DALLAS, Tex. -- On the President George Bush Freeway, which slices through posh northside sections of Dallas, we're cruising in the center lane while encased in surprising comforts of the new S Premium top trim grade for Corolla, Toyota's best-selling compact-class 4-door sedan.
Corolla for 2015 -- constituting Generation 11 -- represents the largest Corolla ever, measuring 2.6 inches longer than Generation 10 issues with a wheelbase stretching 3.9 inches longer to 106.3 inches and the overall width expanding by about half an inch to 69.9 inches. The space expansion is particularly noteworthy in Corolla's passenger compartment where backseat legroom gains five inches of stretch room (running now to 41.4 inches) compared to rear seat legroom in a 2013 Corolla.
New package styling comes with the Gen-11 update.
From the top edge of the front bumper, slick lines sweep up a slanted hood and canted windshield, across the lowered roof and over back pillars along creased edges of rear fenders to a blunt back bumper -- in this dynamic motion defining a new low profile for Corolla.
It seems edgy and tightly drawn with wheels pegged near corners, flat side panels and a blunt prow and tail with scant overhangs.
Trim tiers for 2015 models consist of four designations -- Corolla L, the upgraded LE, a fuel-miser LE Eco and sporty Corolla S.
More standard equipment piles into Corolla LE, S and LE Eco models of 2015 with the new Premium version bringing a power moonroof, Smart Key, Entune deluxe audio and a multimedia bundle with navigation and the Toyota App Suite.
Base model Corolla L provides standard gear like 15-inch wheels, LED lowbeam headlamps, a 6-speed manual gearbox, manual air conditioner, fabric upholstery with 6-way driver bucket, 60/40 split/folding rear bench, power windows and a 4-speaker audio with AM/FM/CD/USB.
Sporty Corolla S adds a spark to the driving experience with sport suspension tuning for unique springs, dampers and bushings plus 16-inch wheels capped by 205/55R16 all-season tires. The performance factor may be enhanced further with optional 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/45R17 tires.
The engine for Corolla L, LE and S grades is a 4-cylinder plant which displaces 1.8 liters and carries dual overhead cams (DOHC) and Toyota's intelligent variable valve timing (VVT-i) unit. It generates up to 132 hp at 6000 rpm, with torque climbing to 128 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.
Transmissions include the standard 6-speed manual (6MT), an optional electronically controlled 4-speed automatic (4ECT) or a fuel-sipper 7-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT-E).
This engine also earns good fuel economy numbers -- as high as 38 mpg for highway driving with the CVT-E.
For Corolla LE Eco edition, the DOHC 1.8-liter 4-pack engine -- with lightweight aluminum block and heads plus highly efficient Valvematic valvetrain controls -- delivers 140 hp at 6100 rpm and 126 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.
It ties to the 7-speed CVT-E to score the EPA-estimated 30/42 mpg (city/highway) fuel economy figures.
Corolla's Gen-11 chassis is more rigid and strong due to high tensile-strength steel in place to improve the unibody rigidity. This creates a more solid structure for attaching suspension components, so Corolla's overall ride characteristics improve and set up a more agile platform.
Suspension components draw from MacPherson struts up front with a more rigid control-arm design and a new rear torsion beam arrangement in back.
Steering, through a direct rack and pinion system, draws power assistance through an all-electric device. It eliminates a conventional hydraulic apparatus along with the power losses of an engine-driven pneumatic pump, and also pares excess pounds.
Standard on all Corolla trims is an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) plus brake assist (BA), and a vehicle stability control (VSC) device with traction control (TRAC). All models also stock Toyota's smart stop technology (SST) brake override.
Toyota's MSRP numbers for Corolla 2015 dip to $16,950 for Corolla L 6MT or $17,550 with the 4ECT. Corolla LE Eco Premium CVT-E runs to $22,725 and the Corolla S Premium CVT-E tops the series at $22,965.