There are cars which bring to you the joys of Zen driving. The Auris Touring Sports Hybrid is such a (rare) car. The Toyota engineers developing the hybrid drive system saw to that. Serenity of (city) travel can be enjoyed to the full, but that is not all.
The new Toyota(s) are also deliciously responsive to drive. We already noticed that with the new RAV, which brings genuine driving pleasure in the SUV segment, and we felt it again in the Auris, which is indeed not called “Sports” for nothing. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The Road of Pleasure...
The new Auris lets you (re)discover your familiar roads all over again. Not only with the uncanny smoothness of its hybrid drive, but also with the good handling, excellent seating position and the responsiveness of the whole car.
The most clever gearlever of them all just fits snugly into your hand...
Indeed, already sliding behind the wheel lets you not only enjoy the deeper seating position, you also appreciate the nice way the adjustable steering wheel falls into your hand. The cute and ergonomically ideal small gearlever fits snugly between your fingers. You just put it into “D” after having pushed the power button, and off you go. Noiseless…
Silently the Auris drives away on e-power. Not only are you now engulfed with a “Zen” feeling because of the utter mechanical smoothness and electrical refinement of it all, the Auris helps you also stay relaxed where it can: the crisp images of the rear view camera lets you know exactly when happens behind the car, polite beeps warn you whenever something is looming up at the front.
Last but not least, the electrically powered steering makes manoeuvring a breeze.
Now this is a pleasant way to start your journey. Ever so smoothly and almost inaudibly the engine sets in when speed builds up, virtually imperceptible and certainly without any hint of judder or shock.
This is why we said that the Auris lets you rediscover your familiar paths: you never drove out of your street so smoothly as in this car…
Time now, at the first traffic light, to choose your driving mode. You have the choice between “only battery” or “B” mode, where you will drive only on electric power, or the “Power” or “Eco” modes. Of course we selected the “Eco” mode more frequently during the test, but it has to be said that the hybrid system acts very cleverly also in “normal” mode, choosing either e-power or the vigorous but smooth power input from the 1,8 litre petrol engine.
Does the whole hybrid system feel and sound familiar? Yes it does, and this comes as no surprise as it is virtually identical with the Prius.
Of course the hybrid system is most efficient at moderate (city) speeds with frequent speed changes and lots of stopping and starting. More often than not, the system will choose electric mode, certainly when driving/coasting at crawling speeds. This results in a very low average consumption, and it is certainly not difficult to achieve a figure of 4 litres/100 km, as the accompanying photo clearly shows.
The large dial on the left helps also the driver in adapting his driving style, as the large needle moves in the green “eco” zone at rather moderate throttle openings, with the needle moving explicity to the “power” zone when you press the throttle a bit deeper. After driving a few days in this Auris, one invariably will try to maintain the needle in the “eco” zone, which proved no trouble at all as the engine develops more than enough power in these driving conditions. Staying in the green “eco” zone on the highway will give you consumption figures around the 5 litre mark, and lets you flow with the faster left lane traffic at legal maximum speeds.
The Auris Hybrid Touring Sports returns class-leading, highly tax-efficient CO2 emissions of just 85 g/km. In addition, it generates significantly lower NOx and NO particulate (PM) emissions than diesel engined cars of comparable performance.
The low CO2 emissions do offer customers significant, pan-European tax incentives, inner city congestion charge exemption and exceptionally low running costs. According to Toyota, service, maintenance and repair can be more than 50% lower than those of Diesel competitors.
Choosing the “power” mode and also when using the (almost) full power of the engine, the CVT transmission will let the engine rev up, and under a sporty staccato of a thoroughbred four blasting away at the top of its power curve, the Auris really starts moving. The top speed is a good 180 kph, the intermediate accelerations are excellent, as the system reacts immediately to the slightest blip of the throttle, and 0 to 100 is absolved in 11.2 seconds. The HSD system’s 1.8 litre VVT-i petrol engine and electric motor generate a maximum power output of 136 DIN hp (100 kW).
As said earlier, the control logic of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system’s seamless, planetary gear transmission has been modified to give a smoother, more natural feeling to vehicle acceleration, with a closer relationship between vehicle speed and engine revs.
We already told you about the better seating position and also pointed out that Toyota is committed to improve the dynamic abilities of its cars.
Of course, the Auris Touring Sports benefits from all the improvements made to the new Auris Hatchback.
Enhancements to its bodyshell rigidity, suspension, steering, driving position and NVH characteristics offer drivers a more comfortable and engaging driving experience.
The Auris feels pleasantly taut. Indeed, new bracing and reinforcements to the underbody, and front and rear structures have increased body rigidity.
Especially for the Auris Touring Sports, the rear opening frame rigidity has been designed to deliver a torsional rigidity comparable with hatchback - through reinforcing the body around the tail gate opening as an example – even though the body is longer and the tail gate opening is wider.
In addition, reducing the Auris model range’s overall height by 55 mm, ground clearance by 10 mm and the height of the new front seats by 40 mm has lowered the vehicle’s centre of gravity, benefitting the Auris Touring Sports’ high speed stability and cornering agility. The lowered centre of gravity also allows for a reduction in spring rates for greater ride comfort.
Numerous components of the front MacPherson strut suspension have been revised, including the design of the upper support, bound stopper, coil spring and shock absorber. The spring rate has been reduced and the shock absorbers fine-tuned to combine ride comfort with superior stability and excellent steering response.
Led powered lighting is of course installed on the Auris...
The Electric Power Steering (EPS) itself has been further tuned in order to enhance feeling and driving precision. The steering column benefits from a more rigid attachment to ensure a linear steering feel, a new EPS control suppresses changes in steering force for improved linearity and a high gear ratio provides greater steering response. In all, these revisions equip the EPS with more directness, better feedback and quicker turn for greater vehicle agility.
And indeed, steering is excellent and precise, taking fast long corners is a delight in the Auris.
When one chooses the "EV" mode, consumption is of course nil...
Safety is of course not neglected. The Toyota Auris Touring Sports has been awarded the maximum 5-star safety rating under the new, tougher Euro NCAP programme for 2013.
Equipped with ABS with EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and an emergency brake signal function, the new Auris is also equipped with driver and front passenger, knee, side and curtain shield SRS airbags.
Superior loadspace and functionality
Sharing its 2,600 mm wheelbase and 10.4 metre turning circle, the Auris Touring Sports is 285 mm longer than the hatchback - all of which is dedicated to the extended loadspace.
With the rear seats in place, the loadspace is 1,115 mm long and 1,452 mm wide with a superior capacity of 530 litres. With the 60:40 split/folding rear seats folded flat, the loadspace length increases to a maximum length of 2,047 mm and a maximum height of 890 mm (760 mm with double floor deckboard in place) to give a total capacity of 1,658 litres.
What’s more, the battery pack sits under the rear seat, and luggage capacity is equivalent to that of conventional Auris models.
Functionality I not negelected. One finds Toyota’s Easy Flat, one-touch foldable rear seats, a double level loadspace floor, a two-way tonneau cover, a roller-type luggage net, shopping bag hooks, aluminium roof rails, three 12-Volt accessory sockets (including one in the luggage compartment) and a deck lamp.
The Toyota emblem is adorned with blue in the hybrid models...
The practicality of these functional features is further bolstered by a generous range of storage spaces, including a glove box, a sunglasses holder, coat hooks, a coin box, 4 cup and 4 bottle holders, a sliding centre console armrest with document holder, and dashboard and rear centre console storage space for small items.
The luggage area also benefits from several ancillary storage spaces, in the form of left and right compartment side wall boxes, and secondary front and side boxes beneath the loadspace deckboard.
Last but not least the sill height is just 624 mm thanks to the new bumper and tailgate design - 100 mm lower than the hatchback version.
And some further good news: a new, optional Towing Pack allows the Auris Hybrid Touring Sports to tow loads of up to 345 kg.
On board luxury feel…
The interior breathes better sensory quality. The dashboard itself is finished in leather, the steering wheel is clad in high quality Nappa leather with single baseball stitching.
Both assist grips and door grips are finished in a soft texture grain, and the door armrests are padded. Indeed, the Auris “feels” good, literally! On the Lounge Grade model we tested, the seats are finished in black velour with genuine leather seat bolsters, with full leather as an option.
Our test car featured the JBL "Green Edge" sound system...
The new instrument binnacle with a clear, simple three dial design features white needles and numerals. All switchgear uses the same font, and both instrument binnacle and centre console are backlit in clear blue for a premium look and complete visual consistency.
Bringing a strong sense of visual coordination to the new interior, the meter surrounds, centre stack, transmission tunnel trim, air conditioning and audio controls, and door handles are all finished in a matching, high quality, satin silver finish. The air vents, audio panel, transmission tunnel, steering wheel and gear lever are trimmed with a silver paint finish.
Of course we found back all the familiar Toyota controls, like the easy to use navigation/audio and the excellent cruise control. Is life good in the cabin of this Toyota? You bet…
As a conclusion one is impressed by the smoothness, frugality, and very high functionality of the Auris, hand in hand with an excellent finish and quality “feel”. And last but not least, it is also quite much fun to drive…
Hans Knol ten Bensel