Sometimes, you just can't decide whether to go all the way or play it safe when investing in all-new car. More often than not, mid-range offerings offer plenty of bang for buck but lack certain amenities that can be a deal breaker for some. Meanwhile, most top-of-the-range models come equipped with almost every conceivable feature but are not exactly budget-friendly.
So what does an automaker do? Build a special edition model that combines the best of both. Enter the 2018 Toyota Innova Touring Sport. Essentially an upgraded 2.8 E model, the limited edition Touring Sport has the familiar trimmings of a mid-range model but comes with several extras that help improve the value proposition. But has it got what it takes to sway buyers from purchasing standard offferings?
Let's start with the most obvious change on the Touring Sport: the exterior. Call it unconventional but Toyota decided to spice things up for the Innova with the addition of a bodykit along with several other bits and bobs. Smoked headlights and a blacked-out front grill with chrome accents give the Touring Sport a more sporting look. It also has a new front chin spoiler which does not look too bad on the Innova. One may also notice the L-shaped trim accents near the grill which complements the more aggressive front fascia.
The 16-inch alloy wheels, on the other hand, have been given a matte black finish which works with the MPV's sportier vibe. Meanwhile, black wheel lip moldings provide a rugged contrast against the shiny additions on the Touring Sport. Finally, there's the chrome trim on the rear reflectors, as well as the blacked-out middle portion of the tailgate that provides a stark contrast against the bodywork.
All in all, I liked how Toyota made the Innova look far more cunning than your average MPV / people carrier. Plus, that shade of Red Mica Metallic works well against the myriad of black and chrome finish on the Touring Sport.
Pop the doors and you are greeted by a stylish and ergonomic dashboard. Despite being nearly two years old, I am still impressed Toyota was able to make such a striking interior work on what is essentially a people carrier. Granted, the Touring Sport's interior is not as lavish when compared to the top-of-the-range models, but it's safe to say that the new design is a far cry from the first-generation's rather drab and utilitarian look. Unlike the brown fabric that comes standard on the range-topping V and G models, the Touring Sport instead gets black fabric on the seats and door handle trim. While it's not as upscale as the brown upholstery, the black fabric does match with the model's snazzy look.
It does not get automatic climate control and instead comes with manual air-conditioning. Not that it matters because both systems work well in delivering cool air into the cabin. Also gone are the equally cool LED ambient lighting, Optitron gauges and the sleek TFT multi-info display (this now only comes with a dot matrix display) . While it looks like Toyota removed some of the nicer bits from the higher-grade models, the Touring Sport does come with a nice upgrade, a touchscreen system.
Unlike the E and J variants which only come with a somewhat "traditional" 2-DIN sound system, Toyota decided to give the Touring Sport an upgrade via a touchscreen infotainment system borrowed from high-end models. It comes with AM/FM radio, CD playback, USB and Aux connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free telephony and can even be specified with navigation (dealer option). It may be a simple upgrade, but personally it's a nice touch given that the original model from which it is based on came with no such feature. Did I mention the Touring Sport also comes with parking sensors? Another nice addition if you ask me.
Getting into a comfortable driving position was easy on the Innova thanks to a telescopic steering rack and three-way adjustable seat. Despite not having adjustable lumbar support, I felt relaxed driving the Innova even as the kilometers piled on. However, Toyota could have used a firmer seat cushion for better support as I found myself sinking on the seat during long drives.
While both the exterior and interior received several subtle upgrades, under the hood remains the 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel. Codenamed the 1GD-FTV, it generates 171 PS at 3400 rpm along with 360 Nm of torque available between 1200 - 3400 rpm. Power is then sent to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual select. Compared to the old 2.5-liter 2KD-FTV which only produced 101 PS and 260 Nm of torque, the new 2.8-liter is a huge upgrade in terms of pulling power.
With a twist of the key, the turbo-diesel engine rumbles into life. At startup, the four-cylinder sounds and feels a little rough especially on a cold start. But once it reaches working temperature, the engine becomes a bit more refined. With plenty of torque available at low revs, it pulls the Innova along nicely with no difficulty. Around town or along city roads, a light prod of the throttle is all that is needed to get the MPV moving.
Put your foot to the floor and the Innova is quick to deliver all available power to the wheels. If you’re not careful, you can actually light up the rear tires quite easily. Also surprising is the engine’s eagerness to rev. Matched with a quick-shifting automatic transmission, the Innova can hit highway speeds pretty quick so make sure to always check your speed.
I was also pleased to know that Toyota seemed to have found a way around the transmission's tendency to hunt for gears when carrying a full load. This was quite apparent when I test drove the range-topping V a few years ago. There is still some delay when manually shifting through the gears but other than that, the automatic transmission was smooth in operation and always knew what gear to select.
Fuel consumption on the Innova was pretty good too. In light city driving, the Innova can average 9.0 – 10.0 km/l. Hit the highway and the MPV is capable of returning up to 15.0 km/l. In the event that you find yourself in heavy traffic, expect the Innova to sip fuel at around 7.0 - 7.5 km/l. In case you want to save more on fuel, the Innova comes with an 'Eco' mode as standard. On the flipside, it also has 'Power' mode which basically sharpens acceleration and picks up the revs quicker.
In true Innova fashion, the MPV delivered a lofty ride. Rutted streets, road bumps and uneven terrain posed no challenge for the Innova thanks to its soft suspension. In fact, this all-new model rides softer than the previous generation. While that can be seen as an improvement, the softer suspension does mean people who get car-sick easily may not like its floaty ride. Personally, I liked the Innova’s soft damping as it simply wafted along highways and byways.
In terms of cabin space, there was plenty of legroom, headroom and elbow room for the second row passengers. Getting into the third-row was pretty easy too as the middle row seats are now spring-loaded too which makes for easier ingress and egress. Also, you might have noticed that it now has a middle headrest on the third-row. This means the Innova is now actually an 8-seater MPV. With my 5'7 frame, I was able fit myself at the very back just fine. Should you have taller passengers with you, the second row seats can be slid forward for additional space at the back.
As for its handling, it’s adequate at best. With an emphasis on providing a comfortable ride, body roll was quite prominent. It also wallowed around corners which meant drivers should take caution when taking on twisty roads. Still, the Innova was able to keep its tires planted to the pavement and the hydraulic power steering meant the Innova gave plenty of road feel and was finely weighted.
So has Toyota made a unique offering that sits between average and over-the-top? In some ways yes. Here you have an 8-seater MPV that is quick, priced just right and is relatively comfortable and spacious. But there are those that still want a bit more for their supposedly 'average' runaround. Toyota took notice and decided to spruce it up by giving it a more eye-catching appearance as well as more standard features.
Retailing at a reasonable Php 1,374,000, the 2018 Touring Sport A/T is Php 65,000 more than the 2.8 E A/T. However, the special edition MPV is cheaper by Php 97,000 when compared to the 2.8 G A/T. With those in mind, I'd say the Innova Touring Sport is a nice compromise for those that fancy a rugged people carrier that comes with style, pep and tech. It's even available with a manual which makes it that more affordable.
For those that are looking for an 8-seater that is not too bad on the equipment list, I highly recommend checking out the Innova Touring Sport.