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Putting the Toyota CH-R R-Tuned to the Test at Willow Springs Raceway

When I got the invitation from Toyota to drive the C-HR and its raced-out R-Tuned sibling on track at Willow Springs Raceway, I couldn’t help but jump on the offer, even if it meant getting up well before dawn to make the drive from BMW Test Fest in Palm Springs.

Before we could get into the hot 600-hp racing-spec C-HR, we first eased into our day at the track wheeling the pedestrian CH-R XLE and XLE Premium around Streets of Willow. It made for a great learner vehicle—the 144-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes peak power deep in the powerband at 6,100 rpm. We were able to get the small crossover up to a decent chuff but still have enough time between turns to take instruction from Toyota’s racing drivers.

The road-going Toyota C-HR was the slowest car our friends at Motor Trend tested in 2017, taking an agonizing 10.8 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph—and I had already experienced the compact crossover’s glacial pace firsthand a few months ago. However, I found the C-HR made up for it lack of pace with great chassis control and steering feel—for a crossover.

When it comes time to take a turn, the C-HR handles with remarkable poise. There’s little perceptible lean in the corner and chassis remains easy to control even as the skinnier tires neared their limit. It wasn’t hard to keep the engine humming in its sweet spot as I kept the momentum up through the track.

After my week driving a 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium tester on the road, I concluded although the car isn’t the quickest, “the C-HR is fun to chuck through corners.” My time in it at the track only corroborated this verdict, and it left the posse of journalists hosted by Toyota begging them to drop in a more powerful engine and a sportier transmission than the existing economy-oriented CVT.

In a sense, Toyota did just that by dropping us in the R-Tuned C-HR, which was built by Dan Gardner, creator of the DG-Spec performance brand and racing team. Gardner’s team put 10,000 man-hours into the development of the R-Tuned car, and it only takes a quick glance to notice how different it is from the standard model. The initials “C-HR” may stand for “compact high-rider,” but the R-Tuned version abandons this completely, sitting lower than most supercars.

Other modifications visible from the exterior include four-piston Brembo brakes up front, slick racing tires, and aero for days. Gardner says the car makes about 300 pounds of downforce thanks in part to a front splitter and a massive rear wing with an added Gurney Flap.

Look under the hood and there’s an even bigger difference: a turbocharged 2.4L 2AZ-FE replaces the standard 2.0-liter naturally aspirated unit in the stock car. The CVT is gone too and instead the driver shifts gears through a Toyota E-Series 5-speed manual transmission. The Franken-car nature of the build continues with a powertrain that’s a far cry from what one would find in a factory car. All this reworking is good for 600 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque.

To cope with the crazy speeds when it comes time to change direction, Gardner’s team revised the entire suspension. This includes triple-adjustable remote reservoir racing coilovers up front and triple-adjustable remote reservoir racing aluminum body shocks in the rear.

How does all of this work on the track? Even though Gardner turned down the turbocharger boost for a power output of a little more than 300 hp, the C-HR R-Tuned is still a monster on the track. Power is still sent just through the front wheels, but torque steer remains absent even under full-throttle acceleration. I caned the lowered and lightened crossover through the turns of Big Willow with easy – it’s an intuitive drive even though the performance is akin to the way I imagine the racecars of the European Touring Car series drive.

When it was time to hop out after my lap, Craig Stanton, my instructor, told me with a grin, “I wish I could drive with you all day.” Not bad for my first time behind the wheel of a proper race car. Because I had kept my eyes trained on the upcoming apexes for the entirety of my drive, I never got a chance to check the speedometer, but given that I made it deep into fifth gear, I would guess I made it past 125 mph on the back straight. Not bad for a car that began life as a subcompact crossover.

Toyota brought a Nissan GT-R out to the track to drive home how hardcore Gardner’s creation is. The Japanese supercar, while still enormously quick, felt flaccid and heavy in the corners. It was like lapping a 565-hp wet rag compared to the roll-cage stiffened super-crossover. Toyota has billed this project as a supercar killer, and although the C-HR R-Tuned would be less than ideal for daily driving, it proved its point at the track.

Gardner refers to the C-HR R-Tuned as being “Frankenstein but sophisticated” and after putting my foot to the floor on a race track I’m inclined to agree. He told our group of auto writers that his aim was to develop a project “built to go outside the SEMA convention center,” and after allowing our group of enthusiasts to lap his baby around the track, I’d say he accomplished that goal.








The post Putting the Toyota CH-R R-Tuned to the Test at Willow Springs Raceway appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

Quick Take: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC

What was it that prompted me to request the keys to the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport? Was it my inner contrarian challenging my employer’s “No Boring Cars” mantra? Was it my life-long habit of rooting for the underdog? Was it mere morbid curiosity? We may never know, but when I volunteered to write up Mitsu’s best-selling SUV, the looks of smoldering jealousy from coworkers who wished they had put their hand up first were conspicuously absent. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard a snicker or two.

First introduced in 2011, the Outlander Sport was one of the first entrants in the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment, though whether it is properly classified as a compact or a subcompact remains open to debate. Size-wise, it’s kind of a tweener. At the time of introduction, it shared much with the Lancer sedan, including its platform, rakish nose, and cheap, plasticky interior.

A styling refresh in 2016 eliminated the handsome Lancer-like schnozz of which I was so fond, though the short rear overhang and jaunty angle of the rear hatch—my other favorite styling features—remained. For 2018, the Outlander Sport gets reshaped bumpers and an updated interior, with a new center console and touch-screen stereo to complement the nicer steering wheel that came with the 2016 facelift. All the new bits are made of high quality materials, and they stand in bold (and rather unfortunate) contrast to the horrible chintzy plastic that covers the dash and door panels.

Our test car was a top-of-the-line SEL AWC model, which meant it had the 168-horsepower 2.4-liter I-4 engine coupled to a continuously variable transmission and all-wheel-drive. The 2.4-liter makes the Outlander significantly scootier than your average subcompact SUV, though its EPA combined fuel economy estimate is an unbecoming 25 mpg. Compare that to the Honda HR-V’s 29 MPG rating, though to be fair, the HR-V is nowhere near as quick. The 148-horsepower 2.0-liter I-4 in lower-spec Outlander Sports is more frugal—27 MPG—but our colleagues down the hall at Motor Trend likened it to driving with the handbrake on.

I’m one of the few automotive writers who isn’t bothered by CVTs; I like the smooth, shift-free flow of power. That said, there were a couple of occasions I asked the Outlander Sport for a smidge of acceleration and was left empty handed, the transmission refusing to raise the revs until I prodded the gas more deliberately. Senior digital editor Kirill Ougarov, who is more critical of CVTs than I, drove the Outlander Sport as well (because why should I suffer alone?) and said he was impressed with the way it emulated a stepped transmission when he gave it the beans.

Handling is just okay; like most modern crossovers, the Outlander Sport holds the road well, though the body leans noticeably if you crank it up in the turns. The steering doesn’t offer great off-center feel, which is surprising since it can get quite darty on the freeway, though it didn’t help matters that our test car was out of alignment and pulling slightly to one side. The ride is comfortable but loses its composure on sharper bumps. Noise levels, while acceptable around town, start to get a little too shouty at highway speeds, though it’s easy to drown out the din with the optional 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system.

Mitsubishi doesn’t get enough credit for its all-wheel-drive systems, which are quite good. Our tester had the optional All-Wheel Control (AWC) system, which allows the driver to select between front-wheel-drive, automatic all-wheel-drive, and AWD with the center diff locked. I’ve done some light off-roading in the Outlander Sport—intentionally, I assure you—and while it lacks the predictive electronics of the Super All-Wheel Control system in the bigger Outlander, it does a better job distributing power than many competing SUVs. While I imagine few people buy an Outlander Sport with the intention of serious off-roading, that kind of agility translates to better grip in bad weather. An Outlander Sport with a set of snow tires would be a great bet for winter in the Rust Belt.

The Outlander Sport does have a couple of high points. First is the tweener size: It offers more cargo space than most subcompacts, and the back seat is reasonably roomy, even with the front seats racked all the way back. The wall-to-wall panoramic sunroof is a treat, and it comes with a proper opaque blind, not one of those mesh affairs that fry folks with fair skin. The Outlander Sport is one of the few small crossovers that can be had with a manual transmission, albeit only in the front-wheel-drive base model. Base pricing is not too bad, either, but well-equipped models like our tester get pretty spendy.

But the best feature on the the Outlander Sport may be its epic warranty, which provides 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage. Not that I expect the Outlander Sport to spend a lot of its time broken, but for a buyer on a tight budget, it’s nice to not have to worry about repair costs while still paying off a car loan.

The problem facing the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is that it is a little fish in a big pond. Nearly every one of the Outlander Sport’s competitors, both compact and subcompact, does something (and usually several things) better than the Outlander Sport. There are plenty of more compelling choices, including Mitsubishi’s own new-for-2018 Eclipse Cross. And with its cut-rate interior, so-so driving dynamics, and tinny feel, it’s not as if the Outlander Sport can be called a good all-rounder. It’s not a bad vehicle; it’s just not a particularly good one.

2018 Mitsibushi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $46,970/$60,475 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4/168 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 167 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
TRANSMISSION Continuously variable-speed
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 13/28 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 171.9 x 71.3 x 64.8 in
WHEELBASE 105.1 in
WEIGHT 3,285 lb
0-60 MPH 8.5 sec
TOP SPEED N/A
















The post Quick Take: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

First Drive: 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6

ARE, Sweden – Climate Change has come to this ski resort some 326 miles north of Stockholm as the SAS plane flies, and so the puddle of water on top of frozen Lake Andsjon is getting deeper as the morning goes on. It doesn’t slow us down as we slalom a 2017 Volvo V90 Cross […]

First Electric Genesis

  Genesis, a premium brand owned by Hyundai, presented its first electric car – the Essentia concept car – at the New York Auto Show. Concept car Essentia: the first electric Genesis Concept car Essentia represents a sports coupe with a fully electric power plant, consisting of several electric motors, information about which yet. According […]

Lamborghini – BEST CAR

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