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Driving Fun: Toyota and Lexus at SEMA 2018

It’s been almost a decade since Akio Toyoda took over the leadership of the company his grandfather founded 80 years ago, and in that time, we’ve seen plenty of exciting changes from the Japanese powerhouse. Toyoda is an avid fan of performance cars and racing, and he’s made it a personal mission to elevate the driving experience across the entire lineup. While Toyota and Lexus remain some of the most reliable vehicles on the road, Toyoda has made it clear that’s not enough anymore — they have to be fun to drive too. In that respect, we think he’s been incredibly successful, and there were some awesome rides on display at both the Toyota and Lexus booth at SEMA this year.

One of the cars which Toyota has been getting consistent praise for is the latest Corolla hatchback, and to show off all the tuning potential, the company enlisted three different builders to put their own spin on its versatile little package.

The most extreme was clearly the Drift Demo model from Papadakis Racing. While it’s still packing a four-cylinder engine, this car has been changed from front- to rear-wheel drive, and is now good for a whopping 850 horsepower, thanks to some help from a BorgWarner turbocharger and a nitrous oxide set up. Muscle Tuner Automotive also went for a nitrous system with its build, which matches the aggressive body, suspension, and wheel upgrades. The wizards at Hoonigan went in a completely different direction, and transformed their Corolla into a high-speed camera car. Lights, camera, action, anyone?

To help feed all the buzz gathering around the next-generation Supra, Toyota also brought three examples of the legendary tuner car to the floor, and we have to say, these have aged beautifully. Now, it’s well-known that the third generation — with its incredible 2JZ engine — gets most of the love in enthusiast circles, but we loved getting to check out that beast’s ancestors.

As it is with a lot of more budget friendly performance vehicles, many of the examples which remain have been heavily modified, so seeing bone stock versions is a rare treat. How cool are the flip-up headlights on the second generation?

Obviously, there was plenty of cool hardware on hand from Lexus too, including an wicked cement gray LS 500 F Sport, a bright yellow LC, and a very sharp looking 2019 UX. In recent years, Lexus has been commended for delivering cars that look very similar to the concepts we see on the pedestals at auto shows, and we think all three of these machines are rolling proof.

Check out all the photos from Toyota and Lexus at SEMA 2018 below, and if you like what you see, swing by your local AutoNation dealer to check them out in person!

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