2016 Toyota Corolla S Special Edition Review

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Corolla’s introduction, Toyota is fitting a limited run of 8,000 examples of the S version of its popular compact sedan with a Special Edition package. Laced with black alloy wheels and gloss-black exterior trim, the 2016 Toyota Corolla S Special Edition tries really hard to get you to buy into its performance car self-image. And though its overall potential in that area falls somewhat short of the promise of its looks, the Corolla does have a number of genuine virtues worthy of consideration.


Elements of the 2016 Special Edition package include 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and ignition, and a set of unique floor mats with the Special Edition logo. Red accents add a bit of pop to the black interior treatment, which also includes an attractive cloth and leatherette upholstery scheme for the seats. Rounding out the 2016 Toyota Corolla S Special Edition offerings are three bold exterior colors: Absolutely Red, Black Sand Pearl, and Super White.

Power comes from Toyota’s long-serving 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine. As configured for the S Special Edition, the 1.8 generates 132 horsepower and 128 ft-lbs of torque. This is fed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Estimated fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon in the city, 37 on the highway, and 32 combined. While it might have added more of a sporting feel, the optional Corolla S six-speed manual is omitted from the S Special Edition offering.


Even with the suspension mods, murdered-out alloys, low profile tires, blacked-out grille treatment, and yes, the sport button on the center console, the Toyota Corolla S Special Edition comes up being about cosmetics rather than hard core performance. Yes, it handles more crisply than the standard Corolla, but it has a ways to go before it can be considered a legitimate sports sedan contender.

With that said, when it comes to day-in/day-out duties; acceleration is acceptable, ride quality is smooth, the cabin is quiet, and the CVT conveys engine output to the drive wheels in a politely unobtrusive and economical manner. Further, the transmission is configured with pre-selected “shift points” to tone down the annoying droning engine malady CVTs often impose.


So, why on Earth would Toyota bolt all of this blingage onto the Corolla S Special Edition to make it look capable of doing something it isn’t?


Well, is it really so wrong to want a healthy dose of style in a competent commuter?

After all, the Corolla does perform where it counts the most. Every time you get in, the Toyota will start. Every time you set out on a journey, the Corolla will get you there, free of drama. Further, when you decide to sell, you’ll find a long line of people happy to take it off your hands—for a rather healthy percentage of what you paid for it.


And—for a limited time only—it also just happens to come in a sportier looking package.


Pricing starts at $20,635.


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