Get ready for an onslaught of Toyota performance models in Australia.

    The pumped-up GR Yaris will be here late this year, and Toyota is pushing hard for a GR Corolla big brother to take on the Renault Megane RS and Hyundai i30 N. The warmed-over GR Sport offered in Europe is also on the radar.

    “We’re not ruling out the GR Corolla Sport down the track, but at the moment we’re interested in a full-beans GR version, if it were to become available” a spokesperson told CarExpert.

    Although unconfirmed, it seems likely the GR Corolla would share its engine with the GR Yaris.

    Toyota hasn’t confirmed when the GR Corolla will manifest, but it has filed trademarks for the car – along with the GR 86 and GR HiLux – with IP Australia, suggesting the performance range is likely to expand.

    Unlike the ill-fated Toyota Racing Development (TRD) program, GR appears locked in for the long haul thanks to the steadfast backing of Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation president and avid car enthusiast.

    As far back as 2013 and possibly further, Toyoda was intent on injecting more driver engagement into his company’s road cars. He said as much at a private dinner after the Nürburgring 24 hour race in Germany.

    We were guests of then-Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez. The two bosses were racing in the event, and had developed a close bond with each other. Let’s not forget the Aston Martin Cygnet tie up, not exactly Aston’s finest moment.

    Toyoda is the real deal and can certainly hold his own on track, so it was refreshing to hear talk about driving pleasure from the president of a company acknowledged for its reliable vehicles and not much else.

    Toyota kicked things off with the 86, and followed it up with the more serious GR Supra in 2019 – but let’s be honest, it’s not a full-blown GR build given the sizeable contribution made by BMW.

    “Supra made a successful comeback, but still, I have always wanted a sports car purely made by Toyota,” Toyoda himself said of the car.

    “The reason we decided to come back to World Rally Championship was to build a sports car by utilising skills and technologies obtained through WRC.”

    That’s where the GR Yaris comes in.

    The GR Yaris isn’t yet available, but by all accounts it’s a serious bit of kit. It’s the first turbocharged all-wheel drive Toyota performance car since 1999, when the last Celica GT-Four rolled off the assembly line in Aichi, Japan.

    That was also a car born out of a rallying campaign in the same way the all-new GR Yaris is a product of the company’s success in the World Rally Championship, winning the Manufacturers’ title in 2018 and Driver’s Championship in 2019.

    The figures speak for themselves in this case. Weighing in at 1280kg it’s a relatively light platform given it offers all-wheel drive.

    Power comes from a potent 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine with a single-scroll ball-bearing turbocharger making 200kW of power and a thumping 370Nm of torque, driving all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.

    Its power-to-weight ratio is an impressive 156kW/tonne, good enough to propel the boosted Yaris to 100km/h in less than 5.5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 230km/h.

    The GR Yaris uses Toyota’s new GR-FOUR AWD system, said to optimise torque to each wheel using a high-response coupling and different gear ratios for the front and rear axles.

    Not only is it lighter than traditional all-wheel drive systems, but the GR FOUR unit allows for 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to go to either axle. When required, it can be either front- or real-wheel drive.

    Better still, the driver can adjust the system using rotary dial offering three modes; Normal, Sport and Track.

    In the base mode the torque is split front/rear 60/40, while in Sport it shifts to a 30/70 rear bias. In Track it’s a 50/50 split, but regardless of the mode selected, the system automatically adjusts to driver’s inputs and track conditions.

    The platform is essentially bespoke, combining the front end of the new 2020 GA-B platform with a MacPherson strut suspension, while the rear gets an all-new double-wishbone setup – as opposed to a torsion beam on the standard Yaris.

    Stopping power has been uprated too, with 356mm grooved front rotors and four-pot calipers for what should be outstanding braking power on track.

    18-inch lightweight alloys are standard, wrapped in performance-focused Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050 225/40 series tyres.  

    For enthusiasts wanting more, a Performance Pack adds stickier Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, lighter alloy wheels, and Torsen limited-slip differentials front and rear for even more focus, as well as uprated suspension components.

    However, a Toyota Australia spokesperson Orlando Rodriguez told CarExpert the GR Yaris will launch without the Performance Pack. The company is, however, “studying its introduction post launch”.

    Our bet? It will be offered, but won’t be cheap.

    Anthony Crawford
    Anthony Crawford is a Senior Road Tester at CarExpert.
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