On the surface, this week's feature car could be any of the million silver Toyota Premios you see out on the road, albeit with a very nice set of wheels and a lowered stance. On the surface, this is another boring family sedan, occupants living in the upper middle class suburbia bubble, mundane and non-descript, the Premio used as an appliance for getting to and from work or classes.
That's why, when it storms past you on Airport Road at 12.30 at night, you kind of, sort of, really don't expect it.
Zafar Mashfee's Premio is a little special, because he's one of the pioneers in a growing group of people in Dhaka who are waking up to see the potential in these family sedans, a potential most people attribute to older, edgier, apparently cooler cars (more on that later). Underneath the hood of the Premio lies a 2ZZ-GE 1.8 liter VVTL-i engine, one of the only engines built in that period that had any sort of sporting aspirations. With close to 190 hp and boatloads of torque on offer, not to mention a great deal of reliability and fuel efficiency compared to the venerable 4AGE, the Yamaha designed, high-revving 2ZZ-GE was the only choice Mashfee had when he wanted more oomph from the Premio. Getting power to the ground is a 6 speed manual.
On the ride along, the Premio was a thoroughly weird experience because its difficult to get over the fact that this is the same boring chassis that I've experienced countless times. Sitting in traffic, engine idling, it actually does feel like that, the comfortable, plush seats pampering you, faux wooden panels everywhere and cold air blasting your face. When the roads clear up, the fun begins. The gears fall into place with a decidedly mechanical thump, and the car's front end raises itself as all that horsepower courses through the thing. The speed climbs with surprising pace, and with precise shifts, the car rides the power curve well into the higher ranges. Mashfee is lazy with the shifting at low speeds, using the 6th gear as a kind of pseudo-automatic, and it's a testament to how much torque the engine produces, if the car can get moving with the final gear.
Mashfee uses the Premio daily, and the way it is driven and the fuel efficiency it gives is outstanding: 10.9 km/l. That kind of mileage figures is hard to get on even a regular 1-NZFE engine, so a 2ZZ-GE getting that is unthinkable. To suspend the disbelief, though, Mashfee shows us the mileage as calculated by the ECU, via a Bluetooth connector plugged into the OBD-II port (on board diagnostics). It's a nifty little device which, when paired with a cellphone and an app, can be used for precise measurements of oil temperature, voltage, and a host of other useful figures in real time. Its one of the major advantages over older engines with OBD-I systems.
Outside, the wheels are OEM Subaru Legacy GT items, and other than the muted exhaust and an intake snorkel low down in the bumper, there really aren't any clues which give away the beast hiding underneath.
We at Shift don't really like this generation Premio and the one that followed, but we have to admit, if this is what people will be tuning in five to ten years' time, we're pretty excited.