EVER BETTER EXPEDITION: Bonneville Salt Flats

The Toyota Ever Better Expedition is all about finding ways to improve Toyota vehicles through real world testing and consumer interactions. The idea is to get US and Japanese Toyota team members, including engineers, designers and the like, to get seat time on roads that consumers use all the time, as well as challenging driving conditions like recent excursions climbing Pikes Peak, off-roading in Moab, navigating the busy and steep streets of San Francisco and going fast on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Along the way there are consumer interaction events where the Toyota team members get direct feedback from Toyota owners, hearing about their likes and dislikes, modifications made and getting the opportunity to inspect these vehicles that have real world miles on them. Every few weeks a new group of Toyota team members joins the expedition on it’s 16,500 mile 110 day journey around North America. North America is the second leg of this five continent Expedition, with Australia being the first last year. Each year Toyota will take it’s team members to new parts of the world to experience all that Toyota vehicles are expected to handle, in a wide variety of environments, by it’s consumers around the globe.

The Salt Lake City, UT stop on the Ever Better Expedition included a Bonneville Salt Flat driving experience that tested both man and machine. Toyota has a long history of bringing vehicles to the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway, beginning in 1992 with a G/BGT class record of 211 mph in an MR2, a record that still stands today, and in 2004 by establishing a hybrid vehicle record of 130 mph in a Prius. For the Ever Better Expedition day on the salt Toyota team members got the opportunity to drive an autocross style course, as well as be driven by a professional driver on a high speed run down the Speedway. A wide variety of vehicles from the Toyota family were available to drive; Toyota Corolla, Scion tC, Scion FR-S and Lexus RCF.

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It is serious business finding ways to be ever better with your product offerings, but it can also be a complete blast! While many of the Toyota team members might not have been the best or most experienced aggressive drivers, they all went out on the course and pushed the cars and themselves to the limit. Spin outs were common, as power was readily available, but traction on the salt was hard to come by. In the end none of that mattered, as there was no damage or mechanical failures on any of the vehicles and everyone was beaming with huge smiles from the experience.

I was lucky enough to drive the fire breathing beast that is the Lexus RCF, which has a 467 hp V8 that is capable of a 0-60 mph run in 4.4 sec. While it wasn’t quite that quick on the salt, it was a complete blast to drift this refined rear wheel drive powerhouse at insane angles at a quick pace. After I had a couple of high spirited laps around the autocross course it was time for the professional driving instructor to get behind the wheel for a high speed run down a one mile section of the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway. Being in the fastest car of the bunch, I figured the RCF would easily break 100 mph over the course, but was quite impressed when it was able to do 150 mph over that distance, the fastest speed of the day. Even the heat and baking sun on the salt flats couldn’t diminish the HUGE smile I had on my face.

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On a side note, the Toyota 4 Runner performed really well as a support vehicle throughout the event. I rode in it a few times to get moving photos and video of the day’s happenings and found it to be relatively quick, a smooth ride over rough terrain and offer plenty of room for a bunch of people and gear. I truly believe that the 5th gen 4 Runner is probably the best value for the money wagon bodied 4×4 on the market today.

The day finished off with a dinner and private tour at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum. Be sure to check out this amazing experience, and get a glimpse inside this spectacular Museum, HERE.

The Salt Lake City, UT stop on the tour, that I was privileged to be a part of, was the last weekend of events on the summer leg of the Expedition. The winter leg will start in November in Alaska, as it makes it’s way back south through Canada. Some serious winter testing is in the plans, and I can’t wait to follow along on the journey as Toyota strives to be ever better. Follow along on the Ever Better Expedition website and on social media through the #EverBetter.

EEEverBetterBonneville1 3The LC 200 is an Australian truck that will be traveling with the Ever Better Expedition on all 5 continents.EEEverBetterBonneville2The UUV, or Ultimate Utility Vehicle, is a Sienna on a stretched Tacoma that is powered by a supercharged V8 out of a Tundra. Read all about it in my report HERE.EEEverBetterBonneville3 1 EEEverBetterBonneville3 2 EEEverBetterBonneville4 EEEverBetterBonneville5 1EEEverBetterBonneville5 2 EEEverBetterBonneville6 EEEverBetterBonneville7The Lexus RCF was the rockstar at the party. It was easy to find power, but not as easy to find traction on the salt.EEEverBetterBonneville8 EEEverBetterBonneville9 1 EEEverBetterBonneville9 2 EEEverBetterBonneville10 1The Corolla was surprisingly quick and agile on the salt.EEEverBetterBonneville10 2 EEEverBetterBonneville10 3 EEEverBetterBonneville10 4Scion brought their nimble small and sporty cars to the party as well.
EEEverBetterBonneville11 EEEverBetterBonneville12 EEEverBetterBonneville13I was impressed to see Japanese and American Toyota team members alike jumping in the cars and fully attacking the course with vigor. On this ride along the Japanese driver spun the car out no less than twice per lap of the autocross course, and had a HUGE smile on his face the whole time.EEEverBetterBonneville14 1The high speed runs in the cars were done on a one mile section of the groomed Bonneville Salt Flat’s race course, and driven by professional drivers.EEEverBetterBonneville14 2While I didn’t get to drive at 150mph on the salt, I did get to ride along. The RCF is FAST!EEEverBetterBonneville14 3The mayor of Wendover, NV even came out for a visit and presented the Toyota Ever Better Expedition team with some tee shirts.EEEverBetterBonneville14 4 EEEverBetterBonneville14 5The new 4 Runner proved to be a great camera car on the salt, and looked stunningly good while doing it.EEEverBetterBonneville15 EEEverBetterBonneville16 1The Ever Better Expedition vehicles encompass a wide selection of Toyota vehicles, allowing engineers to get a feel for real world conditions in the full product range.EEEverBetterBonneville16 2It was sad when we had to leave the salt flats, as everyone was smiling ear to ear from the day’s high speed and sideways driving adventures. We finished the day off back in the SLC with a tour and catered dinner at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum. Stay tuned for a full in-depth look at this amazing facility.

Remember to follow the Ever Better Expedition adventures on the official website HERE.

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