By on November 28, 2016

Toyota Gazoo WRC

Toyota is pondering using its Gazoo Racing unit as a performance brand for future road cars, not unlike BMW’s M Division and Mercedes-AMG.

The timing couldn’t be better, as it was really starting to seem like Toyota was intentionally trying to make itself the least-exciting brand in the world. The Supra vanished in North America by 1998, the MR2 followed suit after 2005, the underwhelming seventh generation Celica came and went with no replacement, and Toyota Racing Development seemed unhealthily fixated on the off-roading capabilities of the Tacoma.

Thankfully, it looks like the company is finally coming to its senses.

Gazoo motorsport oversees Toyota’s World Endurance Championship program, World Rally Championship team, and Dakar Rally group. The company also has gotten involved with consumer products by way of the limited-production Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring (GRMN) version of the GT86. The company is also responsible for the Toyota G’s lineup of semi-sportified passenger vehicles.

Speaking to Autocar, Gazoo Racing chief Koei Saga said he intends to expand into road cars, drawing a link between that side of the Toyota business and its racing activities.

“In Europe, the challenge is bigger because we have more competitors here, and it is also an issue of cost,” he said. “However, I am very much working on that so we can have a brand like the [BMW] M brand.”

Saga wouldn’t commit to questions about the upcoming Supra or Z5, suspicions on the company’s involvement remain. While the G’s vehicles tend to be modest, image-enhanced cars, GRMN limited editions included a lightened Mark X sedan, turbocharged 150 horsepower Vitz/Yaris, and the aforementioned track-enhanced GT86 coupe.

The rumor-mil has it that the first Gazoo model produced in any number, would be a spiced-up subcompact. Toyota’s top brass have hinted at a performance Yaris and Gazoo already has a World Rally Championship version in the works. Knowing what we know about the WRX, it would be silly not to see a turbocharged Yaris on sale someday — especially if the WRC car does well.

Toyota Gazoo racing

[Images: Toyota]

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57 Comments on “Toyota Considers Welcoming Fun Back into Its Fleet With New Performance Division...”


  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Gazoo Racing? Were they inspired by the little green alien on the Flintstones?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    These guys will give my new tuning company, Popsicle Motorsports, a run for its money.

    Seriously, change the name to something cool. There are so many cool sounding Japanese words from which you can choose. Gazoo isn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “There are so many cool sounding Japanese words from which you can choose.”

      Yeah, like “kabuki”. Their styling’s already more than half way there.

      Here’s a suggestion for their exhaust tuning:

      japantoday.scdn2.secure.raxcdn.com/images/size/x/2016/04/kabuki.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      They already had a great name in Kanto Auto Works, which sounds a helluva lot better (IMO) than something that seems like it was taken from a terrible Saturday morning cartoon show.

      Kanto Auto Works sounds cool, it sounds like a skunk works shop, where people create vastly improved cars.

      I realize the name was of a body manufacturing facility, which was absorbed into another Toyota company, combined with two others to form Toyota Motor East Japan.

      But, I love that name. to me, it really does conjure up images of some poorly lit secret lab somewhere in the Kanto region, where a freshly built molten orange 300 hp AWD Corolla iM awaits testing and final tuning before being hauled to the track in a unmarked Hino truck, where it will battle the Civic Type R, Golf R, and Focus RS.

      Instead, its some silly name that, knowing Toyota, will mean virtually nothing when plastered to a Camry SE with 8 additional HP and 2 lb/ft additional torque, a more “aggressive” body kit, wheels and of course a “sport-tuned” suspension that will feature a bone-jaring ride that won’t help handling in the slightest. But, it’ll *feel* sportier.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    All I had to see was “WRC Yaris” to know all I need to know about this doomed effort.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I had taken to calling it TuRD because all they focused on was trucks that would never make use of the mods in their real pavement-centric lives. But it’s good to see this may change!

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “would never make use of the mods in their real pavement-centric lives”

      Oh? Admittedly any off-road centric model of any brand will have a large demographic of pavement-only drivers, but I’d argue that after Wranglers, Tacomas/Toyota pickups/4Runners must have one of the biggest offroad followings out there.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        I think that is a valid point. But as you imply, probably not the vast majority of owners take them off road. I’d also wager that many of the serious off-roaders are the second owners buying after the initial lease. If I was looking for a truck to take off road and beat on, I wouldn’t buy new.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Check out the following link. Start on the last page and work your way back.

          http://www.toyota-4runner.org/5th-gen-t4rs/97855-official-5th-gen-toyota-4runner-off-road-pics.html

          There are guys out there scratching and denting their brand new, $40k SUVs.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Will it be available in beige?

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Does this move make any macro sense for profitably at least sustaining if not growing Toyota’s global market share of has Akio just slipped his handlers again?

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Gazoo? Here in the states they’d do far better calling it the Joe Gibbs Racing edition.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Toyota’s lineup is so trash though. Outside of the Mazda 2, BRZ and Matrix there’s nothing in their lineup worth throwing fun parts at. And the stuff needed to fix those cars will need more than some bolt ons. We are talking 3 figure sums of horsepower.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyP

      Tacoma, Tundra, LandCruiser, 4Runner.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      sportyaccordy, I suspect that “Toyota” performance really means Lexus performance in the United States. Makes zero sense to make a high-performance Yaris. Makes lots of sense to make a high-performance Lexus IS.

    • 0 avatar
      Noble713

      That’s because Toyota doesn’t import their awesome Mark X and Crown Athlete RWD sedans to the US, probably because they would eat into sales of the Lexus IS/ES/GS.

      Mark X 350 S G’s = 330hp V6 sedan, aggressive styling, and fairly lightweight at ~3,300-3,400lbs IIRC. They already make left-hand drive versions in China.

      • 0 avatar
        Noble713

        The work network isn’t letting me edit my comment, but here is the new Toyota Japan page for the Mark X, I guess these are the 2017 models. The styling looks updated, and there’s new model nomenclature too:

        https://toyota.jp/markx/grade/350rds/?padid=ag341_from_markx_top_grade_350rds_detail_thumb

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          You said my trigger words – Crown Athlete.

          I sat in a couple and absolutely fell in love.

          The other thing I noticed while hopping in and out of the the sample cars at MegaWeb was how much I appreciate good, high quality cloth interiors.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            That’s what I’m dreaming of: basically a Dodge Charger made by Toyota. Give it a nice velour interior and a straight-6 turbo motor (I will also accept a 2GR based variant) and we’re in business.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    Toyota could not be more full of it. Every one of their new products over the last 6 or 7 years was supposed to be more “fun” or “expressive” or whatever. Remember how great supposed-enthusiast Akio Toyoda said the 2012 Camry would be? This company wouldn’t know “fun to drive” if they got run over by an MX-5.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Have you driven a Camry? Don’t knock it till you try it. I wouldn’t say it’s an MX-5 but also, I don’t even think a cayman is as fun to drive as an MX-5. But heck, I drove a 2002 Camry for a while and it was fun enough, you could do doughnuts in a parking lot if you used the e-brake. I wouldn’t say the Toyota driving experience is intrinsically fun, like how an RX-8 might bring a smile to your face, but if you try to have fun and you turn the nannies off, Toyota cars are worthy dance partners.

      Everyone has their blindsides. Ever since I can remember, GM tells us that each new midsize car is finally competitive with the Camry. It’s never been true.

      And ever since Akio took the reins, he’s promised that Toyota would build fun to drive cars. I honestly don’t think they’re getting better, but they weren’t ever as bad as people accused them of being. I’ve driven and enjoyed driving 90s Camrys so maybe I’m just zen and unattached to expectations that would only serve to make me suffer.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Drive a Camry and then drive a Mazda6, a Ford Fusion or a Honda Accord. The Camry is sporty like a Hummer is subtle and a Lamborghini is economical.

        I never considered that a car with a working parking brake was automatically fun to drive because of that fact.

        I kinda thought it was something more like when you threw a car into a corner way too fast and as it grips and holds on, begging for more and assuring you complete control with every tug of the wheel, how you can’t wipe the smile from your face. That experience has never happened to someone in a Camry. Ever. And no Gazzo Bazoo Shazamazoo Racing stickers will fix it.

        • 0 avatar
          Sam Hell Jr

          With respect, it might be that you’re all hearing “sport division” and assuming they’re talking about a Camry. By the time this rolls out, the Camry could be only the third best-selling Toyota in North America. The future is not three-box mid-size sedans.

          My guess is that the sport division would focus on hybrid AWD systems as in the hybrid RAV4.

        • 0 avatar
          yamahog

          I haven’t driven the newest Fusion, and I really dislike Honda’s and Ford’s torque converter automatic transmission calibrations (but I like both of them with manuals) – not knocking them as bad, I just dislike it and it bothers me too much to enjoy the experience.

          And I’m not going to claim that the Camry is the most fun to drive in the class, and I’ll even refute the claim that the 2012 Camry was substantially more fun than the 2007 Camry.

          but I think the Camry is fun enough and it’s nice to be able to do doughnuts, hit a curb, and drive away without a single squeak or rattle. The 100k+ mile accords I’ve driven don’t even drive down smooth roads without rattling and I don’t think I’ve been in a fusion with 75k miles that was as rattle and noise free as my 150k mile Camry.

          Different strokes for different folks. But if you’re here to argue whether or not I think the Camry is fun, you can get on the right side or keep telling me why i’m mistaken.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Toyota-branded GS-F for $55K plz.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Toyota just needs to go back to 1993.

    1993 Toyota is the greatest car company to ever exist.

    Supra turbo. MR2 turbo. Celica All-trac. Peak Camry. LS 400. SC 400.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      From an enthusiast standpoint, maybe. But beige sells…a lot, and while we may lament the passing of so many “fun” cars, Toyota also knows what keeps the doors open and lights on.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        Yeah, but it wasn’t just performance cars.

        Not only did they have awesome performance cars, they put the German luxury makers on notice, AND they had the best family sedan BY FAR.

        The XV10 Camry was so much better than any of it’s competetion back then, it wasn’t even close.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Don’t forget 80 series Land Cruiser, Previa S/C AWD, 4Runner and Pickups widely available with stick shifts.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Even the ‘regular’ ’93 Celica GT-S with the torquey 2.2 was very good. Peak indeed!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Surely they can scrounge up enough parts at Toyota City to make a fun convertible. No convertible? No fun cars in the rest of line up. Looking at Hyundai/Kia.

  • avatar
    zip94513

    Different bodywork, stiffer suspensions, bigger wheels, and one-off paint colors won’t make it fun again.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Why is there a crabgrass rake sticking out from the back of that horrid little car?

  • avatar
    RHD

    Supercharged AWD Aygos, so we can play wreckreational Aygo football.

    Or just some Aygos.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    M Brand? Hey wait, I thought if I bought a BMW I was already getting a performance-oriented vehicle!

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Having been a Toyota dealership service manager in the 2000s, I was there for all the TRD hoopla for cars and trucks, and fear this effort may end up the same way. Toyota would come out with TRD products, price them way out of the range of reason, and then discontinue them constantly, leaving a customer who needed a new wheel forced to buy a set of four because their style was no longer available at the end of the same year. Remember the factor TRD Tacoma street trucks with the cool body kits? If a customer wrecked one the whole truck would have to be turned back to stock because the parts were no longer available soon after launch. How about designing cool cars from the outset rather than trying to add spice to a bland dish? People might buy more Yaris’s (Yari?) if they had a better cost/value ratio and didn’t look like Darth Vader did the hideous front end styling and a Japanese bean-counter did the rest.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The flip side anecdote is that until this year(?) Toyota still stocked the TRD supercharger kits for some seriously old motors, as in the 4Runner/Taco 5VZ-FE and 1MZ-FE. But on the whole yeah I remember that big TRD push as being a flop. I think there was a TRD Solara that was tested in the car mags that was pretty quick in a straight line. Celicas had the optional boy-racer body kit that was quite garish.

  • avatar
    kogashiwa

    There was nothing particularly “underwhelming” about the last Celica, at least as long as you bought the GT-S, with the proper engine. It was one of the last of the sport compacts, and just faded away because no one was buying those anymore. See also: RSX.

  • avatar
    3CatGo

    Seriously, I own a 2000 Celica GT-S (6 speed) AND a 2016 GTI (6 speed). While the GTI is faster and has actual torque, the Celica is way, way, way, way more engaging to drive. The engine screams to (and beyond) the 7,8000 RPM redline, it sounds awesome and you can shift by ear whereas the GTI just drones a constant drone, the steering is world’s better than the GTI with actual feel, it has no computers isolating you from what the tires are doing, it is just a much more satisfying driving experience.

    When I go out for a back-road blast in middle of nowhere PA, 8 times out of 10 I take the Celica. That car is so underrated. Also, mine has 342,000 me-only miles and runs great, my hopes for the GTI are not nearly as high.

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