By on September 19, 2017

toyota prius phv gr sport

Toyota is attempting to morph itself into an edgier, bolder, and sexier brand — to varying degrees of success. However, much of the company’s makeover has been purely cosmetic. The exception is Gazoo Racing, the automaker’s motorsport division and new in-house performance arm behind Toyota’s GR-series passenger cars.

Interestingly, Gazoo literally means “image” in Japanese and some of the upgraded models have been about little else. Still, some of the limited edition cars look like hoonable maniacs when compared to the base unit. The supercharged Yaris GRMN (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring) with over 200 horsepower is a prime example.

Aiming to go more mainstream, Toyota has decided to unfurl a range of GR and GR Sport models that won’t be handicapped by limited production numbers. Among them is the bewildering Prius Prime GR Sport, a hot hatch variant of the economy-minded hybrid. Toyota has officially lost its mind. 

toyota prius phv gr sport

President Akio Toyoda seemed to take personal offense at the notion that his company was renowned for producing quality machines without offering much in the way of zest. He’s made it his mission to spice things up, but a performance variant of the Prius is not something anyone could have anticipated.

However, “performance” is a relative term when discussing the Prius GR Sport because it offers no additional power output. Instead, Toyota has outfitted it with new bodywork, a sports-tuned suspension, additional structural bracing, a smaller steering wheel, sport pedals, and an analog tachometer.

toyota prius phv gr sport

The same goes for the the other GR and GR Sport models, which includes everything from the smaller Aqua (our Prius C) to the more sporting 86. Toyota doesn’t bolster power on anything but the top-tier GRMN units. That’s a shame because it would be nice to see a well-balanced model with a few extra ponies.

Our guess is that Toyota wants to make good on its promise to keep what’s best about Toyota and throw in some cheap thrills. Tuning an engine doesn’t usually help its longevity, which is a hallmark of the brand. But not even the 86 GR sees an uptick in output. Unveiled Tuesday, the 2+2 gains Sachs shock absorbers, a Torsen limited-slip differential, upgraded calipers, Rays aluminum wheels, and Recaro seats — but no engine upgrades to speak of.

prius c gr

Toyota says the GR sub-brand will be launched in Japan first and come only in white, with the 86 GR arriving within a couple of months. Other markets will follow, but North America is still a huge question mark. The company would not explicitly say which markets have the green light, but Europe is practically assured since the Yaris GRMN is already sold there.

We’re betting GR will make it to the Americas in some capacity, though. It would be another opportunity for Toyota redefine itself and there remains a strong enthusiast market in the west. At the very least, we’d expect to see some of the aftermarket parts show up here eventually.

The dolled-up Prius can stay in Japan, though. We won’t be needing it and are content to wait for the Supra.

toyota gr range in japan

 

[Images: Toyota]

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37 Comments on “Dear God, Toyota is Building a Souped-up Prius...”


  • avatar
    NG5

    I think there are some vans mixed in that picture too.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I don’t care one whit for a stiff suspension or oversized wheels on a Prius, but if they crammed the 2.5L based powertrain out of the Hybrid Camry into the Prius V, my interest would be piqued.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      From 134 hp to 200 hp?

      Yes please. This would get me to visit the local Toyota dealer. And I bet the “combined” MPG would drop very little versus the original.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        You can get 195 hybrid horsepower already in a Ford C-Max Energi. Includes an 8-sec-60 time and gas mileage in the high 40s. Just sayin’.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I don’t care for the CMax’s packaging compared to the Prius V’s true wagon-like space. Cmax is weird and stubby looking IMO. But yes performance wise it is where I wish the Prius V could be.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            I never thought I would envy the styling of a Prius V…until bought a C- Max. And the lack of beauty isn’t just skin deep, because I never liked Ford’s angular, busy dash, either. But it’s just such a well-rounded car otherwise. You have to drive one, for more than a few minutes, to find its delights. Dash controls are actually simple and very functional; the display screen is well-shielded, with a place to brace your hand as you aim at touch commands. The roofline gives a a huge view of the road, and the sky above. The radar blind-spot monitoring seems redundant, because there aren’t any. Form the driver’s seat, it all works together beautifully.

            Anyway, most new cars are overstyled and ugly, so compromises must be made.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      If the CT200h had been a CT250h, I’d have been all over it. Motor Trend did a comparison test of the various Camry, Sonata, and Passat offerings some time ago. The hybrid Camry was almost as quick as the turbocharged Sonata while using very little fuel. A sub-7-second CT250h returning close to 40 mpg might have actually sold well four years ago. I sat in a CT200h the year they were introduced at the Long Beach GP(Indycar). The interior made a 5-series look like an Altima.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Honestly, this looks very similar in exterior design, with the exception of the front clip, to the Tesla 3 pictured in the article below.

      Same silhouette.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Well… why not? The various Accord Hybrids have had a lot more get up and go than any Prius, there is already “a Prius for me, a Prius for you” different versions, there are the fast Teslas, so it’s about time for a souped-up Prius.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    I’m not sure why this is a bad thing. If you can make a Prius fast and still keep it fuel efficient, why not?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      It isn’t going to get faster, though – it’s all cosmetics and some suspension upgrades.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Posky seems to be voicing a common attitude here at TTAC, that goes something like this: Categories are all-important. Clearly define your vehicle category and master it, and you’ve won the game. But don’t ever go messing around in between the boundaries of categories. Accordingly, fast cars should get faster, Jeeps should get jeepier, luxury cars more luxurious, and so on.

      Frankly, I find this juvenile- like a child insisting that his peas mustn’t touch his potatoes.

      If I quote Malcolm Gladwell now, can I win this debate? In a recent podcast, he described how pro soccer teams have realized that they can improve faster not by attracting a few of the best players as stars, but by improving the team’s worst rank of players. Work on your weaknesses, not the strengths. If the weakness of most Priuses is their performance, maybe Toyota should work on that now… rather than giving up more performance to eke out dwindling economy gains. Making it a more well-rounded car.

      So I applaud Toyota’s effort, if not their method. A firmer suspension option is great, but the thought of an aero kit on this stock cartoon-racerboy styling is preposterous.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’ve always said a “Prius R” with the ~200HP HSD powertrain would be a nice warm hatch alternative. They would have to turn up the wick with everything though. Truthfully the corporate 2.0T in the Corolla iM sounds like a more promising proposition.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      I’d expect them to put the prius drivetrain (with “R” additions) in more of a Lexus, but there’s no real reason to keep the prius weak.

      The weakness is only inherent in 1997 battery manufacture and charging systems. Batteries no longer have those limitations and there’s little reason for avoiding Telsa-type power.

      Ok, Tesla levels would require LiFePO4 batteries, probably way beyond conservative Toyota’s comfort zone, but certainly they could add some real power, and presumably put 200+hp on the rear wheels (note rear wheels can use cheaper brushless motors and let the front wheels handle regenerative braking).

      Capacitors would do wonders for Tesla throttle response. There’s no excuse for novacain in an electric powered vehicle. Play to your strengths.

      The prius was a sudden shock. A hybrid car designed to be a hybrid car, and did things that nobody could do with a conventional car (basically provide a 50mpg appliance that sacrificed none of the appliance virtue. With modern battery power output, the world is ready for a hybrid with Tesla power, and it hardly needs to be a BMW i8 or other over-exotic car designed to be low volume.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Have Lexus resurrect the SC400 but as a 400+ horsepower hybrid (plug-in hybrid if you want to virtue-signal).

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Sport” Prius?

    OK, Toyota, I’ll go along.

    (Slaps knee.)

    Seriously, though, the Prius in that picture looks FAR better than the current model (it actually looks kinda cool, if you ask me).

    I’m sure Sajeev would have a fit over the epic DLO fail, though…

    • 0 avatar
      300zx_guy

      DLO fail? Replacing a faux window with a body colored panel is more like “DLO fix”. I had wondered what the new Prius would look like with that panel matched to the body, and I think it looks good. And that new front clip is miles better than the fugly face on the current Prius, though the Prime’s front clip also looks ok to me. Not a fan of the wiggly hatchback lip and glass,
      though I do like the grey lighting elements. (the hatch is already used on the Prime, except the Prime has red lighting elements. Does anyone know if the glass distorts the view?)

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    A sporty Prius?

    LOL!!!

  • avatar
    jonnyanalog

    GRMN is Garmin’s NASDAQ symbol. LOL
    Unless their is more power these variants will hold little sway. Color me unimpressed.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    No more ridiculous than an FWD CUV.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So basically, GR for Toyota is the same as RS for GM. Want to sell more Prii? Stop decontenting and rolling back material quality and take away the ugly.

  • avatar
    Fred

    They should build a NASCAR inspired Camry. At least make some parts available to fix it up.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Just as improving mpg is most real world consequential in pickups and SUVs; so, I guess, is improving “sportiness” in the models that have that least “sport” in them to begin with….

    That Prius does look cool in a “world gone mad” sort of way.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Lol at everyone asking what’s wrong with a faster Prius?

    Evidently, a lot, since this won’t be any faster. More HP kills reliability, didn’t you guys know that?

    Its the Corolla S for everything! Who hasn’t been screaming for a Prius that rides stiffer and has a bodykit that will hang on every curb?

    Mustang, watch out buddy. You too, Camaro and Challenger. Miata, Abarth, GTI, Si, Type R, all of ya’s. Consider yourselves warned. Toyota is serious this time. LMAO

    Gazoo means image, that’s great. Image (to the uninformed), but no substance.

  • avatar
    Noble713

    The GRMN Mark X in the lineup picture is about $60,000. For that much I’d rather just LS376/525 swap a used one instead.

    I can only imagine what they will charge for a gussied-up Prius. But that GR Prius *INTERIOR* is fuckin’ gorgeous.

  • avatar
    gmrn

    What exactly is the need for the added LSD to the equipment roster? There is no added power, what gives? Is there some cry from the Prius demographic for moar traction while carving corners?
    Does not compute.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    “Interestingly, Gazoo literally means “image” in Japanese”

    And in English, it was a little alien character on The Flintstones voiced by Harvey Korman

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gazoo

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    They studied the global population of morons, and decided it was big enough to make this profitable.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Yesterday – Garden State Parkway northbound –
    I move from center lane to passing lane to go around a slower car.
    Plenty of room to move over – but apparently not enough for the d-bag in the brand new Prius.
    He speeds up – gets on my bumper and starts flashing his brights.
    Do we need a faster, more aggressively styled Prius?
    I think not.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring.

    Ahahahahahaha…

    Gonna put forth the proposition that not everything translates effectively from one language to another.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Hopefully Toyota puts some stickier tires on the Prius before taking it around the ‘Ring. The standard-issue low rolling resistance tires aren’t designed for enthusiastic cornering.
    A sportier Prius is like a turbocharged Geo Metro – not for everyone, but a way of investing some engineering into giving the consumer more choices. Nothing wrong with that! (Now, how about a slick 6-speed manual to go with that tachometer?)

  • avatar
    Walter_Raymond

    You cant fault Toyota for striking the iron while it’s hot. I’m all for it, as I think brands change identities all the time. In fact I just did it with my New Orleans towing company.

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