By on August 29, 2017

2017 Toyota 86 sunset - Image: Toyota

On Sunday, Matt brought you the story of Toyota’s latest plan to ditch its longstanding reputation for building boring yet reliable cars — a problem some quality deficient automakers would kill for.

The brand has recently bolstered its efforts to draw its design direction away from the realm of “safe” and into the neighborhood of edgy, funky, and just maybe, controversial. (How about that new Camry’s face, eh? Hmmm…) Still, design doesn’t equal driving thrills. Visual excitement doesn’t quicken the pulse after you’ve slipped behind the wheel.

To this end, Toyota appears ready to launch a performance line similar to Lexus’ F sub-brand. The automaker known for (very successfully) playing it safe may let its hair down. And not a moment too soon, some might say. While the upcoming 2018 Camry gains significant standard power from Toyota’s four-cylinder engineering prowess, vehicles like the C-HR crossover, Corolla, Corolla iM, and other models aren’t exactly causing heart palpitations on test drives (or any other drives, for that matter).

Let’s pick up that syringe filled with muscle enhancer, shall we?

If Toyota’s Yaris GRMN (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring) hot hatch shows us, it’s that the brand’s racing division is capable of massaging a pedestrian commuter car into a decent performer. Assuming it makes the trek to North America, no one’s kicking sand in this Yaris’ face.

So, if Toyota takes a page from, say, Nissan’s book — NISMOing all the things, as it were — what models need pumping up the most? There’s no shortage of choice. The rear-drive 86 2+2 sports coupe (formerly the Scion FR-S) has been forever saddled with a “nice effort, but needs more grunt” reputation. Its sales reflect it.

I’d argue, and many would agree, that the C-HR is in desperate need for more ponies, as well as a way to channel any power to the rear axle. Having a certified sports car in your stable’s nice, but what models actually sell these days? It’s crossovers all the way. Meanwhile, the Corolla and its five-door sibling are liable to break their wrists trying to punch through wet Kleenex.

Cover the low end of the market, I say. Offer hot variants across the compact class — both crossovers and passenger cars.

What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Image: Toyota]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

42 Comments on “QOTD: We’ve (Not) Got the Power, So Where Should It Go?...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Turbo all the things. And DON’T reduce displacement. A low boost 1.8T making a hearty 150-200HP across the range will work very nicely. Also if possible please include mechanical LSDs on higher trims.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      This ^^^

      Just turbo and DI their current range.

      The CH-R isnt that bad but why stick in a turbo 1.2 into a 1,4 ton box?

      As GM have shown, even a 1.6 PFI turbo is a good thing.

      It would also help if they had some good DCT boxes… i reckon a 2.0 turbo GT86 w/7 spd DCT would be a good thing.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        Are you an American?

        I ask because in America, DCTs are a no-go. Customers HATE them. therefore all companies offering DCTs on the low end are giving up the DCTs and back to conventional high-gear automatics.

        This makes me cry inside because I LOVE DCTs and wish they were more prevalent.

        Maybe the answer is simply mating a DCT to a torque converter. Not the answer I want though.

        • 0 avatar

          Mazda kinda already does that. the 6spd auto in the CX-5 is just a 6spd manual transmission with a tiny torque converter in the center of the dual clutch assembly. It’s used for 1st gear then once you’re moving the clutch locks up and it’s great. Low speed comfort with mid to high speed efficiency and sportiness. (as sporty as I can call a automatic trans in a CUV)

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          I am an American. I recently spent a week with a Ford Focus with the Powershift DCT… it felt fine. The only time it wasn’t like a regular automatic was being stopped on an incline. That’s really the only one I’ve heard Americans complain about.

          I think DCTs are going away here because automatics have basically caught up. They can lock them up a lot more aggressively, and I imagine the combo of better metallurgy and computer control enables them to run more gears with less metal. I have driven a few ZF8 cars as well as DCT cars… there’s absolutely nothing between them performance wise and the ZF8 is smoother.

    • 0 avatar
      modemjunki

      This ^^^ seconded. I picked an Escape with the 2.0t over a CR-V or Rav-4 because of the powertrain (and maybe the seats were a little more comfortable in the Ford).

      Test driving cars for the wife, we picked the Golf (automatic, non-DCT) over the other small cars we sampled because of the powertrain (and perhaps also that the interior is more grown up than the whole lot of them with very good visibility).

      Both of our cars can get out of their own way and can pass semis on the highways without any fuss.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t think they need a “performance” sub-brand. Just shift around what is already available.

    1. Make the new DF 2.5L standard on the iM, C-HR, and RAV-4. It should be optional on the Corolla as well.

    2. Offer the 3.5L in the RAV4.

    3. Offer the 4.6L in the Tacoma and 4Runner.

    4. Put a turbo on the 86.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      There’s little I can add to this. Toyota has a selection of capable engines but are being stingy about what they get bolted into.

      Their base 1.8 needs a power bump, it should be making 150-160hp at this point. I want the 6spd to go with that 4.6 in the 4Runner. And don’t even think about using “Gazoo Racing Masters of Nurburgring” in this market, that sounds absolutely ridiculous and Toyota already underestimated our ability to be infantile snits with the TRD trim line.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        It’s a weird situation. Engines like the 1.8 are kind of caught in the middle. For the mass market… the kind of people who merge onto the highway and don’t pass anyone for 30 miles, it’s great. For people like us, another 20-30HP with little to no added torque is not enough. They can honestly keep the power about the same but just punch up the torque. I’d rather have another 20-30lb-ft, because that’s gonna translate to another 20-30HP in the rev range where I actually use it in such a car.

    • 0 avatar
      turbosasquatch

      Ding ding ding! Couldn’t have said it better myself. That DF 2.5 needs to be in all their compact offerings right now.

      If Toyota can secure the adequate power but great chassis market, I’ll gladly drink the kool-aid

  • avatar
    smartascii

    Power without handling does not equal fun. See: all current BMWs. But handling without power is a pretty niche market, too, as every review of the FRS/BRZ/86 has pointed out. And even if they get all of that right, Toyota still needs to get a handle on design, because their current crop of ugly is not gonna cut it.

  • avatar
    John R

    Available 200hp and AWD (even if it is in the slip-then-grip variety) in the C-HR wouldn’t be a bad thing. At least then it can try to live up to it’s Paris-Dakar looks.

    The 86 twins could use 50hp bump. Might a modest centrifugal supercharger do the trick and iron out the power/torque curves?

    • 0 avatar
      LS1Fan

      The 86/BRZ needs 75 HP at minimum, otherwise there’s no point. A bolt on 50 HP FI kit only wastes money- it’s the most expensive way to clock 14s since the 2V Mustang GT.

      Source; I killed a boosted BRZ in my stock Fbody. Which had a bad MAF at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        turbosasquatch

        Drag racing an 86 is as dumb as drag racing a Miata. They’re corner carvers not muscle cars.

        The 86 needs its torque curve leveled and just a few extra ponies and it’ll be faster than most people can use on the twisties.

        • 0 avatar
          LS1Fan

          Enough with the “corner carver” excuse. Straight line speed is not mutually exclusive to cornering ability.

          Take a used 1998 Camaro Z28 and a new 86/BRZ. The Toyobaru owner spends $5,000 on a reliable 50 HP boost kit. The Camaro owner spends $5,000 on Strano chassis reinforcements, coilovers , and brake parts.

          I’ll wager the “muscle car” will eat the Toyobaru alive whether the road’s straight or curved. A proper sports car needs both power *and* cornering ability. Not just one or the other.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            If all your driving pleasure is derived in having a faster car than the next guy, then I can see how this makes sense. By this logic though, why bother with a sports car at all? A left over Camry V6 or even a stripper Ecoboost F150 will curb stomp these things in a straight line and satiate your ego.

            That said, I think the chassis punches a few classes above the engine. A simple displacement bump to 2.5L, bringing up peak power ~25HP but bringing up torque by 30-50lb-ft in the meat of the powerband would help the car feel more balanced. But I daily drive a G37 + ride motorcycles, and I got to thrash a new GT86, with a ~200lb passenger, AND A/C on, and I didn’t feel it was underpowered. It wasn’t fast but it wasn’t frustrating like my ~1.8L Civic.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            I’d much prefer another 30 horses from 1500 more rpm in the 86, instead of from a tractor sized 4. Mazda’s 2.5s have, in my opinion, fantastic powerbands for regular cars, but aren’t really exciting sports car engines. And Toyobaru is unlikely to trump Mazda’s efforts in sportiness….

            The 86 will remain a niche car, regardless of what Toyobaru do to it. There just aren’t that many out there who either track their car, or specifically buy a 30K vehicle for the purpose chasing limit-driving sensations on as many drives as they can.

            If Toyota wants to be seen as “sportier” and edgier amongst a larger segment of younger drivers, they should focus more on Si-to-Type-R spectrum versions of their more broadly appealing smaller cars. Including involving the Si-to-TypeR tuners all the way from the planning stage of a new model, to maximize the tuneability-for-sportiness of the more pedestrian versions.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I have a hard time believing that Toyota is going to, overnight, re-brand itself as the second coming of Dodge.
    Reliable and boring VS medium reliable and willing to stuff a supercharged Hemi into just about anything with a rear drive layout.

    The market has spoken for the most part. The market wants boring and reliable from Toyota as evidenced by the success they have. The market loves C/J/D to a point but every 15 years or so they are BK so perhaps the their model isn’t so great either.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      87, this. 100%. Not sure why Toyota is even contemplating this. As you’ve said, the market has spoken. Toyota doesn’t have a problem selling. Far from it. Sure, car enthusiasts lament the passing of any semblance of performance cars from their line-up, but a very, very large portion of the “plunk your money down and actually buy the car” crowd likes their Camry/Corolla fairly even-keeled.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The problem I see is Ford and Honda. Ford sells some very entertaining vehicles and is also a major player in the mainstream market. Honda has the reliability and quality reputation but is still capable of offering Si, Type R, and gets effusive praise about the driving dynamics of their mainstreamers as well. Considering Toyota was once capable of offering the Supra, MR2, Celica, and AE86 Corolla at the time of bulletproof Camrys, pickups, and commuter Corollas, I wouldn’t mind seeing them do it again. I want a GTI with Toyota durability.

    • 0 avatar
      LS1Fan

      I don’t think the “Performance Package” is going any deeper then trim combos and dealer option packages. Consumers like the idea of sporty cars,but are allergic to the genuine article.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Excitement and reliability are not mutually exclusive concepts, as Toyota’s long legacy of reliable and fun cars demonstrates. Swapping the 1.8 for their 2.5 in the iM and C-hr or whatever it’s called would have zero impact on reliability, but make the cars a lot more fun and intriguing to people who want more than a Corolla. They don’t have to do anything but just follow the tried and true formula: small cars, big engines.

      The reason this makes sense to do is because they have pretty much tapped out the “reliable and boring” market. If they want to grow their market share they have to do different things.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I find the iM a very compelling choice in the affordable small car market. You can get it with a manual transmission, so I think if it had 180hp and a TRD suspension upgrade option, or even just a parts catalogue like Scion had early on, it would make it a really good choice for people who want a fun car to drive with decent practicality.

    I’m thinking about driving a used one near me just to see how it is. I should probably actually experience it before I go singing its praises.

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      Yeah, the iM is appealing. Made in Japan Toyota hatchback, 6 speed manual, IRS. I wanted one. I drove one.

      The ride/handling and interior quality is great. You can really tell a difference between a J-vin Toyota, and say, a Kentucky Camry like the 2014 I had. The doors aren’t tinny, they shut solid.

      Only problem is that it’s slow as hell. And the 6 speed shifter is not good, the clutch is very weird.

      Give it more power and work on the shift feel and clutch and it would be great.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        Do you contend that Toyota builds doors differently in Japan than they do in Kentucky?

        If this is the case, why do they opt to use different door building technology in different regions? That seems inefficient.

        • 0 avatar
          SpinnyD

          I can assure you that the doors in built in Kentucky are built the same way as the doors in Japan.

          • 0 avatar
            nels0300

            Maybe Corolla doors are different, I don’t know, but they had that solid thud when you closed them and the Camry sounded cheaper and tinny.

            The Corolla iM felt better put together than my 2014.5 Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            In the future it may be worthwhile to consider that variations between different machines are primarily a result of them being different machines, rather than a result of the place that they are manufactured.

            I am fairly confident that if I switched the VIN plates on a Kentucky and Japan Camry and then let the “Japan built” enthusiasts evaluate them they would shortly be praising the Kentucky car for its superior build quality and attention to detail.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Echoing bikegoesbaa, the assembly location has nothing to do with cheap-sounding doors or other obvious signs of cheapness and cost-cutting. Its the engineering and design that deserves the credit, or blame, depending on the outcome.

        Otherwise, how can you explain how the doors on my parent’s 2012 Taurus and my brother’s 2016 Fusion give the solid “thunk” when the door is closed, yet one was built in Chicago and the other in Mexico?

        I know what you’re talking about with the tinny/cheap sound, my experience with a late model Highlander confirms this. Closing the door (not slamming it) made a hollow sound that was echoed through the body, the likes of which are expected on 1980s Ford Escort, but not on a fully loaded, recently built CUV that does *not* sell on price alone.

        Like I said, you can blame the people who designed and engineered the vehicle, not the people who assembled it. It could be assembled on the dark side of the moon by Klingons, it wouldn’t matter one bit so far as that goes.

        You can only do so much with the parts you’re given, and a lot of parts on that Highlander felt and looked extremely cheap. Panels that don’t align, large gaps where there shouldn’t be, trim that won’t stay where its supposed to, hard/cheap plastic on places that are touched often, such as the armrest/console lid that belongs in a 1995 Kia Sportage.

        I’m certainly not saying that all Toyotas are like this, but it was amazing to me how Toyota seems to have taken several steps backwards in quality and materials, while damn-near everyone from Hyundai to Chevrolet has significantly stepped up their quality game in the last 10 years or so, especially with interiors.

        Nissan is even more guilty of this. Park a first or second generation Altima next to a modern one, and its like they were built by completely different companies that only shared a name/badge, nothing else. Perhaps they were, since the former had no relation to Renault.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          I agree, my Mexican-assembled VW had no build quality issues that I could detect over a 7 year ownership period. Recent generation American-assembled Ford F150 door panels wobble like a kicked bass drum when closing and F-series of all varieties over the years have doors that rattle, squeak, and jitter conspicuously on dirt roads. That does speak more to engineering and design than assembly, although the interior & exterior trim alignment problems on some expensive Ford CUVs may be an assembly issue.

          Which brings up another point—the sound of a door closing and the perfect alignment of chrome window sill trim have no direct bearing on longevity and durability of the vehicle unless you are using selection bias to invent one. A VW GTI’s doors sound and feel absolutely beautiful when opening and closing, and there is soft-touch everywhere.

          Want to own a 15-year old one with 200K miles on it?

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Toyota is doing just fine selling boring, but it wouldn’t kill them to make a practical, fun affordable car.

    Like someone mentioned above, why can’t Toyota make a GTI? Or a GLI?

    They won’t even give us something slightly warm, like an Elantra Sport.

    I was ready to buy an iM, but something so simple, and so easy to get right, was wrong. That 1.8L should not be the only engine, and someone needs to fine tune the clutch and shifter.

    Use the 2.5L, make the shift throws shorter, have the clutch engage midway through the pedal travel instead of at the top, and the iM would be great. Your welcome Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The new Dynamic FORCE 2.5 in the iM would be like dropping a big block into a pedestrian car back in the 60s.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I’d rather they dump that stupid Boxer engine in the 86, replace it with something smoother. Subaru’s engineering likely makes this difficult.

        The iM is hideously ugly and not fun to drive. More power wouldn’t change that, it would just be a faster snore-box that still handles like a shopping cart. Effort spent improving its performance would be wasted.

        People go to Honda, VW, Mazda or Ford for a fun-to-drive small car, its so low on the list of priorities of the average Corolla buyer that it often falls off the bottom of the page. A ground effects package, spoiler, alloys and a tachometer is all the sportiness they require.

        • 0 avatar
          nels0300

          I disagree.

          I found the ride/handling balance of the iM to be great and my ride/handling butt meter has been calibrated by years of driving Hondas, Mazdas, and other peoples’ VWs.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Remember who you’re talking to. Your butt meter hasn’t been calibrated by worn-down early 90s Taurii, Tempos, and Aerostars, so what do you know?

            I’d love a detailed explanation of the vehicle dynamics that lead to the “shopping cart” comment, but I’m not expecting to be blown away here.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The problem is, others build cars that are a far better drive, priced similarly, and are just as reliable and well-built (sometimes more so). Toyota does not have the “car that won’t break down” market cornered, as many of the B&B seem to like to imply. As other manufacturers get better and better, the supposed superiority Toyota enjoys continues to erode.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Toyota is in mid-life crisis mode…

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    Wasn’t Gazoo the name of that giant head green alien on the Flintstones ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gazoo

  • avatar
    abercrave

    I do think think they’ll be able to capitalize on the the success of the Gazoo WRC team elsewhere the world, but isn’t the idea of a Toyota performance line a bit lost on the American buyer?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • EBFlex: “Another thing is that I sneak up on deer all the time on my mountain bike.” No….you...
  • EBFlex: ORV is just off road vehicle. A more broad term than ATV or UTV. And again, those are not analogous. Those...
  • Kenn: When I walked by the open door of the GM’s office at a SoCal Toyota dealer, the day I took delivery of my...
  • slavuta: Before traveling to space he could take care of public transport. You should like this...
  • ToolGuy: I spend that $169/year on washer fluid and oil filters instead.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber