600 Horsepower Toyota C-HR R-Tuned Driven!

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Toyota’s C-HR gets a big injection of performance with C-HR R-Tuned.

The Toyota C-HR is an entry-level, compact SUV offering a lot of brand for buck at under $22,000. That said, despite the funky looks and angular, aggressive styling, it’s not exactly a barnstormer when it comes to speediness. With 144 horsepower on tap, it’s ready for the daily commute, but not necessarily the local track day. And that’s quite alright, Toyota sells sportier cars for those who want to have fun on a race track, or slide about sideways.

However, Toyota, unlike many other brands, has a sense of humor. “What if we made a C-HR race car and jammed 600 horsepower into it?” We can all imagine a Toyota engineer beaming from ear to ear while chatting with a friend about such a car. Well, they actually went and did it.

scionlife.com Toyota C-HR R-Tuned Willow Springs Track Test

This is the Toyota C-HR R-Tuned, a 600 horsepower SEMA concept and design study to showcase what this platform can really do.

I’m sold. Get me behind the wheel, already!

To be honest, you had me at 600 horsepower, but, man, the C-HR R-Tuned is so much more than that to drive.

First off, as you can see in the video, just getting inside of it is something of an ordeal. The lightened racer is fitted with a roll cage, racing bucket seats and harnesses. That’s great for keeping you in place, once you get in place, that is. After getting into the seat, and having the harnesses squeezing every bit of me that I didn’t know could be squeezed, it was time to drive. Well, almost. To make sure I didn’t crash Toyota’s one-off track toy, racing driver Craig Stanton was riding shotgun. However, in a loud race car, hearing his desperate screams as we launched off the track would be difficult. Fortunately, a racing communications system is fitted into the car. Once we were both wired in, and the GoPros confirmed recording, it was on.

Rolling off the line was a piece of cake. The Camry-sourced 5-speed manual transmission offered flick of the wrist delicacy, and the clutch operated like any other Toyota. That said, putting 600 horsepower through a regular Camry transmission is a big ask, so Stanton told me to be gentle until we got into 3rd gear.

Let’s talk our way through a lap

A few smooth, but deliberate gear changes later, we had the R-Tuned in 3rd gear, and exiting the pit lane. Stanton said “Gas it up!” and I wasn’t going to turn down that offer. The power came on nicely, the more throttle I put in, the more acceleration I got.

I aimed for the inside of turn 1, pinned the throttle and rode out the power all the way through the corner. This felt too easy. Another deliberate shift into 4th and it was back on throttle. The momentary lift off the throttle to shift is all it took to put the ferocity of the R-Tuned back into focus. Hammer down on the loud pedal and this thing hauls some serious ass. The gap between turn 1 and turn 2 took much less time than I am used to in other cars.

scionlife.com Toyota C-HR R-Tuned Willow Springs Track Test

Turn 2 was a revelation. The C-HR R-Tuned went exactly where I pointed it, which, in this case, was an early apex because I was not expecting that amount of grip and agility. That’s okay, because with that grip and agility comes options. Turn in too early? No problem, back off and widen the line. This is too good. The available grip coming through turn 2, a massive 90+ MPH sweeper is unreal. Normally, the faster one goes through this corner, the higher the risk is to get spit out on the other side. There was none of that. Exiting 2 and heading towards 3 was a matter of unwinding the steering wheel and powering down. Did I mention the R-Tuned is fast? Good god is it fast.


ALSO SEE: Subaru BRZ Performance Pack Tested on Track!


This next section of the track, nicknamed “The Omega,” due it’s series of twists and bends reminscent of the Greek letter, is an important test of a car’s handling balance. A heavily-cambered left-hander shoots up the Omega, once up there, available grip heavily diminishes. If a car has an oversteer, or understeer issue, this is where you will find out about it. With the C-HR R-Tuned? There was no drama, no fuss. I pointed the front end where I wanted to go, applied the power and went.

scionlife.com Toyota C-HR R-Tuned Willow Springs Track Test

It’s all downhill from here. Oh, I don’t mean that figuratively, the next stretch of the track is a literal descent. Exiting Omega’s turn 4 and heading towards 5 is deceptive. The track kinks to the right, before an immediate left. You have to brake hard, but be delicate to not trip the ABS otherwise the car might not go where you want it to. If the point hasn’t been made yet, that’s what industry experts describe as “not good.” I messed up the braking zone a bit coming into 5 but the R-Tuned coddled my heavy-handedness.

Stanton came alive into my ear, telling me where to line the car up for 6. You got it. With the car pointing where we needed to go, it was full throttle over 6 and down the back straight through 7. Again, reminder: This thing is brutally fast. That straight felt as if it lasted just seconds.

I braked and took a gentle line through turn 8. At the limit, the team behind the R-Tuned can pass through this corner at 150 MPH. I am not willing to try that, but a nice 110 or so felt fine. Actually, it felt great. The R-Tuned is a real downforce car. The team claims 300 pounds of the stuff at 120 MPH. I was babying the R-Tuned, it wants to go fast through here.

After tracking out wide exiting 8, I braked, but didn’t turn in. No, the trick for turn 9, the most dastardly of the bunch, is to wait, wait, wait, NOW, turn! Like a bullet leaving the barrel of a rifle we blasted out of 9 and down the front straight, heading back towards the pit lane.

Where do I get one of these, and how much of my soul do I have to sell to do so?

Move onto the next page to learn about the tech behind the C-HR R-Tuned.

Jake Stumph is the Content Editor who runs Scion Life, and several other Internet Brands Automotive websites. He enjoys track days, drifting, and autocross, at least, when his cars are running right.

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