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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A silver 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is shown drifting in the rain.

Gazoo Racing – Back in GRand Form!

If you’ve been considering an upgrade in your driving life––to, say, a high-performance sports car––you won’t have to hold out too much longer. The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is about to motor into the U.S., and it’s an impressive performer. Originally scheduled to be a 2022 model release, the GR Corolla’s production was held up, and the current release will begin in the fall of 2022. “Yeah, covid…” I hear you sighing. Actually, however, the GR Corolla’s launch was held up by something much more interesting––the exacting standards of a guy known as Morizo. If you’re a fan of the GR brand, you may already know all about Morizo. If you’re new to this realm, though, here’s the background.

Gazoo-Palooza! What You Ought To Know

GR, the acronym for Gazoo Racing, began back in 2007. At that time, Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda, long a fan of motorsports, decided to take a big step into the development of highly engineered race cars. Along with a group of Toyota engineers and amateur and professional drivers, he started Gazoo Racing. Gazoo, described as a “rogue operation,” did not use the Toyota name. In order to help keep the GR work under wraps, the highly-recognizably-named Akio Toyoda himself raced under the pseudonym “Morizo.”

The team went to work, and their engineering efforts eventually played a role in the creation of the highly-regarded Lexus LFA and the Scion FR-S. The Gazoo Racing Company became an official part of Toyota in 2015, and in 2019 the GR Supra was released––the first Gazoo Racing model to be made available in the U.S. In 2021 the second-generation GR86 became available here, with both vehicles proving quite popular among sports car fans.

Given that much of the world’s auto manufacturers are moving more and more toward the EV market, you might be surprised to learn that Toyota is keeping a hand––and more than a few lb-ft of torque––in the sport-driving realm. The continuance of the GR brand is due in large part to Toyota’s leader. Akio Toyoda’s support and enthusiasm for his Gazoo Racing team are as powerful as his driving skills. According to Mike Tripp, VP of Marketing and Communications for Toyota Motor North America, “GR isn’t just a badge. It’s a mindset, an ethos. It’s all about achieving the highest levels of performance.” In fact, Akio Toyoda required that he personally approve the GR Corolla before it went to market, so when he wasn’t satisfied with the initial model, it went back for further refinement. “Morizo” will have his GR Corolla––designed precisely as he wished––and this fall, you can have it too.

A silver 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is shown with a white 2022 GR Supra and a red 2022 GR 86 on a race track.

A Hot Hatch With Fiery Style

If you’ve been watching, you know that Toyota has been hyping the GR Corolla for some time now. The big reveal in March 2022 did not disappoint. Toyota introduced two grades for the new GR model, the Core, due in the U.S. this fall, and the super-grade Circuit Edition, which won’t become available until later. So what’s Toyota making in its “GR Factory” at the Motomachi plant?

First, a kind of amazing engine. It’s a direct and port injected turbo three-cylinder 1.6L engine. Small, you think? Think again. Those three cylinders deliver 300 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Designing the GR Corolla for the U.S. market presented a specific challenge, according to chief engineer Naoyuki Sakamoto. In an interview with Car and Driver, he pointed out that “Americans demand power,” and Toyota knew the GR Corolla would need to bring it. When asked why Toyota stuck with the three-cylinder engine rather than moving to a turbo-four, he responded that “the compact engine is right for a sports car. The more you can keep heavy parts close to the center of gravity, the better it handles, so a lighter engine is better. A lighter car is better.” Even the battery was moved from the front to the back to keep the weight distribution even.

Show Us What You Got

For those of you who were shattered over Toyota‘s decision not to release the earlier, smaller GR Yaris in the U.S., take heart––the GR Corolla actually features the same weight-to-power ratio as the GR Yaris. Sakamoto ascribes this improvement to a bit of Carolla’s reengineering––namely, a triple-exhaust system that reduces back pressure enough to add 32 more horses to the same engine.

The new Corolla’s drivetrain is also essentially the same rally-inspired GR-Four AWD system developed for the Yaris, slightly beefed up for the GR Corolla’s larger size. It has drive modes for dirt, rain, or snow, and the AWD system enables several different ways of altering torque, splitting front and rear wheel power distribution to 60/40, 50/50, or 30/70, depending on the power settings you choose.

The front track has been widened by 2.4 inches and the rear by 3.4 inches, adding stability when cornering. A larger grille brings more air to the engine, and serviceable vents––a thin one for slower speeds and another larger one that opens at higher speeds––reduce drag while further cooling the engine. Best of all for many driving enthusiasts, the GR Corolla features a manual six-speed transmission, with no automatic version available––a decision that won a round of applause and cheers at the March launch.

The Core model has front and rear open differentials standard, but limited-slip differentials are standard on the Circuit Edition and available on the Core as part of the Performance Package. Both trims are equipped with ventilated, slotted rotors and four-piston brake calipers in front, with two-piston calipers in the rear. On the Circuit Edition, the upgraded rotors are painted a snazzy red with the GR logo.

All of this rides on a rigid unibody frame developed specifically for this vehicle using lighter materials wherever possible, with 349 more welds to handle the GR Corolla’s higher weight (which is still only 3249 lbs in the Core and 3200 lbs in the Circuit). The GR Corolla will be available in white, black, and Supersonic Red, with a special Heavy Metal gray color available only in the Circuit Edition. That trim also features even more specialized engineering, such as a lighter forged carbon roof, heat extractors on the hood, and more. Both models are equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S ultra-high-performance tires.

And Inside…

The GR Corolla seats five, with sport-fabric seats in the Core, upgraded to heated ultrasuede with synthetic leather trim in the Circuit Edition. The GR logo is applied liberally, and the Circuit features a gear shift knob signed by Morizo. Both models are equipped with Toyota’s Safety Sensing suite of driver-assistive tech with improved vehicle detection, Toyota’s new audio multimedia system (with a JBL premium sound system in the Circuit), a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, an 8-inch infotainment screen with navigation, and Safety Connect onboard. Drive Connect is also available at varying levels.

A silver 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is shown following a white 2022 Supra on a race track.

A New Chapter for Gazoo Racing and Toyota

How much will it cost you to drive the GR Corolla to your nearest race track? Toyota hasn’t announced an MSRP yet, but it looks like the Core will start around $30,000. And just in case you’re new to the sport-driving realm, Toyota is throwing in a complimentary year’s membership in the National Auto Sport Association––a membership that will, according to Toyota, provide “a high-performance driving event with expert instruction.”

Toyota certainly isn’t new to racing––after all, in entering the 1957 Round Australia Rally, it became the first Japanese auto manufacturer to enter and compete in motorsports. But with the 2023 GR Corolla due out in the fall of 2022, it will be interesting to see where in the motorsports world the relatively new Gazoo Racing brand will take us next. With Morizo driving, that world, and the throttle, are wide open.

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