Corolla Gets Hotted Up
Page 1: Intro
In general legend and lore, Toyota Corollas have never been noted for their asphalt-grinding capabilities. Normally equipped with 130-hp. 1.8-liter inline-4 cylinder engines, Corollas perform modestly and only vary according to which transmission - either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic - is chosen. They come in versions called the CE (base), a bit more uplevel LE and a more sporty S model. Affordability, utility, and reliability are the usual indexes on which the Corolla receives much of its praise.Enter the Corolla XRS. Despite looks that appear to be more of a trim package, this small compact has hot-rod handling and has a high fun-to-drive quotient. It makes plenty of power to propel it using its wide torque band; a stiff suspension (it's also been lowered by 1-inch) to keep it in place around tight corners; and brakes that bring it to a stop in a sensible fashion. The lowered body and bigger tires help, as well. And, oh yes, an engine note that sings a souped-up sound.
While it might not prove to be race-ready, the new XRS leans primarily towards performance. Pop the hood, and an inline-4 cylinder engine displacing the same volume (1.8 liters) as lesser Corollas gazes back. However, this engine is a completely different mill, adapted from the Celica GT-S. With variable valve lift and variable timing, the XRS power plant delivers 170 hp. at 7,600 rpm and 127 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm.
Redline is a tall 8,400 rpm. The Celica GT-R is rated at 180 horsepower, but Toyota has tuned the engine to deliver peak torque at lower revolutions in the Corolla, thereby lessening maximum horsepower. Perhaps, given Corolla's usual mild temperament, Toyota did not want to offer an engine that only cooks at its boiling point.
To complement the performance potential of the new engine, a 6-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox offered. The shifts are short, contributing to the sporty, glued-to-the-road feel. The suspension has also been tuned to enhance on-road stability. The normal MacPherson-type front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension get sport-tuned struts, stiffer springs, sturdier stabilizer bars, and a sport strut tower brace. The ride height is lowered slightly, and the Corolla XRS rolls on 16-in. alloy wheels with P195/55R16 summer tires. Inside those rims, four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS reside. Other Corollas stop via front discs and rear drums, with ABS offered optionally. To direct the car, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is variable, and senses the engine's speed. Stability and traction control, found on some S and LE models, will not arrive on XRS versions.On the exterior, the XRS is very similar to a Corolla S. "Smoked" headlight lenses and integrated fog lamps distinguish the S and XRS from other Corollas, as do the body-colored trunk-lid spoiler, front and rear underbody spoilers, side rocker panel moldings, and rear mudguards. A sharp eye will separate the XRS from the S, by XRS's body-colored grille surround and larger wheels and tires.
Page 3: Safety
Identifying features inside the XRS include Optitron instrumentation, leather wrapping on the both the steering wheel and shift lever, and metallic trim around the door handles, air vents, gauges, and shift knob. A six-disc in-dash CD changer is optional. Interestingly, the XRS is the only Corolla offering standard cruise control.Another standard feature is the 4-wheel disc brake setup that includes Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Tire Pressure Monitoring. When a tire's pressure reaches a critically low threshold, the system alerts the driver. Toyota recommends, however, that tire pressures be checked regularly, with a conventional gauge.
Driver and front passenger Advanced Airbags arrive standard on all Corollas. Seat-mounted front side-impact airbags are optional across the lineup, as are front and rear curtain airbags. These supplemental restraint systems deploy only in certain types of severe side-impact collisions, and not in lighter, head-on accidents. Another safety feature, the Child Restraint System, uses lower anchors and top tether anchors to secure car seats and small children firmly in place. A trunk-entrapment release is also included, in case the trunk-lid accidentally closes with a person inside.
By offering the 170-hp. Corolla XRS, Toyota shifts their small car favorite into performance territory formerly controlled, at least in house, by the Celica GT-S and the recently debuted Matrix XRS. Affordability, utility, and reliability should not necessarily exclude excitability. Is a high-revving ECHO somewhere down the road?
Page 4: FAQs
What is the Toyota Corolla XRS?
While new, the 2004 XRS compact sedan is based on the Toyota Corolla GT-S that tore up pavement from 1985 to 1987. This front-door, 4-door car has a punchy power to weight equation (its 2670 lbs. is propelled by a 1.8-liter 4 cylinder engine with 170 hp.), a short-throw 6-speed transmission, and a solid axle in the back that clearly makes it a new player deserving of a second look by today's tuner crowd, as well as anyone enjoying the thrill of throttle.What is the price and when does it go on sale?
The new model is on sale now and starts at $17, 455, approximately $3775 more than the base CE model and $2730 more than the S trim.
Perhaps a little more time at the design board would give it more eye appeal. The spoiler and the spats (ground effects side trim) appear cheap. On the other hand, however, it's not as likely to attract attention from state and local officials enforcing posted speed limits. Additionally, using reverse brings on a warning chime similar to those in large trucks-annoying and unnecessary.
Any stand out features?
Overall, we found the interior pleasant and the seats comfortable and we especially liked the gauge lighting called Optitron which has a fluorescent look and makes them easy-to-read. We were also impressed by the fact that our sporty test car was well-equipped and retailed at $19, 587.
How does it handle?
Despite looks that appear to be more of a trim package, this small compact has hot-rod handling and has a high fun-to-drive quotient. It makes plenty of power to propel it using its wide torque band; a stiff suspension (it's also been lowered by 1-inch) to keep it in place around tight corners; and brakes that bring it to a stop in a sensible fashion. The lowered body and bigger tires help, as well. And, oh yes, an engine note that sings a souped-up sound.
Page 5: Writer's Notes
Base price: $17,970
Engine: 1.8-liter inline-4 (170 hp @7,600 rpm, 127 lb.-ft. torque @4,400 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Length: 178.3 in.
Width: 66.9 in.
Height: 58.1 in.
Front: 37.8/51.9/41.3 in.
Rear: 37/46.2/35.4 in.
Curb weight: 2670 lbs.
Fuel economy, city/highway: 25/32 mpg
Safety equipment: 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS; Tire Pressure Monitoring; dual front airbags; optional front seat-mounted side-impact airbags; optional front and rear curtain airbags