2009 Toyota Corolla XRSPosted on June 23rd, 2009
Sport-tuned compact sedan
By Nina Russin
No car in Toyota’s line-up exemplifies its core values better than the Corolla. After forty years, the Corolla has become a fixture on American highways: the iconic compact sedan.
While Toyota has maintained its customer base through value-focused marketing, it has also widened the Corolla’s footprint by adding the Matrix five-door model, and XRS sport grade. The XRS, available on both the sedan and hatchback, appeals to driving enthusiasts with a more powerful engine, special trim and sport-tuned suspension.
Last year, Toyota introduced the tenth-generation Corolla, with a new 1.8-liter and reconfigured 2.4-liter engine. The XRS comes standard with the larger engine and choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are an upgrade from 15 and 16-inch rims on other grades. The XRS also comes with standard four-wheel disc brakes, giving it better all-weather stopping power than the rear drums on the S, LE and XLE models.
A standard rear spoiler gives the XRS a racier profile, while its front stabilizer bar and strut tower brace enhance performance.
Test drive through the Midwest
I had the chance to drive the new Corolla during a recent trip to southern Ohio. Our drive route included several hundred miles of both highway and city streets.
Test driving cars in Cincinnati offers some advantages over Phoenix: a town known for flat, placid road surfaces. Cincinnati is populated with winding, uneven surface streets: ideal for evaluating steering feedback and suspension tuning.
The larger engine gives the Corolla a welcome dose of power: producing 20 more horsepower and 35 foot-pounds of torque more than the 1.8-liter block. Peak torque is at 4000 rpm: well within range for acceleration into high speed traffic. The peppy engine does quite well in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range, and has no problems passing slower cars on the highway.
The five-speed automatic shifts harder than I expected, and tends to hunt on steep hills. Engineers use a flexible torque converter lock-up, which could account for some of the shift shock. The benefit of engaging the friction coupling more frequently is improved overall fuel economy.
The Corolla delivered as good or better gas mileage than the EPA estimate throughout the test drive. After 250 miles of city and highway driving, my average fuel economy was 27 miles-per-gallon.
Braking is firm and linear. The rear discs are an asset in Cincinnati, where severe thunder storms are a regular occurrence. We had some strong rains during our stay: it was quite easy to maintain directional control in standing water.
The XRS’ larger wheels produce more road noise than other Corolla models. This was especially noticeable driving on some older stretches of highway through Indiana. Engineers used acoustic glass in the windshield to minimize wind noise. I didn’t notice any noise around the front glass or side mirrors.
Visibility is quite good to the front and sides of the car. The rear decklid spoiler makes it harder to see the rear corners when parallel parking. The electric power steering system has good feedback, and is virtually indistinguishable from a hydraulic set-up.
The stiffer suspension makes bumps and potholes more obvious. The suspension should be compliant enough for most buyers, but there is a noticeable difference between the XRS and other Corolla models.
Well-configured interior and spacious trunk
Designers did a good job of maximizing interior space. Lack of a floor tunnel makes it possible for three adults to sit in back on short trips. The current model is slightly wider than the car it replaced, translating to better hip and shoulder room in back.
The manually adjustable front seats are comfortable for longer trips. Both the driver’s and front passenger seat have adequate lower back support for trips of several hours. A standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag and a clear forward view.
White-faced gauges on the Corolla XLE and XRS have brighter red dials that are easy to see in any light. A standard ambient temperature display in the speedometer comes in handy for runners driving to the trailhead.
A leather package on the test car adds leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. A cold-weather package includes front seat heaters and heated side-view mirrors.
I was surprised to see that power windows and remote keyless entry are not standard on the Corolla. The option package adds $635 to the car’s $20,050 base sticker. Carpet floor mats and a trunk mat add another $199.
Both rows of passengers have access to cup and bottle holders: in the doors, rear armrest and center console. The XRS audio system includes an AM/FM six-disc CD player with MP3 capability and pre-wiring for satellite radio. All audio systems come with speed-sensitive volume control.
The Corolla has an extremely spacious trunk, considering its compact dimensions. It can easily hold several large suitcases, camping gear, groceries and golf bags. The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for skis and other large gear. Cyclists will be better served by the 5-door Corolla Matrix, with its taller cargo bay.
All models come with standard front, side and side curtain airbags and antilock brakes. The XRS adds electronic stability and traction control. The ESC plus standard rear disc brakes makes it worth upgrading to the XRS for buyers who can afford it.
The Corolla comes with a three-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and five years of powertrain and corrosion protection. The 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS is on display at dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A solid, dependable compact car with a high level of standard safety. The ergonomic interior makes the most of the Corolla’s compact dimensions. The trunk is surprisingly spacious.
Dislikes: Power windows, remote keyless entry and floor mats are not standard equipment.
Model: Corolla XRS
Base price: $20,050
As tested: $23,444
Horsepower: 155 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/highway
Comments: MSRP does not include a $720 delivery charge.
5 responses to “2009 Toyota Corolla XRS”
Nice article, tnx
You forgot yo mention that the spacious trunk is not counter balanced and will not stay up unless the car is parked up hill. The trunk poses a safety hazard.
Toyota Corolla is one of my favorite cars. it is simply reliable and last for a very long time.
For me, the Toyota Corolla has the best features, styling and bang for the back sedan.
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