Toyota is reportedly taking the performance aspects of its brand, which some of our readers might recall has been a little spotty, very seriously and has begun making plans to broaden the horizons of the Gazoo Racing (GR). The sub-brand, which seems to be gradually supplanting Toyota Racing Development (TRD), has introduced a slew of GR-badged models in Asia and Europe and will be affixing the title onto the returning 86 coupe. It has also slapped the performance designation onto the current-generation Supra here in North America, with no intention of stopping there.
According to Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota North America, the Japanese manufacturer wants to extend the GR treatment to even more models.
While plenty of these will be appearance packages with a light dusting of legitimate performance upgrades (e.g. Prius Prime GR Sport), we know the company can also built raucous performers (e.g. Yaris GRMN). But Toyota doesn’t sound interested unless GR is tackling traditional passenger cars. During an interview with Motor Trend, Carter was emphatic that Toyota wouldn’t be tainting its performance brand with crossovers anytime soon.
“I don’t want to eliminate anything, but initially no. The importance is exhilarating driving,” he explained. “When you go to SUVs you have higher center of gravities and it’s just not conducive. Nothing is off the table, but initially you can expect it to be a car-based vehicle. There’s still a market for that.”
That also makes the next GR model relatively easy to predict. Since juicing up the Prius doesn’t sound like it worked staggeringly well in Japan and is bound to fail here, we’re really only left with the Corolla and Camry. While Toyota could launch a surprise MR2 revival, Gazoo Racing seems more about modifying existing products into something greater.
The Camry makes sense because Toyota already sells a TRD model that’s begging for more attention. Despite looking/sounding the part and having been issued meaningful suspension upgrades, the performance Camry has been left with the same 3.5-liter V6 that’s found in the XSE (which actually costs more money). Having driven the TRD variant, the car would similarly benefit from having a different transmission. Leaving in the eight-speed automatic in grocery getter mode was a huge mistake and spoils what would have been an otherwise enjoyable to drive vehicle. If Gazoo came in to fix the transmission (Note to Toyota: manual mode is pointless if the car refuses to hold the selected gear) and bumped the V6’s output a dozen or so ponies beyond the existing 301 hp, it would probably have something garnering heaps of praise from enthusiasts.
But the Corolla hatchback is the obvious choice for GR. The current generation already looks substantially faster than it is and a hypothetical performance hatch would exist in a segment that currently has a worldwide consumer base. While that does mean more competition, the Mk8 GTI doesn’t build on much over its excellent predecessor. Volkswagen also kind of spoiled its formerly fantastic cabin by taking the minimalist, touchscreen route. A 250-horsepower Corolla that maintains a semblance of practicality could theoretically swoop in and give the GTI a much-needed black eye. Someone has to remind the segment king not to rest on its laurels while swiping a few customers.
We would hate to stifle the creativity of Gazoo Racing, though. Maybe the best pathway for GR is to build an all-wheel drive rival for the Subaru WRX, or perhaps something more conservative and front-wheel biased that could compete with the Honda Civic Si. Carter was unwilling to confess to anything, however, and simply stated that Toyota’s performance arm would be busy over the next twelve months.
“We have some Supra news coming, we have 86 news coming, but we have other models also coming. Come see me in a year from now,” he said.