With Toyota discussing its desire to build an automatic transmission dedicated for performance applications, driving enthusiasts around the world are eager to find out when the unit will be affixed to the GR Yaris. Meanwhile, Americans want to know when it will be adapted for the GR Corolla and prospective performance products Toyota may actually sell in the United States. There has been no shortage of rumors, with one of the most recent suggesting Toyota’s newest “Direct Automatic Transmission” (DAT) will debut during the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon. Production is supposed to commence at roughly the same time.
This may just be more publicized speculation from Japan’s Magazine X. But it exists on a credible timeline. News of the GR Yaris getting an automatic has been swirling since the vehicle came out in 2020 and Toyota started talking about building a novel “GR-DAT” for performance models earlier this year.
The new transmission has even been tested in the Super Taikyu racing series, with Akio Toyoda himself promoting its quick downshifting as a huge performance advantage.
“One thing I learned in Super Taikyu is the difference in shifting between myself and the pro drivers. When changing gears [manually] on a straight, I lose 0.2 seconds. With two changes, I fall nearly half a second behind,” he said in October. “With DAT, there’s no time lost when shifting, so the gap between myself and the pros was smaller than usual. I can just concentrate on braking and accelerating.”
Unlike a standard automatic transmission, Toyota’s GR-DAT units are supposed to minimize slippage of the torque converter. It’s also supposed to be more willing to downshift, offering DSG-like performance without the reliability issues those units are sometimes associated with. Our guess is that they will be similar to the 8-speed automatic transmissions the company is already fielding on mainstream models.
Also known as the Toyota “Direct Automatic Transmission,” the slushbox has been around for a few years and operates under a similar premise. The torque converter comes with a hydraulic circuit and lock-up clutch that’s supposed to transfer energy to the gears more efficiently. This allegedly results in improved fuel economy or enhanced performance, depending on vehicle settings and driver inputs.
The report claims that Toyota will be conducting media drives to show off the new GR-DAT starting in February, meaning formal production has to take place by then. Though the first public glimpse of the unit, likely installed in the mid-cycle refresh of the GR Yaris, will allegedly take place during the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon.
That event kicks off on January 12th, so we won’t have to wait long to find out if the above predictions are true. We’ll also learn if the earlier rumors about Toyota using the event to tease out the return of the Celica hold any water. Akio Toyoda may have abandoned his role as CEO, but the guy is still part of the Toyota family dynasty and active chairman of the company. He’s been asking to have the Celica brought back into the fold for years, making no secrets about it while also suggesting that the decision wasn’t up to him.
Toyota’s media department has likewise issued press releases on the matter, asking the public to envision what a modern Celica would be like.
Either way, Toyota will be showcasing several performance models wearing the GR badge next month. Lexus is also supposed to have a sporting variant on hand at the Tokyo Auto Salon. Though we don’t know if this is to be a show vehicle or something that’ll actually foreshadow a production model. Despite new vehicles occasionally appearing at the event, it’s primarily dedicated to aftermarket parts and performance subbrands like Gazoo Racing.
What is certain is that Toyota will have a big presence there this year with a display focused on underscoring the brand’s racing heritage and current focus on reviving that aspect of itself. Its massive booth will fall under the banner of “Getting more passionate about cars with car lovers,” which presumably translates better as Japanese. That said, we still like the sentiment and are eager to see what the company has in store.
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