By on August 31, 2016

2017 Toyota Corolla iM

A group of Toyota engineers clearly had time to kill this summer, but at least they spent it with one of their products.

For whatever reason, members of the automaker’s Michigan research and design team took a stock Corolla iM (formerly the Scion iM) and entered it into a rally, possibly just to see what would happen. Then they entered it into another.

The rebadged iM, a sensible front-wheel-drive hatchback in funky clothing, competed alongside bonafide rally champions like the Subaru Impreza WRX and Ford Fiesta ST at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally in June.

By all accounts, it didn’t go well. Toyota describe the run as an “experiment,” as the team’s iM came straight from the assembly line with zero modifications. The Pennsylvania trail chewed it up bad, with exhaust system damage and other injuries reported. We assume the suspension took a beating, too.

Frankly, this would have been be fun to watch.

After surveying the damage, the team borrowed beefier suspension components from the Toyota parts bin and created a vehicle that could handle more than just the Bed Bath & Beyond parking lot. They also added a skid plate to protect the iM’s delicate underbelly.

This past weekend, the iM competed in Rally America’s Ojibwe Forests Rally in Minnesota, placing third in its class. Clearly, the suspension upgrade kept the vehicle in one piece, and the 137-horsepower 1.8-liter — while outclassed — didn’t blow up. The iM returns to the woods at the Lake Superior Performance Rally in October.

If you’re thinking that this experiment will pave the way for a rally-tuned iM variant (a product no one has asked for), dream on. There is a chance that Toyota might add some new aftermarket iM parts to its TRD catalog beyond just an air filter, oil cap and sway bar, but be happy with that, grocery getter.

[Image: Toyota]

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14 Comments on “Toyota Engineers are Rallying a Corolla iM in the Backwoods...”

  • avatar

    Matrix and Vibe owners rejoice?

  • avatar

    I look forward to the upcoming AWD iM Allroad CrossTrex.

  • avatar

    It’s funny how the enthusiast ‘press’ doesn’t cover it when Toyota wins a rally.

  • avatar

    It’s awfully clean for having just run a rally. Is there a car wash a mile before the finish line?

  • avatar

    I wonder if they actually have some talent behind the wheel, or if members of the R&D are simply winging it.

    In my youth we turned a 60 acre field into a dirt track behind my cousins house. We took whatever we could get our hands on, Caprice, Malibu, Celica/Supra, Tercels, Corollas, Civics, an AMC or two, anything that had a pulse. Pulled the car over a tarp, knocked the glass outward, pull car off tarp and collect glass. Always wore our motocross helmet and goggles. When the cars were junk we hauled em off to the scrap yard and used to money toward another. That was when you could still buy a running beater for $150.

    People thought we were nuts. We thought it beat the hell out of drugs and booze, which is apparently what everybody else was doing.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Toyota isn’t afraid to throw some money and resources at its engineers to do amateur motorsports. We were next to a big Toyota contingent at a Lemons race and they had a great turn out, including a bunch of interns. Things like this are great

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “the 137-horsepower 1.8-liter — while outclassed — didn’t blow up”

    I wouldn’t expect any Toyota engine to blow up.

  • avatar
    Kosher Polack

    Is the iM good?
    It’s one of those cars that I never see on the road and never notice any reviews of, but it kinda ticks all my boxes (well, except for the CVT).

    • 0 avatar

      We’re on the same page. I never even noticed it until recently. The reviews all say its kinda mediocre, but it really is a Corolla after all. If you want a hatchback, it seems decently equipped for the asking price of $20k. I’m not ready to buy for awhile, but I might put it on my list to check out in a few years (I’ve been buying used lately). The two things it appears not have that I’d like are: heated seats, fog/driving light option. Both problems could probably be solved on the aftermarket. I’d really like a sunroof too but I could live without it.

    • 0 avatar

      For all the bright colours and youthful Scion branding and vestigial body kit, it’s kind of dull and soulless (which is fine, not the mission of something like this anyhow), but perfectly adequate. It’s not exactly thrilling with 137hp and a CVT either (the 6-speed helps a bit). I could easily see buying one as a daily driver though since it’s decent and competent (and not hateful like some of the stuff Toyota was doing a few years ago).

      It’ll probably do much better once it’s a Toyota instead of a Scion.

  • avatar
    Testacles Megalos

    STPR is relatively smooth but fast. Still, not surprising an unprotected car got chewed.

    Ojibwe can be grueling, the underbody plating was a good idea. Was it also seam welded etc. when they made “improvements?”

    Much of Lake Superior is rough as a cob (assuming it’s still run on the Keweenaw Peninsula). It will be interesting to see how the car holds up.

    Who was the in-car crew?

  • avatar

    I wonder if Toyota will be including iM sales in their Corolla sales numbers, so it won’t look like the Corolla is getting beaten so badly by the Civic.

  • avatar

    “placing third in its class”…out of a field of how many?

    Also… aftermarket oil cap????? The point of which is what?

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