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Power to the people carrier

2016 Toyota Innova 2.8 G M/T

Being easy to drive, very fuel efficient, bulletproof reliable and capable of carrying a mix of people and cargo, it’s no surprise that the Innova has practically become an indispensable member of the Filipino family. It’s come in many forms since its first launch in 2005, yet none as hotly anticipated as this all-new second generation.

When it was first launched, it made sure to include “revolution” in its tagline, as a subtle nod to the Revo AUV it replaced. It continues to salute to its predecessor with its more SUV-like form. It’s not just for looks as this new form also makes the new Innova longer, wider and taller, hence more spacious inside.

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While its body certainly draws stares, it’s the interior that will leave jaws dropped. Its interior has no qualms over crossing into premium minivan territory. Up front, it bears a beautifully sculpted dashboard, shaped like the profile of a wing. Wood inserts run the length of it.

The cluster may only have two dials but is embellished with a 3D design. In between is a digital display that can show anything from the consumption, range, warnings or even your current eco-driving score.

Ahead of it is the steering wheel featuring built-in controls for the audio, telephony, and multi-info display. There’s also wood trim at the top of the wheel, though the stitched leather portion provides better grip. On the door, the felt-lined armrests are a treat for the elbows.

Towards the center is the new soft-touch LCD screen integrated nicely into the dash. The cleaner, button-less design is a nice touch, so too is the fully automatic climate control that allows the driver to control rear aircon too.

The passenger side features two glove boxes with the top one able to double as a drink cooler. Like the Vios, cupholders are positioned by the aircon vents to keep beverages cool.

Those behind will enjoy the new seatback trays which can hold up to 10-kg. They have built-in cupholders too. And if those aren’t enough, the bench’s center armrest drops down and has two more. Up above are automatic climate controls for more precise adjustment of cabin temperature.

Finally, getting to the third row is easy with just one touch tilting and folding part of the second row bench. This new bench can now seat three people in a pinch, with each passenger secured with three-point seatbelts. The third row can also be deployed or stowed with ease thanks to the spring loaded hinge. The Innova also helps keep the interior organized with clever slots and clips for the headrests, seatbelts and buckles.

While many of the interior improvements are welcome, there are others that draw mixed reactions. For one, the bold tiger stripe pattern of the seats and their light brown shade hasn’t won over many fans. Nonetheless, the seats are very comfortable, even after being on them for several hours in heavy traffic. Other additions are the blue ceiling LED mood lights. Thankfully, their brightness can be adjusted or even turned off completely.

When the time to depart comes, the Innova and all its eight passengers can be easily hauled by the new 2.8-liter GD series engine. This is the same powerplant in the top-of-the-line 4×4 Fortuner, producing 171 PS and 360 Nm of torque. It’s paired to a five-speed manual that delivers drive to the rear wheels.

All this can be regulated with the help of the new driving modes: Eco, Normal and Power. As indicated, they adjust the engine mapping deliver the kind of performance required of each mode. With such a massive new engine, keeping it on normal mode is enough to haul a full load of eight passengers and luggage with little difficulty. Just a little prod on the throttle, in Power mode, gets the engine revving and pulling with more enthusiasm than most will expect.

Thankfully, this is all brought to a stop by the powerful brakes. They’re a tad sensitive, but also reassuring. Also, the chassis is quite forgiving, returning a comfortable yet stable ride, maneuvering and handling no differently than your average sedan.

 

With heavy rains and the even heavier traffic it brings, our short time with the Innova returned an impressive 10 km/L in heavy traffic. With an iPod plugged in, a quite cabin, and very comfortable seats, the hours stuck in grid lock passed by pretty quickly.

With the capacity to seat eight passengers, lots of bells and whistles, and a driving experience like more expensive cars, the G variant is still one of the best Innova packages. It’s much more expensive now, at P1,269,000, yet justifies this increase with far more sophistication both inside and out.