While the Toyota Corolla name has a lot of cool motorsport heritage and Initial D vibes behind it, it hasn't been a sexy car to talk about in ages. Last year, Toyota relaunched the Corolla with a new hatchback, and quite honestly the enthusiast community couldn't have been bothered. It was still a boring front-wheel-drive commuter car in the eyes of many, and with a 168hp, 151-lb-ft naturally aspirated 2.0L under the hood, it wasn't going to get anyone's adrenaline pumping.
Despite all this, we saw potential—plenty of it, in fact. We were one of the first media outlets to test drive the car and it offered a fun-to-drive six-speed manual paired with excellent handling characteristics that far outshined its powertrain. It was also quite the looker compared to Corollas of the past, with a new sleek shape and LED lights all around. So, while many shrugged it off as a disappointment, we accepted the challenge and picked this XSE model up for a one-year loan with the goal of debuting it at the 2018 SEMA Show. Let's just say, the results surpassed all our expectations, as it became one of the most viewed, shared, and talked about Super Street feature cars of the year!
First things first: We teamed up with Auto Tuned in Monrovia, California, to become the official build partner of the Corolla. Then, we started the project with suspension and wheels. RS-R has been simply amazing, producing coilover solutions that retain all the comforts of a smooth daily driver while also offering the cornering performance when you need it. Auto Tuned installed the new coilovers and set the ride height for a good balance between show and street.
Next, Mackin Industries pulled out all the stops when it came to wheels, as the crew helped us source the first set of Volk Racing TE37SAGAs in the Time-Attack finish. The RAYS wheels' red accents ended up being perfect since we wrapped the entire car in Avery Dennison red vinyl.
From there, perhaps the most custom element of the Corolla was the carbon-fiber lip kit, which was fabricated from scratch by Auto Tuned. It was no easy feat given the time constraints of SEMA, but the Auto Tuned team finished it and now offers the complete kit to customers.
There were a few additional goodies that helped make our Corolla stand out more. A'PEXi fitted a sweet titanium exhaust with quad tips. The TEs left the tiny stock brakes visible, so Fastbrakes made us custom brackets to retrofit Wilwood six-piston calipers and 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors up front. Lastly, the interior received comfy Corbeau seats and a bumpin' Pioneer audio system.
We'll be the first to admit, our Corolla doesn't have the longest mod list and it's not a complete build without engine tuning. However, given the circumstances, we think we did a pretty damn good job, and we hope you think so, too! Our one-year tenure with the Corolla is finally over, and it's already on its way back to stock. It's sad to see this car go, but now it's time to turn our focus to the 2019 SEMA Show and our own 10th-gen Civic Si project car that's set to be put on display in the Honda booth, as well as Editor Sam Du's personal '20 Toyota Supra, which we can't wait for you to see!