Toyota: Future Propulsion Won’t Just Be Electric Cars!

Cool and hot: GR Corolla Sports hybrid

Tue 04 Jun 24


Toyota’s performance car chief is not bothered by electric cars that are faster and greener than the brand’s current line-up.

Waku-doki (the power of a thrill) is the simple Japanese principle behind every legendary Toyota performance vehicle … heart pumping excitement.

The Japanese giant has a broad range of enthusiast vehicles including the GR Yaris and GR Corolla Sports hot hatches, an affordable coupe in the Toyota GR86, the rapid GR Supra performance coupe, and a range of less-focused ‘GR Sport’ models based on cars such as the Land Cruiser and HiLux.

Talking to Nikkei Asia, Tomoya Takahashi, president of Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division responsible for racing and performance cars, says “our target is not to make a fast car, our target is to make a fun car”.

Toyota has invested heavily in hydrogen-powered race cars as part of its research and development for future models.

The machines have high-performance turbo-charged engines.

“But these burn hydrogen instead of petrol,” says Takahashi. He hopes engines that burn fuel can continue to take part in motorsport, whether that fuel is based on carbon neutral e-fuels, liquid hydrogen, or another technology.

What Toyota is saying, is that the ICE (internal combustion engine] is not bad … the enemy is the carbon.

While some rivals are going all-in on electric tech, Takahashi says Toyota’s plan is to offer several types of

“We are still not sure about electrification,” he says. “Globally there is talk that not going to be 100% BEVs.

“No one knows the future – 10 years into the future – what’s going to happen? We don’t know.”

So, to our drive in the hybrid Toyota GR Corolla Sports. Magnificent … and add superb … a true high-performance version of Toyota’s best-selling hatchback.

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Tomoya TakahashI… Toyota’s target is not to make a fast car, but to make a fun car.

Following on the heels of its smaller GR Yaris sibling, the GR Corolla takes that car’s mechanical package and installs it in a larger five-door bodyshell, providing greater practicality, a better interior, and retaining a hefty performance punch.

The model is priced from $62,300 before on-roads, or around $66,000–$67,000 drive-away. For this you get a 221kW/370Nm 1.6-litre turbo three-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission, 18-in. Enkei cast alloy wheels with Yokohama Advan Apex tyres, GR-four all-wheel-drive.

There is no offering of an automatic transmission yet, but the brand is working on it.

Under the guidance of Toyota’s master driver Akio Morizo, GR Corolla was engineered where it should be – on the circuit. Evaluated in dust, mud and snow using motorsport data analysis, it emerged more ferocious with every test.

The GR has a hot 3-cylinder engine helping to deliver 21kW of more power than the GR Yaris. The addition of a functional three-piece muffler assists in the reduction of backpressure, helping to deliver 21 kW more power and an audible amount of grunt.

Circuit-tuned suspension features MacPherson struts in front and trailing double-wishbones at rear. The GR Corolla’s stance is about 60 mm wider than your average Corolla hatch, while chassis rigidity has been increased to enhance both cornering stability and grip.

Putting power to the ground with the flick of a button, the rally-derived GR-four all-wheel drive system distributes front and rear output to 60/40 for everyday driving, 50/50 for balanced track precision or 30/70 for rear-wheel driving with a playful amount of oversteer.

There are three functional tailpipes with an exhaust valve that opens at high speeds. More engine power, more noise, more thrills.

The GR Sport brings greater fuel pump and oil cooler capacity, 10% more boost to 25psi and stronger exhaust valvetrain.  All up, Toyota found another 21 kW, and while maximum torque of 370Nm is the same, it’s now available from 3000-5500 rpm rather than the 3000 to 4600 rpm in the Yaris.

Standard interior features include heated front sports seats trimmed in pleather and suede, a heated steering wheel (welcome in 5-10 deg. Brisbane right now), 12.3-in. digital instrument cluster and eight-speaker JBL sound system.

Toyota’s safety suite comes standard, too, with automatic braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and more.

The GR Sport brings greater fuel pump and oil cooler capacity, 10% more boost to 25psi and stronger exhaust valvetrain.  All up, Toyota found another 21 kW, and while maximum torque of 370Nm is the same, it’s now available from 3000-5500 rpm rather than the 3000 to 4600 rpm in the Yaris.

Toyota claims a very precise 0-100 km/h time of 5.29 sec, with a top speed of 230 km/h. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 8.4L/100km using premium 98 RON fuel only.

The hybrid is claimed to get an average of 3.5L/100km (range 1229 km) with a city average of 3.4L/100km (range 1265 km) and a country economy of 3.6L/100km (range 1194km).

Safety features abound. In addition to seven airbags, a reversing camera and parking sensors at both ends, Toyota’s ‘safety sense’ system offers autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active cruise control, intersection assist, emergency steering assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, speed sign recognition, auto high beam, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.

Despite its undoubted performance potential, the GTS is still covered by Toyota’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with an extra two years’ coverage on the engine and driveline.

Capped-price servicing is offered for the first three years or 60,000 km at $300 a visit. But the intervals are six months or 10,000 km, so those visits will be frequent.

Toyota Australia has 700 GTS Corollas ‘on the lot’, but demand is sure to outstrip this supply with 7000 enthusiasts parked impatiently in the wings.


  • Orson Whiels

    Orson Whiels has been a motoring writer for many years and was motoring writer at Queensland Country life in the 1960s-70s and then motoring editor at Australian Timberman.)


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