YotaTech Drives the 600 Horsepower Toyota C-HR R-Tuned Race Car
Just getting into the C-HR R-Tuned is a bit of an event. And what happens after that is almost indescribable.
You can imagine my surprise when Toyota rang me up and invited me to drive their 2017 SEMA project build, a C-HR R-Tuned — at a race track, no less. I debated asking “Are you sure?” but thought better of it and agreed.
The C-HR R-Tuned is a joint effort between Toyota and race preparation shop Dan Gardner Spec (DG-Spec), and now, they’re providing me up-close access to the R-Tuned to see what it’s all about.
The standard C-HR is an entry-level compact SUV with funky, modern styling and an emphasis on being easy to park in big cities. Throwing 600 horsepower at one has taken that cool styling and put a decidedly aggressive spin to it. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel, so I head to Willow Springs International Raceway, located just outside of Los Angeles.
As I make my way toward the C-HR R-Tuned, the entire DG-Spec team surrounds the car. DG-Spec’s crew chief for the day, David Fredrickson, ushers me toward the car. Inside is a racing seat and six-point harness. Mercifully, the seat is on sliders. I hop into the R-Tuned and am handed a racing communications system. An earpiece is attached to a remote setup, linking me to my passenger for the day: racing driver and coach, Craig Stanton.
These guys aren’t willing to risk numbskulls like me possibly wrecking their one-off race car, so Stanton will be riding shotgun, pointing me through the corners, and shouting in my ear as necessary. Once the racing harness is squeezing the breath out of my body and the seat is adjusted so I can reach the pedals, it’s time to roll.
Willow Springs International Raceway, aka Big Willow, is a daunting track. Granted, I have run more than a few laps here, but it’s still a gnarly, unforgiving track. Turns 8 and 9 have claimed their fair share of cars and drivers over the track’s 65 years of existence. So, having Stanton along for the ride is welcome.
Stanton’s voice resonates in my ear: “Take it easy off the line, the clutch is just like your girlfriend’s old Tercel. Once you’re going, be gentle until we get into third gear, then go for it.” Easy enough.
And, go figure, the clutch is easy to operate, just like any street car. Rolling off the clutch, I make a smooth but deliberate short shift into second gear, and then into third. I am not going to be the guy to blow up this transmission.
Stanton gives me the go-ahead, and it is full throttle exiting the pit lane.
R-Tuned Comes onto Power Hard
It’s not ’80s hilarity levels of turbo lag, but it is very noticeable once that Garrett turbocharger starts getting some exhaust gasses flowing through it. The R-Tuned surges forward with a torrent boosty goodness. This is going to be fun.
Once on power, the C-HR R-Tuned is a pleasure to drive. I short-shift into fourth gear coming out of turn 1, and ride the wave of turbocharged torque. Turn 2, a big 180° sweeper, is enlightening, so much so that I laugh uncontrollably like an idiot. I track nice and wide exiting turn 2 and shoot like a bullet down the straight toward turn 3 and the Omega.
This section of the track is highly cambered and has a brutally quick elevation change, up and down. It exposes a lack of chassis balance entering 3, and exposes understeer at the peak of the Omega. The C-HR has none of that, and it is amazing.
We’re flying down the back straight. My guess is that we are touching 130 mph. I brake before the next turn, because I am a wuss, and maintain throttle through it.
Exiting the Omega, I squeeze onto the throttle before having to brake for turn 5. Stanton has me place the car in the right spot and lay on the power. We jettison over 6 and we’re flying down the back straight and through 7. I don’t look down, but my educated guess is that we are touching 130 mph. I brake before turn 8, because I am a wuss, and maintain throttle through it. After braking hard for the infamous turn 9, it is back on the power, and into the pit lane. Someone give me a cigarette. I need a smoke after that.