You've been lectured by your girlfriend, abused by your boss, pushed around by customers and you spilled your daily iced, blended mocha on your favorite pants... All that before lunch! But you have made it. It's 5 p.m.-you hit the door and are greeted by a setting sun and the promise of sanctuary. If you are Jesse Hsiao, you can still easily save the day on your ride home. You see, Hsiao's ride is the first turbocharged 2000 Toyota Celica GT-S. This pressurized decompression chamber provides the adrenaline overload needed to wash away the bad taste of a long day.
We decided to try our taste buds on the Celica and wrestled the keys away from Hsiao for a few days. When it comes to taste, the ALT Celica is a Sour Bomb lolipop that zaps the taste buds so hard, your face almost caves in as you involuntarily pucker and squint. The turbo spools eagerly and seems to deliver thrust quite low in the rev range-and it keeps on giving the higher the rpm. The Celica accelerates enthusiastically with just the slightest hint of torque steer.
At speed, right foot stomps bring about a surge of speed. When boost hits, the Celica was not as savage as some other turbo'd street cars we've driven- most notably Project Serious Sentra. But one must remember this car was rolling on 19s, which are considerably taller than the stockers and therefore harder to break loose. The power delivery of the Celica was more linear and the car was much more controllable when the power came on. We throttled the car pretty hard, but refrained from high-rpm launches. We are very curious what kind of number the Toyota would turn at the strip.
One of the cool things about a quickly spooling turbo is Pressure Flexing-spooling up the turbo and jumping off the throttle to sound the blow-off valve-in the presence of, say, an early '90s Camaro. It was fun; the Camaro lost. The car did everything well, the suspension was communicative, but not overbearingly rough, and the gearbox was a gem. The B&M short throw shifter and ACT clutch made a dynamic duo. The clutch provided proper clamping force without going overboard on pedal pressure and the shifter delivered quick access to all six forward gears.
The car's only shortcoming was the stock brakes. They stopped fine, but the taller tires could easily cause quick pad wear. We would look for some more stopping power if the red rocket belonged to us. This is nitpicking. The car and the turbo kit got a big thumbs up.
The heroes of this saga were the technicians at XS Engineering. The XS crew handled the R&D effort that went into this strictly bolt-on boost proposition. The Celica's 2ZZ powerplant was left internally stock and the head was untouched. A tubular manifold was fashioned to position the turbo, which was a tedious task, considering the lack of room between the engine and firewall. The manifold is home to the big power adder-an IHI AX-1 ball-bearing turbo. Prior to entering the engine, the turbo pushes air through a custom XS Engineering air-to-air intercooler. The chiller features a big 24x11-inch XS Engineering GTR core and the end tanks have been polished to a high-luster finish.
When it came to meeting fueling requirements, XS faced a real challenge. The Toyota runs a single-line fuel system, which means that enrichment is more intrusive and does not keep with the bolt-on personality of the kit. The pump and regulator approach of the kit met the demands, but XS wanted something friendlier. The use of an additional injector set-up is the leading candidate to cure this problem. As it sits now, the ECU is unmolested and the 2ZZ retains its stock injectors and fuel lines. An MSD fuel pump increases fuel volume, while an SX standard fuel regulator teamed with a Vortech boost-sensitive unit bumps the pressure as the engine comes up on boost. This set-up is more than adequate, which says a lot, considering the engine's lofty 11.5:1 compression ratio and the kit's 7.5 psi peak boost. On the spark side, the OE ignition has been enhanced with a B&M New Volt ignition amplifier.
On the dyno, numbers don't lie and the XS Engineering turbo kit rewards the enthusiast by generating an additional 94.1 hp at the wheels. The car baselined at 157.1 and after bolting on the boost, it spun the rollers to the tune of 251.2 hp. If you are concerned about flywheel numbers, figure a 15 percent driveline reduction into the equation, and the ALT Celica makes an estimated 288 hp. Turbos are great for low-end torque and the Celica illustrated this point vividly. At 2800 rpm, an additional 30 lbs-ft were being generated, 40 lbs-ft at 3000 rpm, 51 lbs-ft at 3200 rpm and 55 lbs-ft at 3500. This was quite good, considering the 2ZZ's 7600 rpm redline and 7250 rpm peak power point. The numbers were run without a cat and when we drove the car, it was set up in 50-state legal trim, making 233 hp at the wheels.
When it came to looks, Jesse went for maximum effect with a minimum of parts. A Wings West aero kit provided the most dramatic impact on one's retinas. The W-Typ kit was joined by an aggressive Wings West wing. We especially liked the front fascia, which added a more muscle-bound look to the leading edge of the car while nicely framing the intercooler.
Since the Toyota is an ALT Wheels project car, the company was quick to bolt on a set of ALT X-Phile wheels. The X-Philes sported a smooth, sculpted, six-spoke design, which made them look like 20-inchers. The 19x8 X-Philes are shod with 235/35ZR-19 Toyo Proxes FZ4 rubber. Additional tuck was provided by a set of Eibach lowering coils, which also enhanced steering response by lowering the sleek coupe's center of gravity. Energy Suspension urethane bushings were on call to solidify the suspension components, further increasing driver feedback. Energy Suspension has the Celica well figured out; it supplied suspension components for the Toyota Celebrity Race Celicas at the 2000 Long Beach Grand Prix.
If the idea is to decompress, it only makes sense that the car had a comfortable and convenient interior. Hsiao covered the bases with red Sparco buckets and stitch work by Carcraft. The interior was immaculately tied together with red seat material being used on the shifter boot, door panels, rear seats, custom headliner and visors.
The Celica also flexed a radical Fiberglas center console constructed by Kustom Workz of Whittier, Calif. The console, which was painted by Body Pros, is home to a pair of A'PEXi gauges that monitor boost and exhaust gas temperature and a Panasonic DF600U head unit. The console's design retains the OE clock set-up and does not affect the ventilation controls. However, the key to the commute has to be tunes. Jesse can crank up the volume until his cerebral cortex oozes out of his ears. The mind-altering system is dominated by MA Audio components. From the aforementioned Panasonic head unit, sound signals are amplified by MA Audio amplifiers and then pulsed to an array of MA Audio speakers. The Celica sports two sets of 5.25-inch MA Audio component speakers and a trio of hard-hitting, 12-inch MA Audio subwoofers. Kustom Workz's handiwork with the subwoofers and amps should excite the most obsessive of audiophiles. Pop the rear hatch, and the 1,000-watt woofers with their beefy polished steel cages made for an instant double-take. Some have likened the set-up to Mr. Fusion of "Back To The Future" fame. The install was super sano and the system can bump big-time.
The ALT Wheels Celica made a lasting impression with us. The best thing about the turbo kit is that it is real. As it sits, the kit can be installed by XS for $5,999. Current plans call for revising the fuel system (possibly with secondary injectors) to make the kit easier to install. This is the first 2000 Celica kit we have seen, and the Celica, more than most of the new generation of imports, begs for boost. We hope that once word about this kit gets out, we will start seeing some Quick Class Celica's at the strip, because the Toyota's chiseled silhouette and stout engine are truly bred for speed.
The engine was well dressed. Unfortunately, the 1.8-liter was configured such that the exhaust manifold exits rearward. So there was no cool-looking turbo perched in front of the engine. In full-tilt trim, the force-fed 2ZZ lays down 251 hp.
Fast BrakeAfter our test drive, Hsiao took our advice about the stock braking system and contacted Advanced Engine Management (AEM). The company just happened to be in the final prototype stages of development with its Celica GTS set-up. The Celica kit is a Stage 1 package that adds big rotors while retaining the OE caliper. Other AEM kits provide a choice of hi-po calipers. The Stage 1 front Big Rotor set-up consists of 12.8-inch cross-drilled and slotted front rotors, billet aluminum adaptor hats, billet aluminum caliper relocation brackets and all necessary hardware. The rear braking system was updated in a similar manner with 12.5-inch rotors.
Braking performance is a key (and sometimes overlooked) aspect of the handling equation. Good brakes alllow a deeper, faster entrance into a corner and can help get you out of trouble when you courage outduels the capability of the car. Furthermore, the muscular drilled and slotted AEM rotors look tight behind the ALT aluminum.