Not quite the legend

2011-11-25 14:21

Toyota’s new Auris TRD has finally arrived. I expected to be swept off my feet, but it was more like feeling a gentle breeze from a fan than a gush of gale-force winds.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the supercharged Auris TRD ahead of the Johannesburg International Motor Show last month.

Toyota enthusiasts like myself have been holding our collective breath.

The last “sporty” cars that got Toyota petrolheads excited were the Corolla 20-valve RSI and RXI models. These cars are still legendary.

The RunX has been the next best thing since then. There just hasn’t been another car in the stable that got consumers as excited as the Hachiroku did, AKA the AE86 Trueno, the fifth-generation Corolla.

TRD is a global brand, but only a couple of local products got to wear the badge – the first being the 1983 rear-wheel drive Corolla 1.8 and then the RunX RSI in 2006.

News of the Auris TRD stirred feelings of nostalgia. Along with other Toyota fans, I hoped this car would finally be something to give the Golf GTi a run for its money.

Both the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and the new Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) models were launched in Cape Town around the Kommetjie, Scarborough and Chapman’s Peak areas, so there were plenty of twists, turns and open roads to put the cars through their paces.

Honestly, the TRD model is not bad at all if you’re a grown-up racer looking for something sporty or even a family car. And Toyota has done a good job at delivering an ecofriendly engine.

The predecessor 1.6-litre RunX RSI delivered about 140kW at the coast and those were non-turbo cars. The supercharged only delivers 132kW of power and 202Nm of torque.

Perhaps I was annoyed being stuck behind slow traffic on great roads for 20km and only had 30km to give the car a go. Maybe I’ll feel differently after proper bonding time with the car when I test it for a week.

The Auris TRD is based on the 1.6-litre, 16-valve Auris Sport X with a six-speed manual gearbox. The conversion sees power being boosted by a traction-drive supercharger. The ecofriendly engine has a 36% improvement in power from 97kW and a 27% torque hike from 160Nm.

Toyota says the traction-drive supercharger ensures engine response throughout the rev range thanks to the linear torque delivery. This makes the results similar to a normally aspirated engine, meaning there is no response delay at low speeds.

The supercharger is light, compact and a cost-effective performance enhancer, so the engine need not be removed to fit it. It also has a 35mm lower suspension kit, which includes shock absorbers, springs and coil springs to match the driving performance of the car. There’s also a bracing strut between the front suspension towers to provide extra rigidity for the front end.

The interior is typical Auris and RunX. The dashboard layout, fascia and seats, and petrol bar gauge are the same. I just can’t overlook that the RunX had air-con buttons, while the new Auris TRD model has manual dials.

It’s a step backwards.

But when the traffic cleared and the road opened up, the TRD got my heart racing at top speeds. Acceleration is quick and the gears are close for optimal snap-shifting – that’s changing gears really fast.

I couldn’t hide my approval, especially hearing the tyres screech as the car stuck to those tight bends. But the GTi, Honda Civic and Renault’s Megane RS would still make this car hide its head in shame as they blast past.

Would I swap my 1998 model Corolla RSI for it though? No. Nor would I advise my fellow RunX-driving buddies to trade in their cars for this one.

There are only 200 TRD units in any case, so if you’re going to buy one of these cars, rather go for the HSD, the better model of the two.

Model: Toyota Auris TRD
Engine: 1.6 supercharged
Power: 132kW
Torque: 202Nm
Fuel consumption: 7.5l/100km
C02 emissions: 180g/km
Price: TBA, estimated R285 000

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