andrew Lund, chief engineer for the Sienna at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.: "We looked at the overall dynamics of the vehicle, and made adjustments to make the vehicle handle and brake better. The Sienna R-Tuned simply carries more speed through the corners."
"When we produced the Sienna SE, we started moving in the direction of more sportiness beyond what you would find in a family hauler," added Lund. "With the Sienna R-Tuned, we wanted to see if we could create a vehicle that would push the limits even farther. We definitely proved that it's possible."