From Corolla - To Lexus - Back To Corolla. An interesting story.
Like an old friend.
I suppose I should start my mentioning the following; I am a employee of Toyota and do get a small discount on purchases. But that being said I'm not truly loyal to Toyota, but I am loyal to the J Vin cars. Anyhow, with that out of the way, with the Yaris becoming a Mazda 2 in the USA, and a confirmed with holding of the Yaris GR from the US Market, the Corolla hatch became real appealing to me. The car before the Corolla Hatch was a ND1 Mazda MX5 Club, which seemed to be plagued with issues. Once the transmission went (as many have), I was done with the car, and wanted a trusted Toyota back in my life. Prior to test driving the Corolla Hatchback I would test drive the Toyota iM (or Corolla Auris). Although it was decent, it still had that terrible Corolla dash from the previous generation (E180). I had an E180 Corolla as a rental in the past, and it was hands down the most boring car in the world on sale at that time. Just bleh.
After Toyota released the images of the current model (E210 Sedan / Hatchback) they styling was finally on point in my opinion. I've gone on record to say it's the best looking Corolla since the AE86. Then later they would share information on the chassis and engine changes. MAJOR OVERHAUL! The engine would go to the M20A-FKS, a 2.0L D4S Engine (meaning it uses both direct and port injection, and sometimes both combined) and a high compression ratio of 13.0-1. This motor has tons of potential in it with it's 8 injectors and high compression ratio, plus a electric motor to change the cam profile instead of old fashion oil pressure. And then there is the chassis overhaul. The Corolla moving over to the TNGA-C platform. If you are not familiar with this, it's basically a universal one size fits most way of designing a car. And it comes in a few forms, TNGA and TNGA-C (the C standing for Compact). It offers an increased chassis rigidity to the cars with out sacrificing comfort. It's essentially the main reason the Camry is enjoyable to drive now.
My previous 2019 XSE modded up.
I spent a bit of money making the Corolla almost so grippy it was boring to drive. Not really, but it had tons of grip. While owning this car, I also owned an equally grippy 1990 NA MX5 with a lot of the same treatments, but the Corolla was so good, I kinda feel out of love with the MX5. Sounds weird I know, but it's true. The Corolla would receive RS*R Coilovers, a solid larger rear sway bar from Progress, Toms Racing front chassis bar, Falken RT615K 245 wide tires mounted to Enkie RPF1 17x9 wheels, a TRD intake, and a custom resonator back exhaust Basically it railed around corners, was reliable (unlike the ND1 I replaced), would get 35mpg, and could handle the task of daily driving, the dog and occasionally hauling something.
Enter the SexLus.
Around the time the US Covid shut down was coming to a close, the 2021 Lexus IS was being revealed. I actually bought my 2020 Lexus IS300 F Sport AWD on the reveal day of the 21. Other than a styling update, small chassis update, and a stupid big touch screen radio just stuck on the dash in a stupid spot, looking stupid.... It wasn't worth waiting for. Plus with our employee discount, outgoing models can be acquired for a pretty heavy discount. Basically I paid base model prices, for a fully loaded and optioned F Sport. For whatever reason I thought a luxury "sports" sedan was for me. And because I can't leave anything stock, trust me I've tried, I ordered a full air ride kit from Air Lift Performance and picked up some yellow tinted film to cover the "check lights" on the front bumper.
And at first, I loved it. But once the honeymoon period was over, I just simply enjoyed the pleasure cruises in it. And it wasn't because of the air ride, the car performed as good if not better on air ride, than it did stock. Set the ride height, crank up the damper stiffness, and it'd corner just fine. Even after taking it on the world famous Tail Of The Dragon (US129 / Deals Gap TN), I still never felt fully engaged with driving the car. And with a lack of aftermarket parts for the car that aren't just for looks, it was hard to get the car to that point where it's exciting to drive. Comfortable, peaceful, relaxing - yes. But exciting? No.
Carving some corners at Tail of the Dragon. Photo by the legendary Killboy photo team.
So after a nearly a year of ownership, I started debating selling it. I stripped the car back to stock (so basically just took the air ride off), and wanted to get a trade in value to compare to selling it out right. Like an actual dealer value, not just a internet suggested trade in. I went to the local Toyota dealer to see what they'd say just because if they basically gave me pay off, they had a Black Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE in a manual on the lot that I was interested in.
Now this is where things get kind of WTF. So as the sales person takes the car over to have it appraised, while I'm waiting in the lobby. You know, looking at other cars like the Supra 2.0 and 3.0s, the 4Runner, and even the Sienna.. Just screwing around. While I'm screwing around looking at showroom cars, I hear a page over the intercom. "Who ever was driving the white Lexus, it wasn't in park." I stopped, a couple near me said "that can't be good", and sure enough it wasn't. I walk over to the used car lot where they do the appraisal and see my Lexus parked VERY close to a light pole. As I approach it, I see the salesperson running to it, jumping in it, and pulling it back up the parking lot. As I approach the car, I can see yellow paint and a smashed bumper.
Get a Dash Cam! Just in case!
Somehow I managed to keep my cool, despite about 4 or 5 other sales people looking at me, waiting for me to possible kill this guy. I'll admit, it was HARD to keep my composure. But I'm in my mid 30's now, and know that things just played into my hand. Not very often do you get a upper hand on making a deal because the dealership royally screwed up. On the downside I watched the car I came to look at get driven off the lot by it's new owner. Missed it by maybe 30 minutes! Oh well, despite a depleated inventory they still had twp more manual 6 speeds on the lot in XSE trim. But not the black one I had my eye on. The sales person who wrecked my car brought my a black XSE auto tragic, and looked at me like I was crazy when I said I like everything but the transmission. Guess he didn't understand the part where I said I only wanted a manual (Strange world right? Someone purposely buying a manual trans car). Anyhow I was able to settle on a white XSE (headline image). I mean the Toyota Blizzard Pearl white is a beautiful color in when clean. And my first one was the exact same color. But I was wanting to do things a tad different this time.
Like a new old friend again.
It's funny, because some people I work with, and my self included, didn't think I'd be able to make the downgrade. And yes, it's been weird. Almost like culture shock at first. And it's nothing big, just silly little things like how the windows roll up and don't make the "thud" sound hitting the seals in the Lexus. Or how the seat belts retract a little slower so that they don't smack the B pillar. And the quietness of the interior and lack of road/wind noises in the cabin. But now that the culture shock is past me, I feel like I never traded the Corolla for a Lexus. Sure I will miss the small luxuries and small details of driving a Lexus. But two things I already don't miss is the car payment (almost $300 more a month), and the gas mileage (25mpg on a good day, vs 35mpg in the Corolla). The amount of money I'm saving is crazy, but I would have never bought the Lexus if it was going to strain the budget to bad.
Now like I said before, I can't leave anything stock. So I have already ordered a few parts to get the Corolla sorted back to my standards handling wise. Even though this car is shockingly good around the corners for a bone stock car, there is room for improvement with out sacrificing comfort or usability. And thankfully I have an upper hand on what parts I need!
Once aftermarket part supplies come back to a semi-normal level, and the ports open back up on the US coast, I'll probably grab a few more parts for the car. But for now, I'm going to stick to the basics that I can acquire with out to much of a lead time. If you're interested in following the build, I have a crummy little YouTube Channel you can keep up with. Sometimes I also do car spotting, and car gathering videos as well as I have been trying to cover more of an automotive lifestyle instead of my personal projects. I'm still working out video style for that. But anyhow, the channel is TougeSolo Or if you like some of my photography used in this post or my other post, you can follow me on FB/IG @ Tougesolo as well.
I suppose the best way to start, is to go back to where it all began, the 2019 Toyota Corolla