Toyota Mulls Corolla As the Next Performance Model in GR Lineup

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Ten years ago, Toyota fielded a solid lineup of passenger vehicles that were about as exciting as lukewarm tap water. However, the company has since embarked on a quest to change its trajectory and spice things up. Phase one included revision to the firm’s design language. Phase two involved tapping into the brand’s performance heritage and utilizing Gazoo Racing to help develop performance variants of existing models in Japan.

With models like the Supra making a return and other re-imaginings of performance icons in the works, things are now clipping along at full steam over at Toyota. Unfortunately, not all of its upcoming offerings make sense. While the TRD versions of the Camry and Avalon do more to bolster dynamics than sport-inspired appearance packages offered by other manufacturers, next month’s debut of the TRD Prius is utterly bewildering. These aren’t the first models that come to mind when one imagines Toyota injecting more pep and attitude into the brand.

Rumors of a menacing, GR-badged Corolla have been swelling for months, with claims of a hybrid system pushing 250 horsepower providing the power — more than enough to bloody the nose of several existing hot hatches. While chief engineer Tetsuya Tada hasn’t outright said such a vehicle is in the works, he’s been repeatedly pressed about the possibility by automotive outlets.

At this point, Tada-san has basically all but confirmed Toyota will build a faster Corolla, though he usually caps off the convo by denying the existence of any official plans. In crafting the company’s sporting future, Toyota now has to decide which performance model to build next. According to CarSales, Hyundai’s Veloster/i30 N may help push the Corolla to the top of the list.

“It’s not just Hyundai. Other car brands are doing this too, so we are researching this and we have to create the

brand strategy,” Tada told the outlet.

Aussie dealers have clamored for more GR models ever since Gazoo began enhancing road-going models, but the Corolla seems to be the one they want the most. According to Tada, this hasn’t simplified the issue. “We have lots of requests from different countries, so it’s really, really challenging to decide on the order [of GR models],” he explained.

It sounds to us like a faster Corolla is already in the works, and that Toyota just hasn’t decided on the amount of resources to allocate to it. If it were up to us, we would selfishly recommend as much manpower as possible. That’s not just because we want to see a GR Corolla, we also don’t want to wait. Presumably, whatever Toyota builds will first launch in Japan — leaving North America to sit and wonder while the brand decides whether or not to hand it over as a U.S.-spec model wearing the TRD badge.

Here’s hoping.

[Image: Toyota]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Dec 29, 2018

    Minor quibble but I think they should resurrected GT-S name. Or maybe even the AllTrac name if they do all wheel drive. Iconic and would definitely fit the product. But I'll take anything I can get at this point in terms of a sporty small car!

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Dec 29, 2018

      Agreed. If they get this thing right it will go on my shrinking list of potential Fiesta replacements in a year and a half.

  • Oberkanone Oberkanone on Dec 30, 2018

    What a tease. I'm not over the GRMN Yaris. 212HP in such a light weight chassis. Seeing it rocket around Nurburgring is joy and pain knowing it is denied to North America. GR Corolla is just news of future disappointment.

  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.