By Steve & Tamami Laser
What started out as a new compact economy car some 56 years ago has become an iconic nameplate recognized across the globe. Toyota launched the all-new Corolla 1100 Deluxe at the Tokyo Motor Show in Oct. 1966 (below). It went into production at a new plant in Takaoka, Aichi Prefecture, the following month.
Since then, Corolla has become the world’s best-selling car, with more than 50 million units produced to date, from manufacturing facilities across the globe. With a multitude of models from 12 generations, Corolla is a favorite of consumers and enthusiasts alike. And now, Corolla is ready to join the ranks of Toyota’s new racing-bred lineup of performance vehicles.
The 2023 GR Corolla made its world debut in Long Beach, Calif., on March 31, prior to the opening round of the Formula Drift season. “GR” stands for Gazoo Racing, the automaker’s international umbrella for its global motorsports program.
Toyota says that the GR Corolla sprang to life based on the strong desire of President Akio Toyoda (aka Morizo), to “bring back a Corolla that captivates our customers.” The development of the GR Corolla included participating in the Super Taikyu Series (using a hydrogen engine-equipped model) with Morizo taking stints behind the wheel. GR Corolla prototypes were also put through their paces on racing circuits, along with dirt and snow-covered roads.
GR Corolla will become the third GR model in North America, joining the GR Supra and recently introduced GR86. While we don’t get the GR Yaris that’s sold in Japan and other markets, the GR Corolla adopts its high-performance powertrain and sports a longer, five-door hatch body style, versus the three-door GR Yaris.
Under the hood is a 1.6-liter, 3-cylinder, G16E-GTS turbocharged engine with direct injection shared with the GR Yaris. A strengthened version for the GR Corolla puts out 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 275 lbs.-ft. of torque from 3,000 – 5,500 rpm, through unique triple exhaust. Like its sibling, it features a 6-speed Intelligent Manual Transmission that’s built to handle the increased load.
GR Corolla (and GR Yaris) employ GR-FOUR AWD, a lightweight system that distributes torque between the front and rear axles governed by a high-response coupling. Using an AWD mode dial, the driver can adjust front/rear torque from 60-40, to 50-50, or 30-70. In each mode, the torque balance is automatically adjusted in response to the driver’s inputs, vehicle behavior, and road or track conditions.
Compared to the Corolla Hatchback (called Corolla Sport in Japan) upon which it is based, the GR Corolla gains 60 mm wider front track and 85 mm wider rear track. In addition to the high-rigidity basic framework from the GR Factory, braces are added between the rear wheel wells and the under body, along with more weld points in the frame, plus the liberal use of structural adhesives applied between components.
Toyota plans to offer two versions of the GR Corolla in North America. The Core edition is fitted with a color-keyed roof, rear spoiler, GR-Four identification on the side rockers, and wide fender flares. The limited-production Circuit Edition gains a forged carbon fiber roof to increase rigidity and reduce weight, a vented bulge hood, and a more aggressive rear spoiler. Front and rear Torsen® Limited-Slip Differentials are standard on the Circuit Edition and included with the optional Performance Package on Core.
The suspension features MacPherson struts up front with circuit-tuned coil springs, shocks, and stabilizer, followed by a double-wishbone multilink setup in the rear. Eighteen-inch cast alloy wheels are wrapped with 235/40R18 Michelin® Pilot® Sport 4 tires. The performance braking system includes ventilated slotted rotors with 4-piston aluminum calipers up front and 2-piston calipers in the rear. Red calipers with the GR logo are standard on the Circuit Edition.
The sporty cockpit features a GR full TFT instrument cluster with 12.3-inch Multi-Information Display, GR sport steering wheel, aluminum pedals, suede and synthetic leather-trimmed sport seats with red accents, and GR logo headrests. Auto climate control, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are standard on the Circuit Edition.
The Toyota Audio Multimedia system features an 8-inch touchscreen. Drive Connect includes Intelligent Assistant, cloud-based navigation, real-time Over-the-Air updates, Google POI data, and supports Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ compatibility. With a Wi-Fi Connect subscription, GR Corolla turns into an AT&T Hotspot, with 4G connectivity for up to five devices. Premium Audio with eight JBL® speakers are included on the Circuit Edition.
Standard Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Lane Tracing Assist. Also included is Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Hill-Start Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Road Sign Assist.
Like the GR Yaris, the GR Corolla will be built on a special production line at Toyota’s Motomachi Plant. Instead of a typical conveyor belt, the low-volume models are assembled in cells connected by automated vehicles. Master craftspeople (takumi) team members are skilled specialists that perform high-precision vehicle builds.
The GR Corolla Core is expected to become available in the U.S. later this year, with the Circuit Edition following in 2023. Specifications for Japan market models will be announced separately by Toyota, while sales are anticipated to begin in Japan during the second half of 2022.
Note: North American spec prototype GR Corolla vehicles are shown in this story. Specifications, features, and launch timing for future production models is preliminary and subject to change without notice.
News sources and photos courtesy of Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota Gazoo Racing, and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
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