IT isn't every day that you get to drive a racecar, but that's exactly what just happened at the recently concluded Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival at Clark International Speedway. While the event's highlight was the preview of the upcoming 2023 Toyota GR86, this became a rare opportunity for us to try out the Toyota Vios OMR race cars.
So, what exactly do you get with the Toyota Vios OMR (One Make Race) race cars? Well, at a price tag of approximately P1.4 million back in 2019, there is plenty of stuff that gets deleted in its process to becoming a race car. There's no infotainment to speak of, nor any rear seats and even sound insulation. The carpets have been removed and all you get are exposed metal plates, a roll cage and OMP racing seats with a six-point harness that exchanges long-distance comfort for lateral support. Yes, you pay more for fewer luxuries but then, you gain a lot in terms of performance improvements.
In exchange for luxuries, you get a boost in performance thanks to beefier brakes, stiffer springs, a sports exhaust system and even a proper limited-slip differential (LSD) for the Vios to put all that power to the ground without much drama. That's not all the upgrades made to the Vios OMR, however, because the removal of any sound insulation and carpeting also made the subcompact sedan a lot lighter.
It was a bummer, though, that the model we got to try was the CVT variant. We would have preferred the manual version, as it would have offered a much more linear and responsive throttle response, but at least the CVT makes the motorsport more accessible to a wider audience.
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The engine remains unchanged. It's still the same 1.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 106 hp and 140 Nm of torque. Thanks to the weight reduction measures, it feels livelier to drive compared with the consumer-grade Vios GR Sport we reviewed last year.
With no sound insulation to speak of, as well as having stiffer springs, this is about as raw as you could get in a Toyota Vios. The country's best-selling car has turned into a race car that lets you feel every single element around you. You feel the sensation of speed even more due to the significant wind, road, and engine noise, which may be a bad thing in everyday driving. Out on the track, these sensations are exactly what you're looking for.
These Vios OMR cars offer a different driving level. The electric power steering in the OMR cars has more feel, though its response is unchanged from the standard model. The engine also has less mass to carry, which means they also feel objectively faster to accelerate than the consumer-grade models. Additionally, the stiffer springs and sportier brakes make it easier for drivers to confidently push the car out on track.
The Toyota Vios OMR race cars are definitely significantly different from the models sold in showrooms. They are ultimately raw race cars that can be street legal for everyday use — assuming the idea of an everyday car means hearing every outside noise and having no rear seats in lieu of a roll cage.