Test: TRD Aurion
Feann Torr - 4/October/2007
Racing Development (TRD) had an ambitious plan to develop a world-class
sports sedan that would rival Australia's best performance cars
from Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) and Holden Special Vehicles
(HSV). Using a family sedan - the Toyota Aurion - as its base,
TRD went about transforming the vehicle into something far more serious
than 'just another large sports car'.
new look is remarkable. Arguably the hottest vehicle to ever emerge
from a Toyota garage in this country, the TRD Aurion has sex appeal and
road presence by the truck load. It's a compelling design and is
appealing from almost every angle, and the sports car company clearly
did it's homework in catering to the performance sedan market in an
A sophisticated chassis that would
allow the Aurion to deliver even higher levels of tyre grip has been engineered for the new model, and the
interior was renovated to more appropriately reflect the cars
intent, with supportive sports seats, and a build plate on the centre console to signify the car's rarity.
final touch was the powertrain - and in particular the engine. TRD knew
that the Aurion's 3.5-litre V6 wouldn't cut the mustard in its standard
state of tune. Two hundred kilowatts sounds alright on paper, but the
standard Toyota V6 lacks torque. So the company employed a cutting-edge twin
vortice supercharger, upping power to 241kW but improving
torque by an even larger margin.
So the TRD sports sedan was born.
of it was going so well and everything looked hunky dory until a few weeks after the
car was launched here in late September 2007 when Toyota suspended all TRD Aurion sales. The reason behind this is
not quite clear, but Toyota cited an engine failure in a dealer demonstrator vehicle. Whatever
the case may be, the engine we tested was rock solid and even after
severe punishment it never so much as rattled. But that's not to say
the car is perfect. Far from it...
Model: Aurion 3500S
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine: 3.5-litre, Vee 6-cylinder, supercharged, petrol
Safety: 6 airbags (driver/front
passenger (x2), front side (x2) and curtain airbags
(x2)), ABS, ESP
Supplier: TRD Australia
TRD Aurion - supercharged V6 performance
The TRD Aurion's engine power is phenomenal,
but the front-wheel drive layout causes problems
Arguably the TRD's best angle: the rear
end design with an integrated diffuser and
concept car exhaust pipes look sensational
Engine: TRD Supercharged 3.5-litre V6
The transversely mounted 3456cc vee 6-cylinder engine
features aluminium alloy block and cylinder heads. Chain-driven dual
(DOHC) actuate a total of 24-valves (4-valves per cylinder) that
variable valve timing. The engine features a belt-driven twin vortice supercharger and has an 10.8:1
compression ratio and will only tolerate top grade premium fuel (98 RON) when filling
its 70 litre fuel tank.
consumption: 10.9L/100km (combined cycle)
CO2 Emissions: 257g/km
Max Power: 241kW @ 6400rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 4000rpm
0-100km/h: 6.1 seconds
This is the Eaton TVS supercharger,
both a blessing and a curse for TRD
Capable of accelerating from zero to
100km/h in 6.09 seconds, the new TRD
Aurion is a remarkably fast sports sedan
The interior is well laid out and the seats
are supportive, but the TRD Aurion 3500S
misses out on climate control and other items
Stepping inside the entry-level TRD Aurion 3500S reveals a pair of very trick looking
sports seats but little else to tell you it's a genuine sports car.
Until you flex your right foot that is. TRD's first production car is
powered by a 3.5-litre V6 which sees use in vehicles as different as
the Toyota Tarago and the Lexus RX350.
But there's one major difference
with the TRD power core - it's supercharged. It's
this little component, along with a few extra measures
of plumbing, that make the TRD Aurion so preternaturally
accumulating a few kays on the clock, I found the seating position was
too high for my 6'1" frame. Even in its lowest setting, my head was
precariously close to the roof, but with a surprisingly supple ride there's not too much bounce as you drive over bumps.
smooth ride is all the more impressive when you consider that the car
rides on huge 19-inch alloy wheels, easily the coolest looking rims
this side of concept car, shod with huge 245/35 ZR19 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres.
I was rather satisfied with how the TRD Aurion performed as a daily
driver. Though it may have the sports seats, the sports body kit, the
sports wheels and the performance engine options, it's still got the
Toyota Aurion's everyday usability. There's a big boot, heaps of rear
seat space, it's easy to drive and makes for a good commuter car.
driving is similarly effortless, and with easy-to-use cruise controls
and a combined city/highway fuel consumption figure of 10.9l/100km it is far more frugal than the V8-powered HSVs and FPVs in terms of fuel economy.
drove the TRD Aurion to work on a few occasions and the 6-speed
auto is well suited to the stop-start traffic snarls that bank up
around Melbourne city in the morning, and it's easy to navigate tight
spots thanks to the responsive steering. I also discovered that
prestige car owners - BMW, Audi et al - took more interest in the new
vehicle's looks than almost any other type of car owner during the
drive to work, which says a lot about its road presence.
finally we got to give the TRD Aurion a real thrash out in the country,
operating the vehicle as it was intended - at full bore - one thing
stood out above all else. The supercharged V6 engine is absolutely
amazing. The power is huge, and the response immediate. Sadly, the
execution is flawed.
Why Toyota decided to put such a
torquey engine with such a forceful power delivery into a heavy
front-wheel drive car is anyone's guess. Even Audi, which makes a
number of front-wheel drive cars, ensures that its sports model are
When you floor the throttle in a straight
line the TRD Aurion exhibits wild torque steer as the huge amounts
of pent-up energy try to find a way to escape the front axle, which
isn't helped by the light steering feel. It won't rip the tiller
out of your hands but it doesmake full-throttle straight line acceleration feel strange.
down side to having such a powerful supercharged engine focussing all
its power at the front wheels is loss of traction. With a claimed 6.1
second 0-100km/h dash the TRD Aurion is very quick in a straight line - we almost
beat a Nissan 350Z to 70km/h from standstill - yet even on dry roads with warmed-up
tyres, you cannot apply full throttle without getting some loss of
traction and wheelspin.
side-effect of wheelspin is the activation of the ESP which further
complicates the issue because it cannot be easily switched off,
curtailing your forward momentum by applying brakes and retarding
is a way to to turn off the ESP (which involves a video-game like code
of brake and
handbrake pushes) and once deactivated the car does manic burnouts in a
straight line - we're talking Yoko-smoko competition style, with plumes
of thick blue smoke - and becomes very scary through corners as the
wheels often break traction mid corner causing the car lose grip.
In retrospect I think making ESP difficult to turn off was a wise decision.
Built as a rival to the Subaru Liberty GT STI and Mazda6 MPS, and to a lesser extent some HSV and FPV
models, the TRD Aurion was designed to be a performance car. After
discovering it's hugely powerful V6 engine can be a handful at the best
of times, the car isn't a complete dog through corners. It can't
match either turbocharged versions of the Liberty or Mazda6
through a corner, but if you don't slam the throttle to the floor in
every bend and attempt to drive the car smoothly it can weave its way
through corners quite nicely.
The large 19-inch tyres provide good levels of grip, and the brakes are fantastic with a very strong and positive feel, coupled with righteous stopping power. The front ventilated discs
have a 325mm diameter, with large twin piston aluminium calipers,
and the rear discs are 310mm in diametre with similarly large but
single piston aluminium calipers.
The suspension tune isn't
quite as stiff as I was expecting, which results increasing levels
of body roll through tighter bends, but it can hold a good line
through a corner and handles far better than the Toyota Aurion Sportivo
upon which it is based.
With judicious use of the loud pedal, the
TRD Aurion becomes more approachable and quite drivable, but finding
it's limits is almost impossible. The 6-speed auto gearbox doesn't do
the car any favours either.It's
feels nervous in the normal 'D' or drive mode, particularly as the ESP
constantly rebukes the front wheels as they try to break traction through corners.
6-speed auto is always chopping and changing gears because the
supercharger spins up so quickly and provides instant power. To be
brutally honest the gearbox feels about as sporty as soggy cardboard and doesn't have the intelligence of the much-improved Ford and Holden 6-speed cog swappers.
the gearbox does redeem itself
in tiptronic mode, which is the only way you can get decent throttle
control through corners and this is because it holds gears instead of
constantly searching for a new one each time you adjust the throttle.
The steering is really
light, which can dull feedback through corners and doesn't inspire confidence. And it still results in manic torque
steer. When accelerating down a straight road the steering wheel wants
to break right, then left, then left some more, so you can imagine
what it's like trying to accelerate through a corner. With
time you learn to adapt to the car's issues - the chronic torque
steer, the understeer - but when you're forking out $57,000 you really
shouldn't have to.
In conclusion, the way the TRD Aurion drives
is a mixed bag. It's got a good chassis with excellent brakes, it
commutes well with a fairly smooth ride for such a performance car, and
the engine is just incredible. It's just that a large and heavy family
car with supercharged V6 power hitting the road through the same wheels
that control its direction just doesn't work.
We score the 'Drive' section mainly on performance parameters. The TRD
has a decent ride and is a good commuter, so if you don't plan on cracking the whip, add
another point to the score.
engine on this car is phenomenal. It's a supercharged 3.5-litre V6. It
has a refined, smooth feel, with effortless levels of power. It sounds
pretty good, and though the exhaust note isn't quite
as performance orientated as I'd hoped, the sound of the twin
vortice supercharger as a lower frequency hum adds to the experience.
Toyota V6 engine has so much power and torque from low in the rev range
and is so responsive that it's hard not to rev it up all the time.
The problem being that doing this provides you with reduced levels of
control. If only the car was 4WD. I beseech the Toyota Gods - spend the
money, make it 4WD or RWD and you will have a demon slayer of a car!
the engine on its own is a very nice piece of work, balancing brutal
power with good fuel economy. Peak power of 241kW (328 metric
horsepower) combines with torque of 400Nm and all this brute force
doesn't come at a cost - the car
uses 10.9 litres of petrol per 100km on the combined cycle, and even less on the highway cycle.
to Toyota's documentation, "TRD chose supercharging over turbocharging
to achieve instantaneous engine response and impressive low-down
torque." Mission accomplished. The engine has more beef than cattle
Unlike a turbocharged engine, which recirculates exhaust
gases to power a turbine which then forces more air into the intake
manifold, this Eaton TVS supercharger is connected via a V-belt to the
engine's crankshaft and spins up when the engine spins up.
no lag, no delay - just raw, unadulterated power. Floor the throttle,
and the engine roars into action, and even from 1800rpm the TRD
Aurion's supercharged motor outputs the same amount of maximum
torque as the naturally aspirated V6 Aurion engine, 336Nm.If Toyota were to shoe-horn this engine in the Lexus IS body shell, you'd have true-blue BMW M3 and Audi RS 4 beater.
While TRD may have
missed the mark in the handling department, it has hit the nail
squarely on the head in the style department. Not since driving a Ferrari in Sydney have I had so many people wind down their car windows and stare in stupor at a motor vehicle. If you want to make a statement about who you are by the car you drive, the TRD Aurion is one very overt way to do it.
looks, which begin with the matte grey alloy wheels (which are slightly
different on the more expensive 3500SL). They add masses of street
cred, without looking too tacky and give the car a more planted,
The new TRD body kit is most obvious from the front and rear, with a much larger front apron that includes a greyed out section for contrast, a larger air dam and a curved
lower spoiler flanked by fog lights. The lower side skirts are fairly
restrained and they work well, while at the rear of the car the boldest
styling element is the combined rear diffuser and rectangular dual
Toyota Racing Development's Aurion looks awesome
from the rear, and I like that the spoiler is only a low rise item,
allowing the exhausts and the rear diffuser to draw the eye. There's
also TRD badging all over the car, and the front grille gets stylised black metal mesh with a repeating 'R' (from the TRD
logo) worked into the design.
All told, the TRD Aurion has a very appealing look, one that communicates performance, but also a touch of sophistication too.
TRD Aurion has a futuristic concept car look from the outside, but
interior is far less convincing. Apart from the sports seats, which are
admittedly very impressive in terms of comfort and visual appeal, the
leather steering wheel, alloy pedals, andTRD scuff plates, it looks
and feels like any other Aurion. The centre console is stock, the dash
is stock, though the door inserts get a bit of leather which is good.
There's no dual climate control in this model which is just ludicrous
for something that costs almost 60 thousand clams. Most new small cars
get climate control these days.
The 3500S model gets a good
stereo with a 6-CD stacker system, air conditioning and electric
windows and mirrors, but if you're after the full tactile experience
and want a more bespoke interior it would be worthwhile checking out
the more expensive TRD Aurion3500 SL ($61,500) model, as it has better interior detail.
found that head room for the driver was lacking, even with the seat
adjusted to its lowest position, but in general the TRD's ergonomics
are good. There's all the usual steering wheel controls for audio and
cruise, and the heating and cooling controls are easy to use. The rear
seats deserve a mention too, which are very comfy and styled in the
form fitting semi-bucket design, which replaces the traditional
rear bench seat and makes riding in the rear far more sporty as a
result. Italso feels just as roomy as a Holden Commodore or HSV when riding in
the back seats, which will be good news for those drivers who also need a family vehicle.
systems include ESP, ABS, driver and front passenger front and side
airbags, plus side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers.
a few more unique details for the driver to look at, such as a boost
gauge, or a digital accelerometer device to measure your G-forces, the
TRD Aurion would really hit the spot. As it stands, the attention
to detail on the sports seats in the rear and the front are promising
to see in
TRD's first car, which can only get better with time.
The options list for Toyota's sports sedan includes a moonroof, which is $1,995
on the 3500S which we're testing here, and $2,025 on the
luxury 3500SL model. The latter model can also be equipped witha moonroof and satellite navigation for $5,952.
The TRD Aurion gets top marks for effort, but is an unconvincing performance sedan. The
chassis is pretty good, the brakes are excellent, the engine is
riotously powerful and the vehicle looks stunning - it's just that the
execution is terrible. Trying to force 400Nm through the front wheels
is ambitious. All that energy is too much from the front wheels,
particularly when it's trying to turn, and this creates problems.
not a bad car if you don't push it too hard, but this vehicle was
purpose-built to be pushed hard, to perform. It's a performance car. If
you're cruising down the Great Ocean Road and an HSV Senator zooms past and you decide to try and keep up, be prepared for a handful of heart-in-mouth moments.
are many great aspects about the TRD Aurion, in particular its use
of so many locally sourced components and its excellent engine, but
after driving the car hard and fast, as it was meant to be driven, the
only conclusion we can come is that it's just not rewarding to drive
like so many of its rivals.
The recent sales stop that Toyota
placed on the TRD Aurion hasn't done the brand any favours, but as
it's first ever car in highly competitive market, TRD have made good
showing. However if the new performance car company wants to have big
power in a big car, the front-wheel drive layout will have to be
- Exterior Style
- Powerful Engine
- Smooth Ride
- Power Delivery
- Torque Steer
- Interior Appointments
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