Advance auto zone blog about fast cars and auto trader

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First Drive 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS

The 2009 Toyota Matrix is supposed to be very influential, just as the original Matrix proved when it was introduced in 2003. This tall wagon-style compact based on the Toyota Corolla had a sport-utility flavor but drove like a car, making it one of the first crossovers with an affordable price tag. Its big backseat and dog-friendly cargo bay made utility kind of cool. Without the Matrix, the Mazda3 five-door, Scion xB and even the Audi A3 might not have achieved the coolness they have today.

2009 Toyota Matrix XRS2009 Toyota Matrix XRS-22009 Toyota Matrix XRS-3So you can imagine our surprise when David Terai, chief engineer for the 2009 Toyota Matrix, tells us, "During extensive meetings all over the country with customers, owners and dealers, we found that the current Matrix was seen far too often as a small, conventional, practical wagon."

Stronger but Calmer XRS
If you've driven a 2003-'06 Matrix XRS (or its Pontiac Vibe GT counterpart), you'll remember it well. Motivating it was the Yamaha-built 1.8-liter engine from the now-departed Celica GT-S. You had to spin this hard-working little engine past 4,000 rpm to get any torque, and it was trying to do business in a chassis that was at best a reluctant co-conspirator. Schizophrenic was the only way to describe the result.

Toyota expects the XRS to get to 60 mph in the low 8-second range. No one's going to get excited over a number like this, though it puts the Matrix roughly on par with the four-door Volkswagen Rabbit, which has a 170-hp five-cylinder engine and takes about 8 seconds even to hit 60. The VW only makes 150 hp, but its five-cylinder engine offers a bit more torque than the Matrix XRS's four.

Fuel economy could be a sticking point for some, however, as the Matrix isn't able to deliver typical Toyota gas mileage when equipped with the 2.4-liter engine. With a manual gearbox, the Matrix XRS has a 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway rating, while automatics do one better on highway mileage.

Not the Car It Wants To Be
Despite its impressive levels of refinement, the 2009 Toyota Matrix XRS is not an athlete. Sure, the Matrix XRS is quicker and more agile than in years past, but it doesn't come close to matching the entertainment value of a Mazda3.

For us this is kind of disappointing, but we doubt it will bother the 70,000 people who will decide to purchase a Matrix in 2008. In base, S or XRS trim, this remains a perfectly practical small wagon that you'll purchase for rational reasons rather than emotional ones.

© Source: edmunds

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