We need an 8,000 rpm Corolla back in our lives.
Toyota is often criticized for building too many "boring" cars but the Japanese automaker doesn't seem to be given enough credit when it builds fun ones. Case in point, the 2004-2006 Corolla XRS. For those who don't remember, the XRS (codenamed the ZZE131) was the sporty trim level offered on the North American E120 generation Corolla. Toyota also offered an XRS trim in 2009, but it was nowhere near as special.
So what was so unique about the XRS compared to any other Corolla? Well, under the hood there was a high-revving 1.8-liter 2ZZ-GE four-cylinder engine producing 170 horsepower. Today this may not sound like a ton of power but keep in mind the 2ZZ-GE was actually the same engine used in the Toyota Celica GT-S and the Lotus Elise - it was also mated to the same six-speed manual transmission used in those cars and it revved to a spine-tingling 8,200 rpm.
That's right, for just three model years, Toyota actually sold a manual Corolla with the same engine as a Lotus sports car and an 8,200 rpm redline. The same engine was even offered as a hatchback in the Matrix XRS. We bring up the Corolla XRS and its Matrix sibling because we recently had the opportunity to drive the latest 2020 Corolla Hatchback on an autocross circuit during a media drive for the TRD versions of the Camry and Avalon.
On the autocross, the Corolla Hatchback handled itself quite well but we couldn't help but think - how amazing would this car be with an XRS trim? Toyota currently offers the Corolla Hatchback with just one engine option, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 168 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, which is pretty close to the numbers produced by the old 2ZZ. Sadly, the numbers may be close but the new Corolla is missing the flare of the old XRS.
Even with more torque - 151 lb-ft compared to 127 in the XRS - the new Corolla is slower to 60 mph than its nearly 15-year-old predecessor. This might be because the new car is about 200 pounds heavier. We think Toyota has an enormous opportunity here to bring back the Corolla XRS in the latest generation. This new Corolla may be the best-looking generation ever and a bit more performance would be most welcome.
Here's how we'd build the perfect 2020 Corolla XRS. Raise the redline of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder to 8,000 rpm, sharpen up the steering ratio, and bring the power figure up to around 200 hp. Some stiffer suspension and bigger brakes would be nice but the current Corolla is already a pleasing driving experience as-is. The current Corolla is one of the best cars Toyota has built in years. Introducing a new XRS trim might be enough to make it the ultimate hot hatchback.