In 2004, Toyota decided to inject some fun into its Corolla lineup. The vanilla sedan sold well in the US but never captured the hearts of car enthusiasts who chose Civic SI’s and GTI’s to fulfill their sporty needs. To compete with these sports compacts, Toyota gave us the Corolla XRS, a high revving sports compact with a handling package to match. Today, the Corolla XRS, sold from 2004- 2006, is a performance bargain for those looking for a fun, affordable, high revving sports compact. Powered by the 2ZZ-GE 1.8L four-cylinder engine, the XRS was able to rev all the way to 8,200rpm, which is unheard of in this age of turbo engines. The 2ZZ-GE was developed in conjunction with Yamaha and was used in the Celica GTS. Its bottom end was also used in Lotus Elise, due to its reliability and high revving potential. The 6-speed manual gearbox offered in the XRS ensures maximum driver involvement to keep this peaky engine in its power band.
The engine features VVT-I technology, which is comparable to Honda’s VTEC and varies the timing of the intake valves by adjusting the relationship between the camshaft drive and the intake camshaft. The “lift point” is set at 6,700rpm and requires a lot of revs to engage the VVT-I system that is available until its 8,200rpm redline. This engine may only produce 170-horsepower, but its high revving nature and strong power band are more than enough to keep you entertained.
To back up this more powerful engine, Toyota tuned the suspension to promote a fun driving experience. With a strut tower brace, designed by Yamaha, and lowered suspension, the XRS was very entertaining to drive on back roads. All of these improvements transformed the dreary Corolla into a very fun car to drive.
The XRS is also very affordable for the car enthusiast on a budget. $8,000 will get you a well-maintained example. Being a Toyota, the XRS is a very reliable and inexpensive to maintain, making it a great car for those on a tight budget.
The XRS offers a driving experience that is quickly disappearing from the automotive landscape. The high revving naturally aspirated engine is all but gone and the XRS is the perfect way to experience one while staying in budget.