December 24, 2004
New Corolla XRS makes bid to contend against its rivals
You will be forgiven a little cynicism and maybe even a snicker or two at the suggestion of a sporty Toyota Corolla. Well designed, popular and reliable, sure. But sporty?
Before you pooh-pooh totally, however, the concept of a pig that can fly, take a drive in a Corolla XRS, a new variant for '05. Although more engine power would have made it better, the XRS could be a contender.
Under the hood is a specially tuned variant of the Corolla's 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 170 hp. vs. 130hp. for ordinary versions. That rating, however, is more impressive than the engine's actual performance; peak horsepower isn't reached until 7,600 rpm. And the XRS' engine delivers just about the same torque, 127 pounds-feet, at just about the same time, at 4,400 rpm, as its more sedate cousin.
So, while the XRS can deliver zero to 60 sprints in less than 8 seconds, getting that kind of hustle out of it requires vigorous rowing of the six-speed stick, while allowing the tachometer to swing closer to the 8,400-rpm redline than most of us normally do. From 6,000 to 7,800 rpm, the engine's variable valve timing delivers a surge of power almost like that of a turbocharger. So, at the point where most us are ready to back off and upshift, this Japanese engine is just starting to get interested in the game.
And a passing maneuver or an attempt to accelerate uphill almost always requires a downshift.