My next car: Corolla XRS?

This is a new series of posts where I cogitate on what car to buy next…


I love my Z3, but it’s not a good winter car. In Northern California, where I live, winter means rain, not snow. An old Z3 just isn’t very waterproof. Honestly, it’s not a very good daily driver. Compared to the other cars on the street, it’s very low and hard to see. It doesn’t have much luggage space, and can’t carry more than 2 people. While it is a 1.9L and therefore pretty good on gas, my daily commute is very short and I don’t burn a lot of fuel no matter what I do.

I’ve been thinking about getting another car. I have a lot of desires in my head.

  • It should be very reliable if I’m going to use it as a daily driver
  • I would like to do some rallycross with it, so it should be lightweight
  • I would like to use it as a demo/student car for my High Performance Driving class

When thinking about specifics, I end up with a lot of competing thoughts.

  • It should be FWD because I already have a RWD car
  • It should be RWD because it would be better for my students to hoon
  • It should be AWD because I’ve never owned one
  • It should be a BMW so I can share wheels with the Z3
  • It should be 4×100 so I can share wheels with the Yaris
  • It should be manual because I prefer driving manual and I could teach that to students
  • It should be automatic because most students can’t drive a manual
  • It should have 4 doors for practicality
  • It should have 2 doors because coupes look better
  • It should have a lift back and fold-down seats for practicality
  • It should be older, so it’s less expensive, but not too old
  • I like sporty cars
  • I like slightly obscure cars
  • I hate stability control, even the kind you can supposedly turn off

My Next Car: Toyota Corolla XRS?

Let’s talk about the merits of a Toyota Corolla XRS.

  • Toyota reliability and parts availability
  • 4 door practicality
  • 2670 lbs is pretty light
  • The 170 hp engine is shared with the Celica GT-S and Lotus Elise
  • 2005-2006 is not too old and not too new
  • It’s a little obscure in a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing manner

And here are the negatives:

  • The engine is high-strung, revving to 8.2k
  • The seats don’t fold down
  • It’s not very interesting to look at

On paper, the XRS appears to be the kind of car I’m looking for: sporty, practical, and reliable. In an ideal world, it would be a hatchback and have a lower redline. It seems like a good car for rally or track days. But how does it perform on track? Searching YouTube, I came across someone driving a Corolla XRS in time attack. The video description proclaims that the driver “brought a knife to a gun fight and still got the podium”. Excited, I queued up the video.

The driver runs a bunch of cameras and does a nice job incorporating the 360° camera. I haven’t purchased one of these cameras, but it makes me think about them a little more. The spec tire for GTA is the very fast A052. However, he was apparently driving on 500 treadwear Pilot Sport AS3+ tires. So, that’s pretty hilarious. I like.

Since this was a Global Time Attack event, I thought I would go look at the lap times so I could compare it to more common track cars. Here’s what I found. Yes, it’s true that the driver got on the podium: 3rd place. It would also be accurate to say that he was the slowest car in the entire event and placed last in his class. With only 3 people in the Enthusiast class, only a mechanical breakdown before the event would prevent him from getting on the podium. Forget a knife, he could have brought a bowl of oatmeal to this gunfight and he would still be on the podium.

The owner lists a number of common performance mods: suspension, CAI, custom ECU, pipe etc. What most intrigued me were the baffled oil pan and billet oil pump gears. That makes me nervous, like maybe the car wouldn’t be reliable without those. I asked him if he needed those and his reply was probably and that he’s been through 4 sets of cams in 8k miles.

I don’t want to make lots of modifications to a car in order to track it. I certainly don’t want to replace cams on a regular basis. Ultimately, I don’t think an 05-06 Corolla XRS is on my shopping list anymore. Check back later for another episode of “my next car”, and if you have some suggestions, please leave a comment.

14 thoughts on “My next car: Corolla XRS?

  1. I love my NA Mazda3 2.3l 5sp sedan. I’ve had six “3’s” over the years. My SCCA ITA car is a 2005 with upgraded front hub assemblies – the 2005 didn’t have a proper retaining ring to keep the bearing from walking out. Ask me how I found out! The engines are IMO indestructible. My tune has the redline at 7500 and, with 170,000m, I can thrash it all weekend without using any oil.

    Upgraded to coil-overs, big bar in the back, no swaybar in front, LSD and it’s competitive against Miata’s.


    1. Nice! As this would be a street car in California, I wouldn’t be able to do any engine work, but with 160 HP in a 2700 lb chassis, I don’t think I need to. Mazda3 is officially on the “investigate” list.


      1. My targeted race weight is 2,840lbs – cars is stripped with a cage, a single seat and me in it. Also, parts are cheap. Most are stamped FOMOCO as these were a Ford/Mazda partnership.


  2. In my humble opinion…. You should consider buying my car. 2004 Subaru STi. Previous owner spent $20k (mostly in suspension, brake, and reliability mods, I have the receipts) to make it a dual daily driver and track car and then never tracked it (really, I can explain how I know that is true) and I have only done autocross.

    Pros: Really cool iconic becoming a collectors classic full on badass STi for $15k. 4 door. Has upgraded the weak ’04 wheel bearings and hubs to the ’05 hubs. Ridiculous STi wing removed. Tastefully modded and conservatively tuned. The interior is primo. The exterior is really good too. I have a new front bumper cover to replace the cracked existing as I hit a turkey. Is not a wobbly ass econo box piece of shit (although I know and appreciate that you love racing wobbly ass pos econo boxes😉) 2004, not too old and not too new. It is a Subaru . Only 116,000 miles.

    Cons: It is a Subaru. Has 116,000 miles.

    The “Subarus blow up” is mostly due to newer models running excessively lean ecu programming to meet emissions. Also anyone running super sticky tires and sustaining over 1g cornering is gonna blow up unless a few oil system mods are made.

    The trophy I’m holding is the “Cone Killer Award” for hitting the most cones at the autocross event! “I’m number one, I’m number one…”


  3. If you need one car to do all that stuff than my answer is volvo v70 I-gen/II-gen. Good daily, not too heavy (you can remove a lot stuff to make it lighter), NA petrol engines 170hp,fwd,manual,strong body/parts for rallycross, accessible parts, obscure look. Probably can install suspension from R(sporty) version. Here in Europe I have seen some guys using AWD versions for practicing rallycross. Good option to have fun at low cost.


    1. Briefly, I owned a Volvo C30 R-Design. That car ticks off a lot of boxes. But it turned out to be zero fun because the stability control was too invasive. Also, the engine couldn’t take even a single 20′ session on track without blowing up. An older Volvo may be a completely different story.


      1. I see what people use in amateur rallies in Europe and mostly these are hot hatches that are not easily accessible in USA but there are few options like: BMW e36/e46 (not m3 versions), Mitsubishi Evo (all gens) and Subaru Impreza (i/ii gen).

        C30 was produced when Volvo became gay-friendly and it was under Ford ownership so it shared a lot with Ford Focus. The older Volvos earned a nick name ‘flying bricks’ for a reason.


  4. You’ve already had a Miata, so I’d say either an E36 if you want RWD or a Civic if you want front.

    Obscure weirdo track cars are cool, but the reason that the popular track cars are popular is that they’re generally the best at it. :)


  5. Why not a Cayman? It’s a coupé, lots of room, the base models are not all that powerful, and you can get good 987 specimens for under 20k. They almost “just work” on track, except you’ll need to modify something to add in more negative camber. Other than that, stock pads, stock brakes, stock engine, you’re good to go. Rotate all day every day.


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