Black is back and red is gone; HKS replaces the D1 S15 Silvia for a drift-spec 473-whp Altezza
Let's say you were a high-ranking D1 Grand Prix driver in Japan (Don't worry, we know you're not, this is make believe. Just humor us and play along with this charade for a second.) So you're drifting what is quite possibly the baddest S15 Silvia in existence for five out of the seven D1GP rounds during the 2004 season. With your sliding expertise and the HKS race team backing you, you've managed to nudge out your closest competitor by six points at the end of the Fifth round. You're confident you can take it all in the Finals if you just stick to your winning formula. Then you get a call from upper management telling you that your flagship S15 is retired and you're going to be driving a Toyota Altezza for the last two rounds. How shocked would you be? We're guessing you'd have the same reaction we had when HKS Japan dropped this bomb on its driver, Nobuteru Taniguchi, and race team. Yes, HKS dropped the S15 Silvia in favor of a new widebody Altezza.
An Altezza in Japan is quite a stout performer. It's considered much more of a performance car than its US counterpart, the Lexus IS300. In Japan, the Altezza is powered by the 2.0L inline four 3S-GTE motor that can be found in the second-generation MR-2, so locating aftermarket parts is a breeze. We've seen tuners push that little engine upwards of 500 hp. Nonetheless, a stock Altezza still doesn't perform or handle like a stock Silvia ever will. Bottom line, it's not a Silvia. To get the Altezza to be comparable to a Silvia takes a lot of hours and manpower, and to build one that matches the excellence of HKS' S15 Silvia is plain insane. That's like asking your girlfriend to pull some Nikki Nova moves in the sack. Or in Otis' case, his blowup doll. Fortunately, the HKS race team always has an abundance of resources to back them up. It doesn't hurt that they're just a tad bit crazy as well.
The team was already working hard on this car way before its debut at Round 6 of the D1GP. From what we're told, the original plan was to build the bare chassis Altezza as a very beefed-up street car. Those plans changed quickly once the competition got fiercer throughout the season. The HKS team realized it had to pull out the big guns. It stuffed the bottom end full of HKS hard parts and bumped the displacement up to 2.2L. A new GT2835 ball-bearing turbo replaced the stock unit and was held to 1.5 bar of pressure via a strengthened actuator and EVC V boost controller. To administer the fuel and timing, an F-Con V Pro D Jetro was paired up with a Bosch high-flow fuel pump, resulting in a very satisfying 473 hp at the rear wheels.
But as we know by now, drifting is more than just making a lot of horsepower. Suspension plays the major role in a sliding machine. Slapping in the HKS Hipermax D coilovers and TRD sway bars was the easy part, but calibrating them to Taniguchi-san's preference was a much more laborious task. Prior to the debut, Taniguchi-san and the team didn't have much track time with the new car. Even during Round 6 of D1, the Altezza still wasn't dialed in perfectly. Taniguchi-san had to use each practice round just to feel the car out so he could tell the team exactly what needed to be changed before qualifying began. No time for breaks at this point. The team spent every minute between rounds trying to find the ideal ride height and coilover stiffness. We barely had time to shoot this feature.
What stands out the most on this Altezza, of course, is the exterior. You can't have an ugly drift car. Well, you can, but it won't make it onto the cover of Super Street as long as Nads maintains his sanity. If you can look past the flashy signature HKS splash graphics, you'll see that the car is still black. Yes, we put a black car on our cover, but your eyes will quickly move away from that fact when you notice the full HKS aero kit with fender flares that tuck in the meaty AVS Model 5 wheels. The kit was installed to increase downforce on the car when it hits high speeds on the track. Each duct is fully functional for cooling something or another, not to mention that the car now looks a lot meaner than your sister's IS300.
All in all, the Altezza came out to be quite an impressive package with tons of potential. Unfortunately, with all the time and money spent on this Altezza, we still didn't get to see the car perform to its full capabilities. Taniguchi-san was still learning a car that had yet to be perfected on a drift circuit, so he didn't make the top 16 during the qualifying rounds. By the time this story comes out, the '04 D1 season will be over and we'll know exactly how the car did in the final two rounds. And if anyone cares, we'd be glad to take the S15 off of their hands anytime.