An endearing, tossable nature that is slightly muted by mediocre steering feel and uncomfortable driving position. The new Yaris is a pleasing improvement over the previous generation. Still, issues from the last-gen Yaris remain. In particular, its 1.5-liter, four-cylinder is a noisy, underpowered engine that doesn’t match the nippy handling characteristics of the chassis. We also aren’t particularly fond of the manual transmission. It feels overly notchy, and the clutch functions like an on-off switch, with very little modulation.
The 3.8-liter engine gets you moving quickly once the eight-speed trans finds the right gear. Soft suspension and numb, lightweight steering compromise sporting intentions. Decidedly more luxury sedan than sports sedan. There’s more “rear-wheel-drive” feeling here than is allowed to come through in most large luxury sedans though. You’ve got to push harder in the 3.8 than you would in the beastly 5.0-liter V-8 car to find it, but that rear end is willing to play if you’re willing to keep your foot down.
Due to its size, it’s obviously not meant to provide much in terms of sportiness. That doesn’t mean it is totally boring. A blown V-6 and torquey electric motor make the Touareg Hybrid shockingly quick for a large SUV, especially off the line. Still, the drivetrain doesn’t offer much sonically, particularly in low-rev cruising. This might be a valuable trait for its potential customers, but it doesn’t help the involvement score at all.
Involvement Notes: All the on- and off-road prowess of the standard Range Rover, but with a forced-induction punch that makes it feel nicely quick. Despite the overall size, it’s still quite agile. Feedback through the suspension is limited, but a talkative steering rack makes up for that. One of our favorite big SUVs.
In particular, the middle of our index is populated with some extremely affordable performance machinery, which can be every bit as involving as cars that cost double or even triple the price. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this list is how it’s set to grown in the coming months. With cars like the Scion FR-S/Subaru BR-Z, Ford Focus ST, and Hyundai Veloster Turbo all set to arrive before the end of 2012, there should be no shortage of affordable involvement options.
Actually has a touch more steering feel and athleticism than we expected. Still, it’s difficult for a three-quarter-ton pickup to be truly involving.
Involvement matters. That’s the heart of the sermon we’ve been preaching for the last six years now. To drive fast is fun, to go around a corner neatly is admirable, to be luxurious is lovely; but to do all of those things and more in a way that enhances the driver/machine relationship is special indeed. When we first started Winding Road, we made it clear that we wanted to have a conversation with readers about the vehicles that we found to be exciting, not because they measured well, but because they inveigled many of our senses most of the time we were driving.
The Involvement Index Awards draw near, folks, in our upcoming issue of Winding Road. We’ve already brought you our most involving American cars, all-wheel-drive cars, and the overall most involving cars per dollar. Now it’s time to take a look at the highest-rated Asian cars that we’ve driven since the inauguration of the Winding Road Involvement Index 2.0.
We came across an interesting statistic while working on the Quick Drive of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X SE last week. By cross referencing the Evo’s score on the Involvement Index, we discovered that each point of involvement would cost about $411. Compare that to our Index-topping Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sports, which with a $2.58-million price tag will cost approximately $26,000 per point, and you see the bargain that the Evo represents.
In Winding Road Issue 72, we will be announcing the winners of the 2011 Involvement Index Awards, where we select the most deserving, engaging vehicles from a range of categories. In anticipation of honoring the winners in about a month’s time, we’d like to take a look at the most involving American cars from our Index.
If you’ve spent any time as a consumer of Winding Road content—be it in the form of our digital magazine or right here on the home website—you probably have caught wind of the fact that we’re pretty intense about this whole “driving involvement” thing. At the heart of all of the reviews we write is the idea that a car which provides an engaging, enthralling, feedback-rich environment is something to be prized and sought after.