The C-HR R-Tuned: If This Is the Direction Crossovers Are Heading, We'll Stop Complaining

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Intended to be the best of both worlds, crossovers deliver the ruggedness of a sport utility vehicle with the handling characteristics of a sedan. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, we’ve often found them lukewarm — sacrificing the best traits of either segment to deliver something that can bridge the gap between them. If that’s what you’re looking for, then there isn’t much of a problem. But we’ve often thought you’d be better off in a hatchback or a more traditional SUV.

Crossovers do have a role to play, however. I find petite examples particularly adept at city duty. But there aren’t many crossovers offering driving excitement below the $40,000 mark, and none of them are particularly svelte. Toyota seems to understand our plight and, in continuing its attempt to rebrand itself as a bold automaker, decided to make something genuinely thrilling out of the ho-hum C-HR.

It’s called the “R-Tuned,” and the manufacturer claims it’s the quickest CUV ever to grace God’s green earth.

That corporate assertion should be prefaced by explaining that the C-HR R-Tuned is not a production vehicle, however. It’s a 600-horsepower showboat the company can show off at SEMA. But it’s pointing in the right direction. If Toyota’s subcompact crossover needed anything, it was more power.

But maybe not this much power. The C-HR’s 2.4-liter Toyota 2AZ-FE uses forged internals from Dezod and a DG-Spec Garrett turbo pushing 23 pounds of boost. They’ve also ripped out the CVT to replace it with a five-speed and added an OS Giken limited-slip differential — a mandatory upgrade since the car remains front-wheel drive. Additional performance parts include Brembo racing brakes with 14-inch rotors and a custom suspension that is likely spine-destroying levels of firm.

“The C-HR R-Tuned has been to the track every month since we started the project late last year,” said DG-Spec’s own Dan Gardner. “It’s probably been subjected to more real-world tests than just about any car built for SEMA. It’s not just a show concept but a track-worthy performance vehicle, and I can’t wait to see what people at SEMA and beyond think!”

I think yes, Dan. Despite this being a track-only vehicle designed specifically to bolster aftermarket attention, it’s good that it exists. It’s nice to see Toyota taking the C-HR to the limit. It’s exciting to hear that the R-Tuned bested production versions of the McLaren 650 S Spyder, Porsche 911 GT3, and Nissan GT-R NISMO at Willow Springs.

But this was a track car, after all. The Sienna R-Tuned (another car I’d like to see go on sale) was also a beast, but it was customized intentionally to be so.

Obviously, we’re not expecting Toyota to offer a stripped-out racer like this for sale. But maybe, just maybe, it will consider offering a toned-down version with rear seats and some headliner. You know, something that could give the Juke NISMO a serious run for its money.

[Images: Toyota]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Kuman Kuman on Nov 03, 2017

    Im still waiting for mid/rear engined V6 1.200hp AWD sienna. The car should still be able to seat 5 person + 2 child seat.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Nov 03, 2017

    What? No debate over whether the C-HR is a "crossover/CUV" like for the Niro (since it's not available with AWD)? Never quite understood the allure of CUVs with the sharply raking hatch/liftgate which takes away cargo space and the whole point of owning a CUV. Even more so than other small CUVs, the C-HR is a slightly lifted hatchback.