By on June 10, 2021

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.

toyota prius phv gr sport

“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.

Image: Toyota

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]

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11 Comments on “Toyota Wants to Expand GR Performance Arm...”

  • avatar

    Toyota Crown GR with 3.4L V6T?

  • avatar

    “When you go to SUVs you have higher center of gravities and it’s just not conducive.” – Famous last words of every ‘performance car’ boss. Who’s gonna eat those words next? This guy or the McLaren CEO?

  • avatar

    I’ll be sorry to see TRD go. It was the greatest auto-related acronym ever.

  • avatar

    TRD means “TiReD” or “ReTiReD” without Re.

    GR means “Grand Funk Railroad” without “Funk”. No thanks, no Railroad without Funk. In Russia GR associates with Dog.

    One more thing: what are your thoughts EBFlex? Imagine it was Ford.

  • avatar

    Uhhhg just bring the GR Yaris stateside and we can all rejoice…

    • 0 avatar

      Its certainly the engine and driveline which would elevate a GR Corolla above its peers.

      The Yaris itself is likely to small for America. A car that small, only really makes sense if roads are narrow and dense (then it makes A LOT of sense)… And without a standard Yaris to sell, the GR is a bit of an odd man out, even if the two have almost nothing in common aside from dimensions and name. The complete dearth of awareness of WRC in the US, doesn’t help matters.

      A Corolla with similar underpinnings, would make lots of sense in the US.

      And, heck, a Camry with two of those cracking 3-pots joined in a V, with a similar driveline to the Yaris, could be a $50K M5 competitor with actual motorsports pedigree….

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

    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.

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