Gazoo Racing (GR) has earned itself quite a bit of cachet since Akio Toyoda decided to make it the de facto performance arm of Toyota in 2009. It’s slowly supplanting Toyota Racing Development (TRD), which is still technically running the show but currently feels more like the manufacturer’s North American off-road racing division. GR has been producing global, models that actually provide enhanced performance and output from the factory while TRD has basically become the company’s in-house parts catalog.
However, Gazoo has some performance parts of its own and Toyota has been eagerly modifying the crap out of its vehicles as a way to tease them. The brand is now ready to start selling them and has re-released last month’s dual GR 86 concepts — designed to tickle the enthusiast community — with the relevant details.
Thanks largely to its status as a niche product, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ have been on deathwatch for years. But their saving grace as stellar machines to drive has kept them from being abandoned. The Toyobaru Twins still receive quite a bit of love, even if the affection is not spread around all that liberally. Despite this, both models are expected to receive a successor.
While a quick glance at their sales record makes this seem like a losing strategy, Toyota remains obsessed with rebuilding its reputation within motorsport (often with help from another manufacturer). Toyota head Akio Toyoda has even expressed a personal dream of returning to an era where the company has revived — or replaced — its most iconic performance models. The Supra and 86 are already here, leaving room for the Celica and/or MR2. Ditching the 86 would be a step backwards, even if it only moved 3,398 units in the United States last year — its worst showing to date.
Toyota is updating the 2020 4Runner with more safety tech, infotainment options, and a compelling new trim. Based on the TRD Off-Road Premium trim, the 4Runner Venture Edition ditches the chrome to furnish customers with the ever-popular blacked-out experience. Mirrors, door handles, badging, and rear spoiler are all swapped for the darkest hue available.
The rest of the package plays to the body-on-frame 4Runner’s strengths. Toyota has fitted a Yakima Megawarrior roof rack as standard equipment as the vehicle’s crown jewel. Venture Editions also receive gunmetal 17-inch TRD wheels, while removing all other exterior references to Toyota Racing Development. The manufacturer suggests this provides the trim with “a cool, minimalist look,” and we find it difficult to disagree.
Considering the Toyota Supra was revealed to the world just a few weeks ago, it feels slightly premature for the manufacturer to start releasing special editions of the model. However, we’ve heard it’s important to strike while the iron is hot in business and the Supra is certainly operating well above room temperature. It would be silly to think Toyota would cool its heels after two years of teasing the Supra just because it finally went on sale.
Now that you can buy the coupe, Toyota wants everyone to know that they’ll also be able to purchase snazzy upgrades for it through the performance catalog and released the GR Supra Performance Line Concept TRD over the weekend as a reminder. Like the BMW M Performance Parts Concept that appeared over the summer, the Supra exists to show the world what’s possible when the full force of the TRD catalog is harnessed.
Unfortunately, engine upgrades aren’t currently a part of that equation. Like the M Performance car, the TRD Supra receives no improvements to its powertrain. Instead, Toyota showcased a festival of spoilers and fins aimed at optimizing the coupe’s aerodynamics.
The Chicago Auto Show is less a trade event for showcasing new models and more of an industry dumping ground for special editions and appearance packages. Toyota is already bringing one of those to the party with the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition, but that’s not all it plans to unload from its trailer.
With the event just hours away, Toyota felt compelled to issue a last-minute teaser of an unidentified TRD Pro model. However, we’re disinclined to believe it’s destined for the updated Tacoma display.
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.
Toyota has been exceptionally vocal about its desire to spice up the brand and, for the most part, it has delivered. Expressive, sometimes polarizing, designs have begun populating its lineup as company president Akio Toyoda endlessly talks up the merit of sporting vehicles. While other chief executives focus solely on promoting mobility, he’s discussing the importance of building fun-to-drive cars.
The company’s motorsports group, Gazoo Racing (GR), has even started cranking out tuned versions of the brand’s road cars. However, none of them have made it to North America — nor will they. Despite all of Toyoda’s seemingly earnest talk of performance models, the United States hasn’t seen it manifest into anything tangible.
Considering Toyota also decided not to offer GR models in the U.S., and with cost-cutting measures making the 86 coupe a potential candidate for discontinuation, Akio’s grand vision doesn’t look particularly robust in the West.
It was rumored that Toyota would eventually bring some hardware from its Gazoo Racing sub-brand into the U.S. through Toyota Racing Development. Well, the automaker appears to have finally done so, showcasing some of those parts in the 2019 Toyota 86 TRD Special Edition.
Before you ask, Toyota has not added any power with the TRD edition. Much like the limited-production Subaru BRZ tS, the recipe involves prepping the vehicle for the track with upgraded suspension components, brakes, and tires. There are also visual enhancements that give off a slight boy-racer vibe, though Toyota managed its makeover with more subtlety than Subaru, what with the BRZ tS’s large rear wing.
Toyota not-so-subtly confirmed that the Tacoma TRD Pro will soon be available with a factory snorkel via a teaser photo on Tuesday. The automaker wants to remind everyone that new Toyota Racing Development 4×4 models will appear at the Chicago Auto Show later this week.
Mounted high enough for the Tacoma to drive through miles of bumper-deep volcanic ash or water without suffocating the engine, the snorkel showcases Toyota’s commitment to off-roading — or at least the associated trappings.
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.
Despite having a rich history in motorsports, Toyota is one of the last automakers that springs to mind when you think about present-day performance. But Toyota has been rebranding itself with edgier designs and additional attitude lately. It says it’s ready to bring forth a fully-fledged performance lineup for later this year — perhaps something akin to Lexus’ F cars.
The automaker already offers a performance lineup under its Toyota Racing Development label in North America and Gazoo Racing in Europe and Japan. However TRD has focused largely on off-roading, while Gazoo has trickled in from legitimate racing to develop small G-badged road cars with more moxie and a few extremely limited edition Gazoo Racing Meister of Nurburgring (GRMN) units with engines to match the aggressive visuals.
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