Dear God, Toyota is Building a Souped-up Prius

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
dear god toyota is building a souped up prius

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.

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.

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.

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.

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2 of 37 comments
  • RHD RHD on Sep 22, 2017

    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?)

  • Walter_Raymond Walter_Raymond on Oct 03, 2017

    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.

  • Akear The Prius outsells all GM EVs combined, which is really not saying much.
  • Akear The sad truth is the only vehicle FCA sold that broke the 200,000 sales barrier was the 200. I rented one and found it impressive. It is certainly better than the Renegade. At this point I would buy a used 200 over a Renegade. Who in their right mind would buy a Renegade?
  • Akear I just realized 80% of these EV vehicles producers are going to be liquidated within the next five years. It is not possible to survive by selling only 3000 vehicles a year. This reminds me of the bust of the late 90s and early 2000s. Those who don't learn from history repeat it.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic I drove a rental Renegade a few years back. Felt the engine (TIgerShark) was ready was ready to pop out from under the hood. Very crude!! Sole purpose was CAFE offsets. Also drove a V6 Cherokee which was very nice and currently out of production. Should be able to scoop up one at a fair deal.🚗🚗🚗
  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.