Toyota Wants to Expand GR Performance Arm

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Toyota is reportedly taking the performance aspects of its brand, which some of our readers might recall has been a little spotty, very seriously and has begun making plans to broaden the horizons of the Gazoo Racing (GR). The sub-brand, which seems to be gradually supplanting Toyota Racing Development (TRD), has introduced a slew of GR-badged models in Asia and Europe and will be affixing the title onto the returning 86 coupe. It has also slapped the performance designation onto the current-generation Supra here in North America, with no intention of stopping there.

According to Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota North America, the Japanese manufacturer wants to extend the GR treatment to even more models.

While plenty of these will be appearance packages with a light dusting of legitimate performance upgrades (e.g. Prius Prime GR Sport), we know the company can also built raucous performers (e.g. Yaris GRMN). But Toyota doesn’t sound interested unless GR is tackling traditional passenger cars. During an interview with Motor Trend, Carter was emphatic that Toyota wouldn’t be tainting its performance brand with crossovers anytime soon.

“I don’t want to eliminate anything, but initially no. The importance is exhilarating driving,” he explained. “When you go to SUVs you have higher center of gravities and it’s just not conducive. Nothing is off the table, but initially you can expect it to be a car-based vehicle. There’s still a market for that.”

That also makes the next GR model relatively easy to predict. Since juicing up the Prius doesn’t sound like it worked staggeringly well in Japan and is bound to fail here, we’re really only left with the Corolla and Camry. While Toyota could launch a surprise MR2 revival, Gazoo Racing seems more about modifying existing products into something greater.

The Camry makes sense because Toyota already sells a TRD model that’s begging for more attention. Despite looking/sounding the part and having been issued meaningful suspension upgrades, the performance Camry has been left with the same 3.5-liter V6 that’s found in the XSE (which actually costs more money). Having driven the TRD variant, the car would similarly benefit from having a different transmission. Leaving in the eight-speed automatic in grocery getter mode was a huge mistake and spoils what would have been an otherwise enjoyable to drive vehicle. If Gazoo came in to fix the transmission (Note to Toyota: manual mode is pointless if the car refuses to hold the selected gear) and bumped the V6’s output a dozen or so ponies beyond the existing 301 hp, it would probably have something garnering heaps of praise from enthusiasts.

But the Corolla hatchback is the obvious choice for GR. The current generation already looks substantially faster than it is and a hypothetical performance hatch would exist in a segment that currently has a worldwide consumer base. While that does mean more competition, the Mk8 GTI doesn’t build on much over its excellent predecessor. Volkswagen also kind of spoiled its formerly fantastic cabin by taking the minimalist, touchscreen route. A 250-horsepower Corolla that maintains a semblance of practicality could theoretically swoop in and give the GTI a much-needed black eye. Someone has to remind the segment king not to rest on its laurels while swiping a few customers.

We would hate to stifle the creativity of Gazoo Racing, though. Maybe the best pathway for GR is to build an all-wheel drive rival for the Subaru WRX, or perhaps something more conservative and front-wheel biased that could compete with the Honda Civic Si. Carter was unwilling to confess to anything, however, and simply stated that Toyota’s performance arm would be busy over the next twelve months.

“We have some Supra news coming, we have 86 news coming, but we have other models also coming. Come see me in a year from now,” he said.

[Images: 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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  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jun 11, 2021

    30% of the product planners want to be automotive writers, and 40% of the automotive writers want to be product planners.

  • Boxerman Boxerman on Jun 14, 2021

    GR Yaris. 1. Its one of the great cars out there, a seminal machine. 2. Those who know what it is will buy it. 3. it will create a halo effect for the GR band and get lots of copy. For those who say it wont sell, or USA does not buy small rally hatchbacks. If subaru had done a survey they never would have made the wrx. Lotus managed to sell 3k elises in the USA. 2500 Yaris GR would sell and propel the toyota brand into somewhere with cred. Right now toyta's rep is reliable crapboxes.

  • Picard234 So this release amounts to 2.7 hours of gasoline consumption in the US. You won't even see a penny. The administration is draining the reserves for political optics, nothing more.
  • ToolGuy If that nice young man really wants to help this hardworking American, he can have his people deliver the gasoline directly to my fuel tank. Thanks in advance.[42 million gallons divided by 233 million licensed drivers in the U.S. makes 'my' share almost two 12-ounce soda cans. This is huge, thanks for the effort lol.]
  • The Oracle Farley proves once again he is WAY in over his head.
  • Theflyersfan Gas prices went up $1.00/gal today at the three stations I just passed to get home. Was there a war? No? Could it be oil company greed? Perhaps.
  • Slavuta Actually, this is probably not as bad as student loan ordeal