However, over the decades – the Corolla model has been in production since 1966 – there have been some fun, high-performance versions of the compact. On Thursday evening in Long Beach, California, Toyota unveiled the latest, the GR Corolla. With all-wheel drive and a 300hp turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, the GR is far more powerful than the standard front-wheel drive Corolla hatchback.
Toyota already offers the Corolla Apex sedan, which has lower, stiffer suspension and an optional manual transmission, but with an engine that produces no more power than a regular Corolla. The GR Corolla is a much more serious attempt at a performance car.
Also, it’s only available with one transmission choice, a six-speed manual. No automatic transmission is offered for the car. Manual transmissions are hard to find in cars today, and many drivers, especially in America, don’t even know how to operate them.
GR stands for Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s racing team. Toyota President Akio Toyoda, a keen racing driver, was directly involved in the development of the car, according to Toyota. It is also part of the name of the Toyota GR Supra, the two-seater sports car that Toyota developed with BMW.
The GR Corolla features a variable all-wheel drive system that allows the driver to choose how much power is sent to the rear or front wheels. It can send up to 60% of the power to the front wheels or 70% to the rear wheels, giving the driver a high level of control over the vehicle’s handling.
The car’s front and rear fenders protrude from the body, giving the car a wide stance for improved handling and enables wide performance tires. The roof is made of carbon fiber to reduce weight and lower the car’s center of gravity. The hood and front doors are made of aluminum. Vents on the hood, front fenders and rear bumper allow air to flow through the car’s body, reducing drag. In the back it has three exhaust pipes.
The GR Corolla will be built at a dedicated GR manufacturing facility in Motomachi, Japan. Toyota also makes the GR Yaris there, a subcompact performance model that is not sold in the US but has a version of the same 3-cylinder engine. The engine in the GR Yaris produces slightly less horsepower.
In the high-performance compact car segment, competitors like the Ford Focus RS have come and gone in recent years, but there are still popular entries like the Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R. This type of car has its roots in rallying, finding racing takes place on winding roads and sometimes dirt roads where traction and agility are paramount. According to Toyota, the four-wheel drive of the GR Corolla was developed in and for rally racing.
The GR Corolla will initially be available in two versions. The base version will be called the Core, and a better-equipped Circuit Edition will be offered in the first year of production, due to start later this year. Toyota has not yet announced prices for the car.