2007 TRD Aurion SL3500 Road Test
Recommended Retail Price: 3500S $56,990 - 6sp Auto only | 3500SL $61,500 - 6sp Auto only (model tested).
Options Fitted: Moonroof
- by Alborz Fallah
It was one of those days in Brisbane, the traffic on the centenary highway was backed up all the way to the Jindalee exit, Mogill road wasn't moving, Coronation drive and Milton road were both blocked, and I was suppose to pick up a car in an hour.
If it was any other car, I would have probably called up and delayed the pickup till the next day, but this wasn't just another car, it was the all-new TRD Supercharged Aurion and I didn't want to waste a single moment...
With minutes to spare, I picked up the TRD and drove out of Toyota's QLD headquarters heading east. With Paul sharing his negative thoughts of the car that week, I had dumbed down my expectations and was ready for disappointment.
No other car review had caused more arguments between CarAdvice staff than the TRD Aurion. Paul wasn't all that impressed while Tony was ready to sell his kids for one, and the rest of us were picking sides. If you haven't already done so, do your self a favour and read Paul's review first, as I will concentrate predominately on the drive.
So much controversy has surrounded the TRD Aurion so far, with the very public recall after an engine failure (back on sale as of this week) not helping the brand one little bit.
So here I was, driving around in the brand spanking new TRD Aurion - the car that Toyota hopes will give the brand some much needed performance credibility – and not one single person cared!
Toyota had booked me into the luxury version, the SL3500, which at $61,500 is $4,500 above the standard S3500.
Given the 60k+ price tag, the SL3500 has a lot of competition. But let me just get the TRD .vs. HSV .vs. FPV issue out of the way. TRD isn't competing with the HSV or FPV brands, it's more in competition with the Subaru Liberty GT.
Speaking of the Liberty GT, the AWD 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo starts from just $54,990, $2,000 less than the entry model TRD Aurion.
Essentially, despite the size similarities with the HSV R8 and FPV Typhoon, TRD is going up against the Liberty GT, and I am not sure if it can win.
Sitting inside the supercharged Aurion, it is hard to comprehend the price tag. Yes, the leather seats are nice and the steering wheel is a delight, but when everything comes together, the TRD Aurion feels like, well, just another Aurion.
The press car had the optional sunroof fitted, which was a treat, but no matter how hard I tried, the interior failed to inspire. The centre console let the whole car down. The Sat Nav is a great standard feature on the SL and it works quite well, but the awkward plastic centre console lights up with a tacky blue backlight that detracts from the whole package.
I think the issue with the TRD Aurion's interior is a double-personality disorder.
The car tries to be a classy tourer with leather everything, sat nav, TRD decals and uniquely numbered badges, then all of sudden someone has thrown in a massive red playstation like Start button and a cheap plastic centre console to ruin the party.
I can bore you with details of the interior all day, but what you really want to know, is how it drives.
Having stopped at the beginning of my usual test track at Mt Glorious, I got out to take a breather and also have a good look at the car.
A middle-aged man walked over, having noticed the TRD badging, and began drilling me as to why I had stuck TRD badges on a standard Aurion. I had a hard time explaining to him that this was actually a real TRD and not another Corolla with TRD badges, I finally gave up and opened the bonnet.
If the bodykit, 19” wheels, awesome looking exhaust pipes, TRD badging, and the sound of that supercharger doesn't convince your friends, the engine will.
Staring at the engine, the red supercharger is more noticeable than Kevin Rudd at a strip club! It almost has its own gravitational pull, you can't help but to continuously stare at it.
What Toyota have done is supercharge the 3.5-litre Aurion engine, pushing power to 241kW with 400Nm of torque. Not exactly a breathtaking increase, but definitely the maximum the Aurion chassis can take via the front wheels. 0-100km/h is achieved in a very respectable 6.0 seconds.
The Supercharger is a four-lobe Eaton™ TVS which works extremely well with the Aurion engine, delivering power throughout the entire rev range. Power delivery is remarkably lag-free thanks to the supercharger being air pump driven (it spins independently of throttle position), meaning it's always ready to deliver instantaneous boost.
Comparing it to a turbocharged car, you'd need an anti-lag system fitted to keep the turbo spooling at all times (illegal – in QLD at least).
So how does it drive? It's a hard question to answer. As a day to day car, the TRD Aurion is more than adequate, it holds the road well thanks to the 245/35ZR19 wheels wrapped in Dunlop tyres, and it has incredible straight line acceleration.
Despite the FPV Typhoon and HSV R8's ridiculously low official 0-100km/h times, in real life, the TRD Aurion will eat a Liberty GT, and easily keep up with the two big boys.
This is partially thanks to the six-speed automatic transmission which works in perfect harmony with the supercharged engine. The gearbox is electronically controlled with a lock-up torque converter and artificial intelligence shift control.
Highway driving is an absolute breeze, there is just so much instantly-available torque that overtaking can quickly become a bad habit. But we are not in America, and here in Australia, we like our corners.
Going up Mt Glorious is usually an exciting drive, no matter the car, but the TRD was anything but fun. I had managed to source an '07 Liberty GT to join me for the trip and I was determined to prove the TRD was at least, just as capable as the Subi.
Despite the latest in electronic stability control, you can spin the front wheels during in-gear acceleration, and that's in a straight line. Don't try to turn ESP off, not only because it's nearly impossible to do so, but because your life insurance premiums will go up.
Trying to accelerate out of a corner in the TRD requires every muscle in your arm to hold the steering wheel. The amount of torque going to the front-wheels is simply far too much. Nail the car in a straight line with a loose grip on the steering wheel, and you'll find yourself in a ditch.
Still, I had not given up, sure this is not a mountain runner and power delivery is not as usable as I'd wished for, but given all that engineering, there must be something to it that has made Toyota put their credibility on the line.
We pulled over half way up the mountain and shared some thoughts, according to the Liberty GT driver, the TRD looked extremely well composed as it screamed from corner to corner, this was surprising, given that my arms were sore from taming the steering wheel.
In the process of trying to combat torque steer, I had neglected the incredibly well composed suspension. With limited body-roll, the Aurion has the right chassis for a performance car, but the power needs to go to anywhere but the front-only.
Honestly, this is not a track car like the Liberty GT can be and it's not all that fun to drive enthusiastically, but as a day to day family car with heaps of grunt, it does an excellent job. Would I pick it over the Liberty GT? Probably, but that has something to do with the sound of the supercharger.
We decided given the car's establishing reputation, we should should take it down to the Gold Coast - Queensland's car-loving hotspot - to examine interest in the car.
On multiple occasions passing drivers gave us the thumbs up, which was interesting, given they usually show the other finger when we arrive in supercars.
By all accounts, the TRD marketing department has done an excellent job, small crowds gathered to check out the car at broadbeach, some even took photos. Even the Aston Martin DB9 didn't receive this sort of attention! Of course we couldn't help but to show the party piece, the red supercharger.
This attracted the attention of the local Gold Coast constabulary who were keen to hand out a ticket for illegal modifications having noticed the supercharger - sorry officer, this one has passed all ADR rules.
So this is where the TRD Aurion stands. It has the power, it has the credibility and the backing of the world's largest manufacturer, but it still lacks something that no amount of money or marketing can buy – a soul.
When you sit behind the drivers seat of a Liberty GT, HSV R8 or an FPV Typhoon, you can't help but to feel that almost supernatural connection between you and the car, there is something magical when the car does as you ask, it's romantic.
The TRD is like a genius first-year foreign exchange student, it has the brains, the ability and the funds, but it fails to get the point across - for now. It is a reasonably good start for the TRD brand in Australia, and it's only bound to get better.