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CleanMPG Reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

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CleanMPG Reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS
CleanMPG Reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS
Hybrid like fuel economy from a performance oriented compact!
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CleanMPG Reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

The Camry motor turns the Corolla into a performance hypermiler’s dream.

Maybe not perfect but its Fuel Economy is top notch!
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - June 30, 2008

The 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS with the included 2.4L and a stick -- EPA rated at 22 City, 30 Highway and 25 mpg Combined.

The Corolla is celebrating its 40th birthday in America and this latest (tenth) generation proved every bit as endearing as the first. Since its inception in 1966, the Corolla has enjoyed staying power by offering a high quality, fuel efficient and affordable automobile configuration hard to compete with even today! With over 30 million units sold worldwide, this generation of Corolla is again proving to be a formidable competitor in the compact market due to its frugal yet well equipped construction and bulletproof reputation.

Besides an illustrious history including decades of above average reliability, the 2009 Corollas are now equipped with a full compliment of standard safety equipment including ABS, Front, Side, and Side Curtain airbags plus front seat active headrests. When the vehicle is struck from the rear, a cable-actuated mechanism in the active headrest moves it upward and forward to limit the movement of the occupant's head. Automatic head and taillights are brought online by a light sensor and for safety, it works nicely. Reminder: Once the light sensor turns on the lights (a little light in the dash shows up), it is time to take the headlights to manual if you are going to use advanced hypermiling techniques.

During a standard 40% rural-suburban and 60% Interstate test drive including a drive into and out of the heart of Chicago, cruising the Interstates surrounding Milwaukee and even a plethora of rural roads in Northern Indiana, this Corolla’s FE capabilities offered more than what would normally have been expected from an overpowered and full featured model. In fact, a lot more!

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Pricing as tested

MSRP: $18,760 plus optional equipment as follows:

$1,060 - JBL AM/FM /IN-Dash 6-CD Changer w/ WMA/MP3 playback capability, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth with 8-speakers in 6 locations and steering wheel mounted hands free controls.

$150 - All Weather Guard Package: Includes HD heater with rear seat heater duct, Anti-chip tape and Color Keyed outside mirrors

$1,490 - Leather Package: Includes Leather seats and Headrests, Molded Leather Door Trim, Leather Covered Center Console w/ Sliding Armrest and Front Seat Heaters.

$625 - Power Package: Includes Power Windows w. Driver’s Side One-Touch Down and Remote Keyless Entry w/ Key Transmitter.

$660 - Delivery

As tested: $22,755

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS exterior and interior

Corolla XRS at a farm in rural Northern Indiana.

Corolla at the movies.

Front driver/passenger interior.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS specifications

The XRS’ full specifications can be viewed in the CleanMPG - New Fuel Efficient Automobile Specifications forum here: 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Performance

The Corolla equipped with the Camry’s 158 HP 2.4L ICE proved to be the highest performing fuel miser I have yet had the opportunity to drive. It does not have the straight-line performance or handling of a true sports car but what fuel miser do we have available that can offer 0 to 60 times of less than 7.5 seconds? Because this vehicle came equipped with a stick, we had the opportunity to let it stretch out -- and boy did it spread its wings! There is a little clutch and engine hesitation upon a bump start above 50 but the ICE pulls up extremely smooth and power is available almost immediately.

The vehicle was provided by Toyota in order to introduce a Wall Street Journal producer and videographer to hypermiling -- as documented in The Wall Street Journal takes a drive… A hypermiling drive. Even without a completely calibrated set of ScanGauges, when the Producer pulled 49.6 mpg advanced and 45 mpg basic clinic results out in the country, this 25 mpg combined rated Corolla grabbed my attention. With a far more refined 2.4L engine than either the previous generation or this generation 1.8L, there is not only power to spare but silky smooth straight line acceleration available for whatever you could possibly require in terms of performance. All is not sunshine under the hood, however. The 5-speed manual transmissions gear ratios chosen for the big engine compact are ill-suited for its economy based mission. For starters, 2,538 calculated and actual RPM at 60 mph prove at least one thing. To wring FE out of this one is going to take some work. In fact, a lot of work. Another issue is that first gear is only good for < 1 second of initial launch -- second gear is necessary at less than 4 mph.

60 - 0 panic stops distances of 125 feet is std. fare for a compact sports sedan with the included 45 series 17” performance tires. What I would have liked to see are much lower Rolling Resistance Coefficient (RRC) tires included since the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) will take over vehicle dynamics long before you will ever see a LRR tire break loose, much less the sure footed performance Bridgestone’s she comes equipped with from the factory.

Finally, we come to the Corolla’s fuel economy capabilities. Who could possibly guess what this way over sized engine in a Corolla was capable of? Its excellent straight-line performance and panic stop distances are commendable yet offers no hint as to what was in store. So how did this Camry motor squeezed into the compact Corolla platform compare to the industry FE leaders including the Prius-II, HCH-II and conventionally powered Civic? Read on to find out.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Ride and Handling

Ride was a bit stiff with the 45 series 17” tires at 51 psi but this was to be expected. With the performance tires, she goes where you point her as long as there are no undulations in the surface underfoot. When on a smooth sweeper, she has a locked down feel with little body roll but with any compression/unloading of the suspension entering or exiting a corner over road irregularities, the non-independent rear suspension begins to get a little loose. Smooth and flat, she holds great. Any bump and you had better leave some leeway if you are running with VSC disengaged. With VSC engaged and any steering angle off of center, just a little lateral acceleration and base speed not much over parking lot entry will invoke engine shut down and brake activation long before any trouble might be encountered. A good thing but wasting so much of the XRS’ actual capability in the process one wonders why this vehicle is equipped with low profile performance tires to begin with.

New to the 10th gen Corolla is an Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system. The XRS’ EPS is reasonably tuned for a solid on-center feel with minor input needed to keep the vehicle headed where desired at speed and just enough boost at slower speeds to prevent overly large steering effort. No real complaints other than the fact that EPS systems still have an artificial feel and I would much rather deal with no PS than lose touch with the road. Toyota did a good job with the XRS’ variable assist EPS system and after an hour or two of driving it, most would not give it another thought.

Another positive characteristic of the XRS’ EPS is that it has only a minor on-off-on feel a few seconds after entering or exiting a FAS -- unlike other EPS equipped vehicles. This one is seamless and quick to respond after reboot. All EPS systems include a limp home feature in the unlikely event of an abnormality. This fail-safe operation will shut down the output current and your steering will become fully manual but still operable should a problem occur.

The XRS’ adhesion limits are far above what VSC will allow. While testing VSC limits in a large empty parking lot using a mid-speed High G/High Momentum turning scenario during a FAS, everything worked as expected in both right and left turns. To good in fact as I felt the brakes alternating to slow the vehicle down via the YAW sensor output well before the 17’ performance tires were ready to break loose. You are not going to get near the adhesion limits with reasonable speeds and a good road surface as VSC takes control early to keep you out of trouble just as it should.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Interior Ergonomics, Utility and General Comfort

Driver ergonomics are substantially improved over the previous gen Corolla for any lengthy distance driving. With the new telescopic steering wheel, driver seat, accelerator/brake pedal, and even the angle of the dead pedal all add up to a very comfortable driving position. However, I had to adjust the height all the way down and slid the seat all the way back to find this comfortable position. At 6’-1” with a 34” inseam, I suspect anyone with a 36” or longer inseam is going to be a bit cramped. The seat height adjuster is similar to the previous generation but instead of using a knob to turn, it uses a handle to pump. The problem here is similar to the problem plaguing the previous version in that it tilts the drivers seat forward more than it lifts it. I wish Toyota had spent a few more $’s on this design.

10th gen 2009 vs. 9th gen (2003 through 2008) Corolla driver ergonomics. Notice the almost perfect seating arrangement
and reach to the wheel in the latest Corolla vs. the stretch to reach the wheel in the older 9th gen?

Problems occur with the rear seating position of the 2009 Corolla XRS vs. the previous gen. Front seats in both vehicles were
adjusted to the best seating position and the XRS’ rear was simply too tight to allow a tall passenger behind a tall driver.

Rear seats - upright position.---------------------------Left Pass-thru open.---------------------------Full down position.
Pass-through and full trunk access via the fold down rear seats are standard.

Amenities - A variety of usable storage spaces including center console side pockets, a storage box above the usual glove box, front and rear door pockets, a console box with a large-capacity main tray and a smaller accessory tray, an overhead console useful for storage of sunglasses or garage-door openers, and a rear-seat center armrest with an integral drink holder fill out the list.

I was a little disappointed by the arm rest/storage compartment. The interior reveals a very cheap plastic box with some felt on the bottom. This is reminiscent of the Chevrolet Cobalt and out of step for a vehicle in the tested price range.

2009 Toyota Corolla Crash test ratings

NHTSA Crash test ratings: 4 - 4 - 5 - 4 - 4 Stars.

IIHS Crash test ratings: Good Ratings across the board except for an average rating for Head and Neck.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Instrumentation and Controls

Instrumentation - OEM i and aFCDs in the XLE and XRS. I was disappointed by this instrumentation. Not so much by the location, appearance, or action but by its lack of utility for a hypermiler. Aside from having to cycle through a whole slew of readouts to come back around to the i and aFCDs, the most perplexing issue is that there is no fuel consumption or distance recorded during a FAS or even shutting down at a light. The OEM instrumentation simply goes blank and the aFCD resets when keying from IG-II to IG-I and then back to IG-II. I installed (2) SG-II’s in series so I had some reasonable assurance of FE which brought me back into the 21st century but without a shut down capable OEM aFCD, the OEM instrumentation was not designed with the hypermiler in mind.

Controls - Toyota dropped the ball when it comes to A/C and ventilation controls. They installed the Yaris’ manual big knobby controls vs. the previous generations flush manual controls and buttons. The big knobs and action simply felt out of place in a $23,000 automobile.

2009 XRS HVAC controls compared with the previous generation Corolla’s HVAC controls. A misstep imho.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Fuel Economy Results

2009 Corolla XRS -Reasonably steady state (DWL) FE tests

Speed Range43 – 47 mph48 – 52 mph53 – 57 mph58 – 62 mph64 – 66 mph
FE Displayed *47 mpg50 mpg44 mpg40 mpg34 mpg
* OEM aFCD results.

For the Steady State numbers above, I reset a ScanGauge-II and the OEM aFCD at the beginning a 5-mile segment and while DWL in a tight band but maintaining an avg. speed of 45, 50, 55, 60 and 65 mph, I recorded the FE from both aFCD’s. The ScanGauge in its non-calibrated state would read ~ 7.5% high at 45 mph and just 3% high at 65 mph vs. the OEM. The actuals listed below were pulled from the OEM aFCD as they were the most conservative.

DateDistance Traveled (miles)Gallons (US) consumedMPG ActualNotes
June 14   Topped off fill. ScanGauge’s set with no speed or Fuel offsets.
June 16193.9 miles3.268 gallons59.333 mpgTopped off fill. SG-II stats: 3.2 gal. used, 62.4 mpg displayed. Internal offset at 3.2%.
June 17360.3 miles5.577 gallons64.605 mpgTopped off fill. SG-II stats: 5.4 gal. used, 66.1 mpg displayed. Internal offset at 5.0%.

FE Rating OriginEPA City FE ratingEPA Highway FE RatingCleanMPG Observed Fuel Economy
US22 mpg30 mpg62.657 mpgUS
British Imperial26.4 mpg36 mpg75.2 mpgUK
European Metric10.7 L/100 km7.8 L/100 km3.754 L/100 km

Review MPG data: 554.2 miles on 8.845 gallons = 62.66 mpg.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS FE Techniques

When driving at speeds up to 40mph on typical small town stop light to stop light trips, use first gear to get rolling, second gear to hit 15 mph, and third up to 1,750 RPM. A max TPS of 33 and load in the 94% range will work wonders for FE. If you can catch a light or two ahead, run fourth to 1,900 w/ TPS around 31 and a load of 85-90%, then use fifth from 35 mph on up. A max of 2,200 RPM, load of 85%, and TPS at no more than 31 for P&G up to 40 mph while in 5th gear is ideal. This seems to be the ticket for entry into a MS P&G regimen from a full stop and good for the mid 60 mpg range.

On the highway, the XRS proved to be somewhat frustrating in steady state driving. The short gearing forces P&G using nothing but 5th gear in a speed range from 47 to 57 mph. No more than 29 TPS and a load in the 70-85% range (depending on slope) yields a touch over 60 mpg -- with lots of work. Raise the top limit into the 60-65 mph range and the P&G numbers fall to the low to mid 50 mpg range quickly. That short gearing hurts the XRS’ FE and I was always looking to grab a tall 6th gear that was never there

-------325 miles of 85% highway work yielded 65.8 mpg out and 64.8 mpg back.---77 mpg over 19 miles of competition level P&G.

FAS’ing with the lights on… A few 1 milers lasted over 2 minutes and the 12V never dropped below 12.1 V.

The oversized 2.4L ICE at idle only consumes between .21 to .23 gph once warm-up is complete. This low fuel consumption was a nice surprise for those running NICE-On’s.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Wants

As reviewed, the Corolla XRS is a performance oriented fuel miser that anyone can enjoy. Toyota is currently developing a new compact 6-speed manual transmission and we have to assume it will come with both wider ratio spread and a taller sixth gear ratio. If the new six gear manual transmission were to be placed into the XRS, the 2,500 + RPM at 60 would hopefully come down to a more manageable 1,900 to 2,000 RPM adding another possible 2 to 3 mpg out on the highway. Searching for a few more mpg, a mildly Atkinsonized intake taken directly from the Camry Hybrid would allow the XRS another possible 1 to 2 more mpg at low load cruise yet would barely affect its stop light to stop light performance. Dropping a few of the boy racer effects to improve the XRS’ aerodynamics would add yet another .5 + mpg or so to the package. Clean up the HVAC controls and linkages to the level of most other $17,000 + vehicles include would improve the interior appearance. Finally, adding the new Toyota Matrix’ independent double wishbone rear suspension with some tuning could turn the average handling XRS into a real road holder the likes only the Mazda3 drivers currently enjoy.

In our estimation, the suggested changes would transform the Corolla XRS with the 2.4L engine from a “wannabe” street performance driver into one of the most desirable and reliable compacts available today. The additions would satisfy the younger generation with its 0 to 60 numbers still mostly intact, enhance road holding capability and preserve its beautiful appearance. The changes would allow the rest of us the ability to enjoy the smooth revving 2.4L’s output while saving big dollars at the pump.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS Conclusion

From its inception, the Toyota Corolla has changed the compact car landscape. Although the latest tenth generation Corolla is an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary upgrade, it still offers the features, amenities and capabilities to achieve sales that cause every other car manufacturer to turn green with envy.

The 2009 Corolla XRS’ improvements include much better driver ergonomics, the latest amenities, higher performance and even better FE than the earlier generation could possibly achieve if one were willing to push it. The only real question marks have to do with the ungainly ventilation controls, same non-independent rear suspension from the previous generation and the XRS’s short manual transmission gear ratios. The short fifth gear ratio in particular reduces the fuel economy capabilities of one of our perennial favorite fuel economy champions but only during a somewhat steady state highway cruise.

If you are willing to work the current XRS to its full potential, the fuel economy (as seen during our 4-day review) will absolutely astound. In fact, I have a suspicion that the XRS with the 2.4L Camry engine may even best the lower powered Corolla with the 1.8L engine when worked and do so far more smoothly! Unfortunately, to achieve that level of fuel economy, a lot more work was expended than the standard Corolla hypermiler may be willing to endure? When you head out on a longer drive and simply want to "drive it" efficiently vs. "working it" for efficiency, you will be looking for a tall sixth gear that is simply missing and may come to the conclusion that the less expensive 1.8L equipped XLE with its 10 to 15 percent increase in FE in a somewhat steady state cruise would have been a better choice. That is a question you will have to answer for yourself.

Besides minor complaints, the XRS was both beautiful and extremely fun to drive!

I want to thank Shannon Raby (Toyota Press Fleet Coordinator) who arranged for the Corolla XRS to be delivered from Detroit in time for the WSJ Clinic and review. I'd also like to thank Lou Zimbler (A&M - Toyota Press Fleet Coordinator) for transporting the XRS to and from my door.

By psyshack on 07-20-2008, 07:59 PM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

Interesting read. have seen a few of these around. It is true the bigger I4 does have its merits. The low end grunt does make them easy to drive. And there is mpg to be had in the larger engines. Speaking of my MZ3 that is.

To bad the rear suspension is so blah. I really like the multilink in the rear of my car.

Will be fun to see how this car plays out in the market. And what kind of mpg numbers it puts up over the long haul as folks purchase them.
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By Lord Biron on 07-21-2008, 08:51 PM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

Amazing write up.
Amazing fuel economy.

I can pull a MAX of 60 MPG in my 07 Corolla.

Nice work, great job. I like to see the Corolla get more press than it does. It seems people don't understand you can get Hybrid numbers from a car thats been on the market for over 30 years.

Thanks for the 09 review. My test drive of the 09 XRS, in Burnsville, MN, got 51 on the highway, 24 in the city, with an average of 42, which I expected.

However, you did a GREAT and very informative review.
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By radmangto on 08-18-2008, 09:32 PM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

I find the above posts regarding mpg in the 40's, 50's and 60's are, well, not to be unfair, quite unbelieveable .... beyond the Prius' range ...

If you are using the the electronic readout, my 06 Solara, V6, SLE, was off 2-3 mpg over hand calculated travel data.

I would buy and XRS in a nano-moment if highway travel at 65 yielded 35 mpg ... !!!

I'm not trashing anyone's data, it is just quite difficult to comprehend .... yes, my previously overpowered RamAir 2001 TA gave 28-29 mpg @ 70 mph on the 4-lane ....

Help .... if your milage data is correct, XRS here I come .... :>))

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By brick on 08-18-2008, 09:59 PM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

You have to understand that Wayne and many others around here are well-learned pros when it comes to wringing every last mile out of a gallon. Honestly, you might well be able to get that 35mpg out of the Solara without all that much difficulty. 60 out of a Corolla shouldn't be considered "typical" but it's definitely within the realm of possibility with the right driver and under reasonably good circumstances.
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By xcel on 08-19-2008, 01:18 AM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

Hi RadmanGTO:

___Here is my philosophy on a CleanMPG review.

___Performance… I do not care about 0 to 60 mph although I try and report it because anyone that needs to use a 7.5 second capability does not care about CleanMPG’s mission. I suspect Car and Driver and Road and Track would pull < 20 mpg from this Corolla and that is simply ridiculous with the problems America and the world faces today.

___FE data… I give ScanGauge numbers so those that may consider an 09 Corolla XRS will know what type of offsets are needed for accuracy in approximate 70 degree temps. ScanGauge numbers are reported but the actual in every review completed here at CleanMPG are odometer distance traveled over actual gallons consumed from top off to top off based. For the XRS, expect a 6 to 7% ScanGauge-II offset to see close to actual mpg accuracy in warmer temps. With everything including a Prius, I have high confidence that the actual mpg achieved is the actual as posted in the tables. You can see this as well as pics of what a top off looks like in many of the vehicles we review. 60 + from an XRS? You bet and you would have a lot of fun achieving it too Could you keep it up there for an hour a day + commute? Probably not as its gearing is simply to low and the work involved would become very tiresome as reported in the review.

___Although not posted in this review, I did post the top off fill pic in the XRS review blog.

XRS topped off pic…

___Driving mix… I try to include an ~ 30 to 40%/70 to 60% mix of city and suburbs/highway driving mix in the reviews. If I were to travel an almost 100% competition level P&G route (I have access to a route similar to that locally), the FE achieved in any review would be so high as to be ludicrous and unachievable by most in their daily routines. On the other side of the coin, I will never drive a 65 mph average highway speed route either because of both my philosophy and 65 mph is the max speed limit to the immediate North and far south (60 miles away) from my home. Chicago is 55 mph limited everywhere. I will drive in the 10 – 57 mph range locally where appropriate due to construction zones, traffic stop and crawls or speed limits and this is where a review may or may not be broken for some? A Montana or New Mexico hypermiler would have access to a Competitive level P&G route and 75 mph Interstates more than likely but will never see a Chicago stop and crawl if he or she can help it. If you read the techniques section, the speeds should be stated in some form or fashion. I simply will not travel above 62 mph anywhere at anytime unless some very unusual circumstances present themselves. The 100th year anniversary - Greatest Automobile Race Reenactment comes to mind so there again, 65 mph speeds do not match my personal views wrt saving fuel.

___Achievements… Welcome to CleanMPG. The Corolla XRS barely touched average Prius numbers for those that hang out here in some cases Read the Prius-I and Civic iCDTi review, or the HCH-II and Prius-II review blogs to find out what those vehicles can be pushed too. The Prius’ in particular will kick the Corolla’s tail in most any condition imaginable other than a short cold commute. Adding to it that your V6 Camry is easily worth 40 + should show you were most here stand. 35 mpg from an 08 EPA - 25 mpg rated non-hybrid vehicle would be a very poor performance rating from any review I would put up.

___Think of how Car&Driver will tell you how fast, quick and even how fast your vehicle of choice will decelerate on the perfect stretch of road or track. Mash the accelerator or brake and you are golden. I try and portray what kind of fuel economy you can expect when pushing that same vehicle of choice in real traffic including the techniques and there nuances used to the best of my ability. With them, hopefully you can get there to.

___Good Luck

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By barry on 08-19-2008, 12:12 PM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

i'm looking forward to pics of radmanGTO's new Corolla, as well as his FE data!!!
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By markan on 05-14-2009, 08:30 PM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

Just bought the 2010. My first 2 fill ups, I got 9.0 L/100 km city, 7.4 L/100 km highway (26.1/ 31.7 mpg). I think I read a new car needs to put about 5000 km on it before you get the best mileage.
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By xcel on 05-14-2009, 10:25 PM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

Hi Markan:

___If you own the stick, to achieve anything near 3.75 L/100 Km, it would be essential that you use both intermediate and advanced techniques unfortunately. If Toyota would have ran a tall 4th and 5th (they really should have as the motor is plenty strong for it), this would not have been the case given the 2.4L motor in the Camry can achieve essentially the same FE as the Corolla at steady state highway without doing anything but driving.

___There is some break in but it will not be worth but maybe 1 to 2 mpg. The break in comes from you learning to drive your Corolla to its potential which you will learn quickly enough

___Good Luck

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By markan on 05-15-2009, 08:57 AM
Re: CleanMPG reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

It's an automatic. For now I'll be happy if I can achieve the published mileage

9.4 City/6.5 Highway L/100 km
2.4-litre, 4-cylinder with automatic transmission
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