Toyota Should Bring Back the Corolla XRS

Toyota’s latest performance-oriented Corolla, the “Apex”, received flack from various reviews summing the car as an underwhelming performer with a body kit. We understand the Toyota Corolla isn’t what it used to be when it was drifting around Akina in Initial D, but we can take comfort in knowing that Toyota tried. About 15 years ago, from 2005-2006, Toyota released the Corolla XRS. While it was absolutely brilliant, it just couldn’t compete against the Honda Civic Si’s pageantry and disappeared into obscurity.

The Toyota Corolla with a Lotus engine

2005-2006 Toyota Corolla parked outside
2005-2006 Toyota Corolla | Toyota

Pure numbers don’t elevate the Toyota Corolla XRS above the Corolla Apex, but collaboration might. Underneath the XRS hood lay the mighty 2ZZ-GE, the very same engine from the Toyota Celica GT and Lotus Elise. Belting out 170 horsepower, the 2ZZ was a 1.8-liter all-aluminum inline-four that climbed to 8,200 RPM, matched with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. Other Corollas from this era got rear drum brakes, while the XRS received discs. On top of all that, Toyota managed to keep the weight down to 2,680 pounds.

Toyota Corolla XRS vs. Honda Civic Si

Sadly for the Corolla, the Honda Civic Si reigned supreme over the front-wheel-drive and affordable sports car bracket. It made 160 horsepower from a 2-liter inline-four atop sport suspension and mated only to a manual transmission. By the numbers, the XRS should win every race. Sources vary the numbers, but it’s agreed the 2005 Civic Si reached 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, while the XRS did it in 7.1. Then 2006 reared its ugly head, and with it came the upgraded Civic Si. While the Corolla XRS would stay stagnant, the Civic Si would evolve into something formidable.

What happened to the Corolla XRS?

2005-2006 Toyota Corolla parked outside
2005-2006 Toyota Corolla | Toyota

Unfortunately, the Corolla XRS was up against several competing factors. It wasn’t marketed properly, and the 2006 Honda Civic Si packed a wallop. It came out swinging against the XRS with 200 horsepower and 2,877-pound curb weight. The new generation Civic Si would prove to be a speed machine. It bested the Corolla XRS’ 0-60 sprint of 7.1 seconds by about a half-second at 6.7. Toyota released an XRS for the next generation but was underpowered compared to the 2006 model and didn’t feature any of the sportiness of the original XRS. 

You can find the Toyota Corolla XRS, but it’s rare

2005-2006 Toyota Corolla driving
2005-2006 Toyota Corolla | Toyota

Toyota only made 7,000 of the Corolla XRS, which makes it relatively rare. Thankfully it’s possible to find one, but just be sure to get the correct year. The Corolla XRS from 2007 and beyond only has 158 horsepower and, as stated earlier, may not handle or brake as well as the original 2005-2006 model year run. Unfortunately, the XRS’ rarity increases its price considerably, and the current used car market certainly doesn’t help. Right now, there’s a 2006 XRS for $8,250, with 209,693 miles. If that mileage scares you, just be patient and wait for the next one.

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