Toyota has a message to driving enthusiasts looking for a head-turning, corner-carving affordable sport sedan, and it’s right in the name of a special new model for 2021: Corolla Apex Edition. In track driving, drivers aim to “clip the apex” of a corner to achieve the quickest lap times. This Apex Edition package is available on either the Corolla SE or XSE and will turn heads while turning corners with greater zeal.
The Apex Edition maximizes the inherent potential of the Corolla sedan’s high-strength TNGA-C platform, multi-link rear suspension and 169-horsepower 2.0-liter Dynamic Force Engine. A factory-custom body package accentuates the Corolla’s edgy styling, and the new model issues a punchier bark with a sport-tuned exhaust unique to Corolla Apex.
Toyota will offer 6,000 Corolla Apex Editions for 2021, with most equipped with the Dynamic Shift CVT (continuously variable transmission). The CVT offers simulated 10-speed Sequential Shiftmatic steps, Sport Mode, and paddle shifters. The key to the Dynamic Shift CVT’s distinct performance feel is a gearset used as a “first” gear for start-off acceleration, before seamlessly handing off to the CVT’s pulley system.
For sports driving purists who like to “row their own,” Toyota is equipping just 120 of these special models based on the SE grade with the 6-speed Intelligent Manual Transmission (6 iMT). With downshift rev-matching control, the 6-speed intelligent Manual Transmission (6 iMT) automatically adjusts engine revs when changing gears, ensuring smooth shifting that makes any driver feel like a stick-shift pro.
Grabbing Attention, Gripping the Curves
Before the Corolla Apex Edition turns its first corner, it will attract stares with its low profile, hunkered-down look. A sporty, aerodynamic black body kit complete with bronze accents, a front spoiler, fog light covers, side moldings and rear diffuser aid in high-speed vehicle stability. A rear trunk aero spoiler will be available as an additional option for those who want to display even more attitude.
The Corolla Apex Edition really lives up to its name thanks to unique track-tuned suspension. Toyota engineers developed the dynamic characteristics through extensive testing on different tracks around the world, including TMC Higashi-Fuji Proving Ground in Japan, Toyota Arizona Proving Ground and MotorSport Ranch in Texas.
Unique coil springs lower the vehicle by 0.6 inches while the increased spring rate reduces vehicle roll angle and provides flatter cornering and steering response. Specially tuned shocks with internal rebound springs provide increased damping force that controls vertical and roll movement. Unique solid stabilizer bars with increased rigidity help to decrease vehicle roll angle while improving overall agility. Additionally, new jounce bumpers ensure the lowered ride height doesn’t hinder ride quality. All combined Apex Edition suspension changes increase roll stiffness by 47% in the front and 33% in the rear.
The 18-inch flow-formed cast aluminum wheels feature a gloss black appearance, but even more importantly they are specially developed to aid in brake cooling while offering a mass reduction of 2.2 lbs. per wheel. They can be paired with either an all-season tire or an optional summer tire that helps improve lateral grip, steering precision and yaw response. Bespoke electronic power steering (EPS) has been tuned specifically for the Apex Edition to complement its dynamic suspension changes. The new EPS tuning provides a distinctive flavor with a sportier, v-shaped build-up response. All of these changes are paired with a specially developed catback exhaust that features a throatier, aggressive tone at start-up while also providing a bolder, enhanced tone at wide-open throttle. A unique 3.5-inch stainless steel tip was developed to match the vehicle’s styling.
The bronze/black combo plays off the three exterior color choices for the Corolla Apex Edition, including exclusive Cement with Black Sand Pearl roof; Super White with Black Sand Pearl roof; and Black Sand Pearl. With any color choice, the Apex Edition features black mirror caps. The triple J-shaped clearance lamps with LED lights along with LED turn signals give the SE and XSE grades an audacious look up front, while LED taillamps with smoked outer light lenses create a unique lighting signature in back.
The Corolla SE Apex Edition will feature premium fabric upholstery, while the XSE Apex Edition has black SofTex®-trimmed fabric upholstery. The XSE Apex Edition will also feature heated front seats, including an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support.
A Dynamic Force to be Reckoned With
The Corolla Apex Edition is suitably powered for its mission by the 2.0-liter Dynamic Force Engine. Standard in all Corolla SE and XSE grades, the engine derives its impressive power and efficiency from a high-compression Toyota D4-S fuel injection system (13:1) that combines direct injection and secondary port injectors; high-speed combustion; VVT-iE intelligent variable valve-timing on the intake side, and VVT-i on the exhaust. VVT-iE uses an electric motor instead of oil pressure to control the variable valve timing.
A two-discharge-port oil pump and a variable cooling system with electric water pump help maximize engine performance and efficiency. The more efficient cooling system also ensures quicker cabin heating on cold days and quicker cool-down when the air conditioner is used. All of these technologies, along with ultra-low internal friction, give the 2.0-liter engine a maximum thermal efficiency of 40 percent, among the highest for a current passenger vehicle engine.
You can’t feel thermal efficiency, but you can feel the effects of 169 peak horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 151 lb.-ft. peak torque at 4,800 rpm, whether channeled through the Dynamic Shift CVT or 6-speed iMT. With the CVT, EPA-estimated fuel economy is 31 city / 41 highway / 34 combined MPG (31/38/34 for XSE). With the 6-speed iMT, the fuel economy is 29/36/32 MPG.
The 2021 Corolla sedan L, LE and XLE grades will continue to use the 1.8-liter four-cylinder DOHC 16-Valve engine producing 139 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 126 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,900 rpm.
The Corolla LE Hybrid, which saw enormous success in its first year, returns for 2021 with the same gas-sipping 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with two motor/generators through an electronically controlled planetary-type continuously variable transmission (CVT) transaxle. Combined system output of 121 horsepower yields decidedly responsive performance.
Corolla Gets Even Better for 2021
The entire Corolla line debuts enhancements for 2021. All models gain Android Auto compatibility, joining the Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility that were already standard on the 2020 model. SiriusXM with a 3-month All Access trial is also now available across all Corolla grades.
Toyota also enhanced safety for the 2021 Corolla Sedan, adding rear side airbags to bring the total number of airbags in the vehicle to 10. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert with Blind Spot Monitor will be standard on the XLE and XSE grades and optional for the LE and LE Hybrid and SE grade with CVT.
All Corolla models for 2021 gain Automatic Engine Shut-Off, which will automatically turn off the engine after a pre-determined period of time in the event the vehicle is left running. The system can send an enhanced audible and visual warning to the Smart Key system control fob, and future enhancements will include smartphone app capabilities as an added reminder.
As a special value, the 2021 Corolla LE grade (gas model) will offer a new Convenience Package that combines Blind Spot Monitor, Smart Key system and 16-inch alloy wheels.
High Tech Onboard
Smart Key with Push Button Start is standard for the Corolla Apex Editions, and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is standard on the XSE Apex Edition and optional for the SE Apex Edition with CVT.
The standard audio multimedia system on both the SE and XSE grades includes an 8-in. touch-screen display; six speakers; Android AutoTM & Apple CarPlay® & Amazon Alexa compatible, USB media port, 1 USB charge port, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology, and SiriusXM® with 3-month All Access trial.
The XSE further adds Audio Plus, which is optional on the SE grade with CVT and includes Service Connect and Remote Connect. The available Premium Audio package for both grades adds a JBL 9-speaker, 800-watt system; Dynamic Voice Recognition; Dynamic Navigation; Dynamic Points of Interest Search, and Destination Assist Connect.
Bold and Sleek: Corolla Nightshade Edition Returns for 2021
The Corolla Nightshade Edition returns for 2021 on the SE grade. This one is another eye-grabber, with bold black accents garnishing the customer’s choice of Super White, Classic Silver Metallic or Black Sand Pearl exteriors. Blacked-out 18-inch alloy wheels, along with black bumpers, front grille surround, mirror caps, side rockers, door handles, rear spoiler, shark fin antenna and exterior badges give the Corolla Nightshade edition a factory custom look.
The SE grade comes standard with the 169-horsepower 2.0-liter Dynamic Force Engine and offers the choice between the Dynamic Shift CVT or 6-speed iMT, making the Nightshade Edition a feisty performer.
Advanced Safety Tech
All 2021 Corolla models, including the Apex Edition, will come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver-assist technologies. TSS 2.0 was already standard on all 2020 Corolla models and includes: