Toyota hasn’t made a Toyota sports car in years. The new Toyota Supra has german blood The GR 86 has always had Subaru bones But finally, after nearly two decades, Toyota has developed a pure-bred, ground up Toyota sports car that’s actually coming to the United States: The GR Corolla But those who built the legendary cars that made the Toyota name famous are long gone, And the question is: Does Toyota still know how to make a sports car? To answer that, let’s drive the GR Corolla, and take a look back at the cars that paved the way for Toyota to once again make a sports car that proudly wears its badge. I’m Guff, this is Albon, let’s get started It certainly looks the part, doesn’t it? Wide flares, Muscular proportions Forged Carbon Fiber Your mother’s grocery getter hatchback transformed into a superhero And while the enticing looks of the GR Corolla have certainly taken the internet by storm, So too has what lies beneath 300hp from a 1.
6L turbo 3-cylinder One that has been forged in the fires of motorsport A 6 speed manual sending power to all 4 wheels, Thanks to its electronically controlled AWD system, One that was developed for the tumultuous stages of World Rally And not just to race, to win It’s a classic formula, Take a simple, well engineered, if not boring road car, Inject some motorsports into it, And end up with a fantastic, rewarding sports car that can be thrashed all day and never complain It’s a formula that Toyota has concocted time and time again A formula they started perfecting nearly 60 years ago, with cars like the Crown, Corona, and Publica racing in the Japanese Grand Prix That racing pedigree later would lead to the creation of road cars like Corolla Sprinter A tiny coupe with 70hp and a 4-speed manual exactly what they needed to spank the Datsun 1000 on road and track And although supercars like the 2000GT sat at the helm of Toyota’s lineup, it was the cheap and cheerful sporty cars like the Corolla Sprinter that people had in their driveways A few years later, Toyota was rallying the Celica And the Celica 1600GT’s off road wins were the reason we got to drive the the 1972 Celica GTV on road The 80s saw the TRD division take the 2nd gen Celica road racing, and those engineers later gave us the Celica Supra Then of course, there was the legendary AE86 Corolla, the Hachiroku A car that technically shouldn’t have even existed, with the inevitable flow of progress pushing the world to front wheel drive.
But the engineers that loved to race knew that they needed RWD. Not just to win championships, but because they knew their customers loved the balance of the FR Corolla. And so efficiency and cost reduction was thrown out the window for the AE86, In favor for front engined, rear wheel drive goodness And it wasn’t just any engine either It was the Yamaha-developed 4A-GE 4 valves per cylinder, 7800RPM All in a lightweight econobox body with perfect weight distribution and a Limited Slip Diff And when those engineers took that little Corolla racing and won the 1985 Japan Touring Car championship, We, the people, celebrated by taking our Hachirokus to the mountain pass Of course, eventually, the world moved on, and when the Celica was forced to go front wheel drive, It was the Toyota engineers’ rally aspirations that led to the creation of the ST165 Celica GT-Four A car that won the 84, 85, and 87 WRC Safari And gave us the 2.0L 3SGTE powered road car that gave us the vicarious feeling of being Juha Kankunnen And Toyota followed it up with the ST185 Then the ST205… Toyota understood that motorsports was magic Something that could be sprinkled onto even the most basic of road cars to make automotive experiences that people could never forget.
And yet, not long after, it seemed that even Toyota themselves forgot. The last sports car we got with a Toyota VIN stamped on it was the MR-S, which ended production in 2007 And while we did get a fantastic sports car just 5 years later with the 86/BRZ twins, it wasn’t Toyota enough for everyone Many owners of the original AE86, a car that truly embodied the soul of a “Toyota sports car”, just couldn’t get on board. And while people like myself would tell them they were too closed minded, Nobody could really deny that with Subaru spinning the spanners, the twins often left a little to be desired. (show recalls, unreliability) 7 years later, Toyota brought back their most cherished nameplate, the Supra And, if those same people thought the Subaru partnership was too far, then well… And while so many of us have found joy in driving Toyota’s latest offerings, despite their origins If you’ve driven those hallowed Toyotas over the years, it’s undeniable that they do have their own special sauce, A feeling of being in a car that despite looking so ordinary, could feel so extraordinary A feeling that no matter how much the car rattled underneath you, somehow it always felt well put together.
A feeling of trust in the intelligent engineering and precision, often under the leadership of some of the most passionate automotive personalities to come out of Japan.
It’s a certain feeling that Toyota has been unable to grasp in recent years, Well, until the GR Yaris came around A car that proved to the world that they could do all those things they used to do Race on the world stage, with technology they built in house, And not only become champions themselves, but also let us, the enthusiasts, revel in some of their glory With a road car that had tactility, performance, rowdiness all wrapped up in a cute economy car package Made under the supervision of true automotive enthusiasts Well, as long as you lived in a country where they actually sold it.
The GR Yaris never made it stateside, but now, just a few short years later, the GR Corolla sure has. On first impressions, the GR Corolla in Core and Circuit trim is in many ways, a Corolla. The seating position in the Gazoo Racing branded bucket seats is a little high, a little pedestrian And other than the very information dense digital cluster, and the GR steering wheel, the interior is par for the course for an NPC-mobile like the Corolla But then again, that’s half the fun with a car like this.
Lure your unsuspecting passengers into a false sense of security, And then drop a gear or two…and let the turbo do the talking The GR Corolla’s tiny 1.
6 liter 3 cylinder engine might seem unassuming on paper But under load it growls and whistles, it makes blow off valve sounds that gives you flashbacks to the days of HKS Super sequentials 10.5:1 compression and over 25 pounds of boost gives you unexpected thrust, an honest 300hp that you don’t feel short changed on. You can tell this motor has been built to be angrily revving to redline on a circuit or on a rally stage somewhere And when you do hit the limiter, the cable operated 6 speed manual is a pleasure to shift around An affirmative ‘fump’ as you go into the gate, as good as any of the great transverse gearboxes from recent years (Ad segue for dbrand carbon skins compared to carbon roof?) It’s when the road gets less straight though, that the GR Corolla gets interesting Turn the wheel and you’ll find that the steering loads up well, with a quick 12.7:1 rack that is very linear, and easy to place There isn’t much feedback though; very little road texture that comes through as you’re beating down a backroad or hitting the kerbs at a track day Which is certainly disappointing considering its half-brother, the GR86 lets you know all the details of the cracks and creases in the road But such is the status quo in the days of electric power steering, and besides, the thing you’ll notice more when you chuck the GR Corolla into a corner is the suspension.
The car leans as you pitch it in, which at first is endearing, like a Miata, but start to take the GR Corolla through some transitions and you realize that it’s 3300lb curb weight and tall proportions make for quite a bit of body movement. And that’s despite the center of gravity benefits from Circuit edition’s forged carbon fiber roof. A roof that matches nicely with a carbon fiber skin from dbrand btw.
Or the carbon fiber trim in your Toyota Supra Or the beautiful vintage brown leather in your classic Toyota Celica Or with any other part of your car! Dbrand has a ton of skins that will be the perfect fit for you and whatever your style is.
Protect your devices and look good at your car show with dbrand. Link in the description Front Mac Struts and a rear multilink setup is what you’d expect from the Corolla, but even with stiffer springs and dampers from standard, the car feels undersprung for the abuse I was throwing at it I damn near fell out of my seat on track when I started to really chuck the car around, but then there’s the third thing you’ll notice, something that really defines the GR Corolla’s handling The stability.
The chassis is stiff, with 349 new weld points and 2.7 more meters of structural glue holding it together. And when you point it to an apex, The GR Corolla obediently stays to the line you direct it to.
No tendency for frustrating, pushy understeer, And no real desire for on throttle oversteer That’s when you remember, the GR Corolla is AWD And not just any AWD, an electronically controlled AWD system made with real rally tech A computer controlled rear coupling intelligently distributes power front to rear with its clutch packs And the very uncomplicated knob in the center console tells that computer where to send power “Front mode” for a 60/40 split “Rear mode” for 30/70 Or Track Mode, for 50/50 And while, between Rear and Track, there is a noticeable enough change in how the car exited a corner, The GR Corolla continues to be a drama free experience no matter where it sent the power.
Just predictable, easy to access grip, Fun but not frightening Fast but without any evidence of fury And that makes me feel weird. Conflicted. The car is great, its capable, its stable, its safe But somehow, I feel like with the bulging nostrils and forged carbon roof and SARMs-overdosed fender flares, it needed to drive… more silly Ride more ridiculously, rotate more willingly And while yes, pulling the handbrake on the GR Corolla will disconnect the rear drive and let you pull the most badass doris in your high school parking lot, That by itself isn’t enough.
Of course, it’s when you pit off the track and cruise the GR Corolla on the street that you begin to understand where it feels most at home The punchy powerband is exciting in the midrange, with just enough lag to give you suspense and more than enough torque to keep you grinning the suspension that leaned on track is compliant enough on the street to not absolutely pummel your spine, The humongous 14 inch Advics brakes are mighty and never fade The clutch is light and the shifter is easy enough to teach your kids how to drive stick Oh yeah, your kids.
Your family! The GR Corolla does all the fast stuff while still being a Corolla. 5 seats, a hatch with enough space for track tires or Trader Joe’s, an infotainment that doesn’t make you feel like a luddite The thing I keep forgetting is that this car isn’t supposed to be a hardcore track car, its supposed to be what all the other great Toyotas before it have been A fabulously fun driving experience when you want to push it, And then just a Toyota when you don’t.
And for 36 grand, it’s actually damn good value for money But for some reason, my stupid jaded brain The one that’s spent the last decade driving around in loud and obnoxious 86s and Miatas The one that spend would spend an entire commute thinking about installing poly bushings to take half a tenth off a lap time, even though my L5 was slowly being churned to dust Yes, that stupid brain Kept wanting the GR Corolla to be something more, wanting it to be the same tune just with more gain. Turns out, Toyota already beat me to the punch There is a version of the GR Corolla for people as psychotic as myself And it’s called the Morizo Edition The recipe isn’t too different.
Take all the greatness of the Circuit Edition, the G16 engine, the 6 speed trans, the stiff body shell, And just add a little spice to everything Another pound of boost brings torque up 20 lbft Shorter first gear and final drive ratios make for a more exciting climb to redline And the already rigid chassis gets twice as much structural adhesive as the other models Add in stiffer spring rates, monotube dampers, a retuned electric power steering system, and just to make sure your significant other knows to be absolutely pissed when you bring this home No backseats, no rear power windows, no rear speakers, no rear door impact bars, A hundred pounds of weight savings And in its place, big ol chassis braces.
No, this is not a GT3 RS, this is a Toyota Corolla. And speaking of, it comes on the same tires as the Porsche too, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s Truly the most ridiculous thing you could ever do to a Corolla, and somehow, all of it is orchestrated in a such a way that make the Morizo feel exactly how I wanted it to feel The added mechanical grip makes the nose so much more darty, without being twitchy The springs and dampers keep the body motion under control as you move through from corner to corner And while the added torque and shorter gearing are subtle by themselves, they work well together to turn up the excitement factor of that angry 3 cylinder The balance of the car remains neutral, no doubt due to the GR-Four system being unchanged from the lower models, But with the extra pace that the Morizo musters, it somehow makes even that stability feel more stimulating And yes, it probably makes the road manners worse, and it’s absolutely ridiculous to own a Corolla with no backseats, but still it’s the one that I found myself thinking about, even long after we left the cars behind at the track Morizo is the pseudonym that president Akio Toyoda races under, and he is the one that insisted this more hardcore version be made, bean counters be damned.
And to make sure everyone understood that this car was important to him, he put his own name on it. Somehow I feel like him and I would get along.
But it’s not just him, With all the great Toyota products in the past, you could really get a sense of the ethos of that car through its chief engineer And GR Corolla’s Sakamoto-San is no different Stern and straightforward when answering technical questions But get him talking about his creation and you can see the excitement in his eyes Giddiness in his step as he took us around the Morizo like a proud father, showing us the handcrafted takumi-made engine, The forged carbon door trims made with leftovers from the manufacturing of the carbon roof The purposefully sunken switches in the dash to keep from errant knees changing settings while cornering The hidden cutouts in the rear carpet, hiding threaded holes to install your racing harnesses, a feature that he said he didn’t tell anyone about Just a little secret between us and him.
And yes, the Morizo is 50 grand, and there’s only 200 of them for the year, but the fact that a car like this exists, in a time when cars have have more in common with a microwave than a motorcycle, is amazing And for those of you less childish than me, the Core and Circuit Corollas still offer most of the thrills in a far more usable package. Speaking to Sakamoto-san, you realize that great Toyotas are rarely just about specs, they’re about that human factor that seeps into a car, that intangible passion to create something that brings another person joy, Something that the world saw with Nobuaki Katayama, and the Hachiroku Isao Tsuzuki, and the Supra Tetsuya Tada and the 86 Naohiko Saito and the GR Yaris And now Naoyuki Sakamoto, with his GR Corolla A car that in one form can be the road riot family hauler, and in another form, a track focused pace chaser A car that has undeniable Toyota DNA, and continues their long standing tradition of distilling motorsports into road cars, while still staying true to their values as a carmaker a refreshing change of pace for a brand that spent decades trying to find a lost version of its own identity, And, above all, finally, a concrete answer that, YES, Toyota still knows how to make a sports car.
Thanks for watching..
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