At this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Toyota is showing a vehicle that will impress some, but confuse others. The Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept is a 420-horsepower, (technically) all-wheel drive hybrid compact car that borrows technology directly from its FIA World Championship racing program. It was a peculiar choice for a car to outfit with world-class performance equipment, which got us thinking (never a good thing).
What cars, out on the market now, are ideal to receive a bump in power? Perhaps a little or a lot. Some of the suggestions here may be regarded as automotive blasphemy, but if you can stomach a racing powertrain in a Toyota Yaris, well you can take just about anything.
A time may come when no automaker is capable of making a potent powerplant, choked by CAFE regulations. So why, when the world wants BMW to make the M1 so badly, do they use the M1’s shape to create a three-cylinder, hybrid supercar? Why not use BMW’s sublime twin-power turbo inline-6? It can make upwards of 350 horsepower, and the inline-6 is the spiritual descendant of the straight-6 used in the original M1.
The Regal GS is actually a competent and reasonably powerful car. The only issue is that the ride is soft and the manual transmission too supple for a car branded as a performance machine. The answer? Start borrowing from the GM performance parts bin. Stiffer suspension and a tighter short throw shifter would allow the GS to take advantage of its 259 horsepower.
Seriously, Toyota. You have this car at your disposal and you go for the Yaris? C’mon people. Now the Yaris may be better suited to the particular powertrain applied, but how about tossing the compact yet potent 305-horsepower V6 from the Lexus IS 350? At the very least, the FR-S could use a pair of turbochargers fitted to the standard boxer engine.
The Colorado, and sister truck GMC Canyon, was available with a powerful and durable 5.3-liter V8, but if only the 4- and 5-cylinder engines could have been as reliable as the V8. The only engine worse in the GM lineup than the Colorado’s 5-cylinder engine was the 4-cylinder derivative. Put a competent smaller engine in that truck, and we would not be talking about its absence, but its success. (2011 Chevrolet Colorado Rally Concept Shown)
Now, like the FR-S, the Miata is a fine automobile that is a dream to drive, but what if you’d like more power so that you can apex later and accelerate harder? The Miata draws inspiration from classic Italian and British roadsters, so why not go the A/C Ace route and let an American throw a small, yet potent powerplant under the hood, widen the tires and fenders, and have yourself a modern Shelby Cobra or Sunbeam Tiger. Unlike the Cobra, you don’t need a V8 to make serious power anymore. We’ll take a Ford EcoBoost V6 or even a tuned inline-4.
Ford currently makes the Taurus SHO, with a 350+ twin-turbo V6, but the Taurus has become much larger than the original family sedan that became a cult classic. What Ford needs is a smaller sedan, like the Fusion, to take on a performance powerplant, like Ford’s 250-horsepower EcoBoost 4-cylinder from the Ford Focus ST. Mate it to a 6-speed manual, sent to the front wheels, and it will be just like old times!
The CR-Z was a letdown– no two ways about it. It attempted to be fuel efficient AND sporty, and in the end, did neither well. So why not create a performance variant that ditches the hybrid powertrain in favor of something a little more potent. A turbocharged inline-4 sending power to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual and a limited slip differential is a good start.
The Dart is back, and Fiat ownerships has given the Dodge compact sedan a selection of thrifty, fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. But the performance version features a scant 184 horsepower. What the Dart needs it some American grunt in the form of the award-winning Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. That’s too heavy, you say? Then fit that 3.4L engine with a turbocharger. Case closed.
This car was slated to be a spiritual successor to the Integra, but while the manual-equipped model at least made 200 horsepower via a 2.4-liter inline-4, the automatic model carries only a 2.0-liter engine making an anemic 150 horsepower. Suggestions? See Honda CR-Z.
The Patriot and Compass are on their way out the door– that is for sure. What better way to send off these lackluster crossovers than to fit them with a potent powertrain, toss in some off-road equipment, and give it some general backbone? It could be a great way to actually save the legacy of these two vehicles…like the Pontiac Fiero GT, which received a V6 only after it was too late.
- Toyota Yaris