Want a Sports Car? Toyota Makes Some GR-eat Ones

Toyota has quietly built the best sports car lineup in the automotive industry as the third prong of its enthusiast trident was introduced in September. The pint-sized all-wheel drive 2023 Toyota GR Corolla will join the GR Supra and GR 86 at the company's dealerships this year, joining two rear-wheel drive coupes with four- and six-cylinder engines.

The reason all this sportiness came to be is because of Toyota's CEO and semi-professional race car driver Akio Toyoda. In early 2017 he announced "no more boring cars" for his brand, and he has delivered.

It started with the youth-aimed Scion marque, which lived from 2003 to 2016. The brand entered a joint venture with Subaru to create the Scion FRS and Subaru BRZ. When Scion was shuttered, the FRS became the Toyota GT86, playing on the 86 name from one of its older rear-drive sports cars. It now sells as the GR 86.

GR, for Gazoo Racing, started as the fake amateur team then-vice-president Akio Toyoda and chief test driver Hiromu Naruse set up at Toyota with student test drivers and mechanics in the mid-2000s. Toyoda secretly raced under the name Morizo and Naruse went as Cap. When Toyoda took over as president in 2009 the Gazoo Racing influence grew bigger.

By 2015 all racing activities fell under the Toyota Gazoo Racing and Lexus Gazoo Racing banners, wearing red and black stripes on a white background.

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Toyota GR 86

Toyota's first sports car prong is the GR 86 that is now in its second generation. It comes with a new four-cylinder engine, still provided by Subaru, delivering 228 horsepower (up from 205 in the previous model) and 184 pound-feet of torque (up from 156 over prior generation). The engine is also tuned so peak torque arrives far earlier in the powerband than in the previous generation, resulting in a more responsive driving experience.

It's offered with a six-speed manual or paddle-shifted automatic transmission and has four seats, but the small size of the rear ones makes it a tough sell for car enthusiasts with a family. However, the GR86 starts at $27,900 making it the most affordable of Toyota's sports car trident.

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Toyota GR Supra

The second prong is the GR Supra. The Supra has a wide fan base, being on sale from 1978 to 2002, and then returning in 2019. For this sports car Toyota partnered with BMW and its Z4 chassis. It used BMW's inline-six-cylinder engine for power making 335 horsepower (hp) and 365 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque.

It only came with an automatic transmission at first, but after four years of updates, it now sports a manual transmission with an inline-six like the original. Power is also up to 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. It also tightened up the suspension during an update and retuned the steering for more feel. It went from a slightly soft canyon carver to a track-day car instantly.

The GR Supra has only two seats and starts at $43,450. To get the six-cylinder engine buyers will need to pony up $52,500.

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Toyota GR Corolla

The newest and most homemade spike of Toyota's sports car onslaught is the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla. Using that "no boring cars" motto, the company took out everything that doesn't bring joy from the factory hatchback chassis and added a slew of new parts that do.

Starting with the engine, the GR Corolla uses a three-cylinder turbocharged 1.6-liter powerplant making 300 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque in the base model. The GR Corolla has three trims, Core, Circuit, and Morizo, the last of which was inspired by the name that Toyoda used when raced. That model gets a torque bump to 295 lb-ft. The GR Corolla Core grade is expected to arrive this fall. The Morizo Edition is expected in winter 2023 and Circuit Edition is expected in spring 2023.

All trims of the GR Corolla come with a rev-matching six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive, the front/rear bias of which can be adjusted on the fly with a dial from 60/40 front to rear to 30/70 front to rear. Drive modes, which adjusts steering, throttle response and traction control include Eco, Sport, Track and Custom modes. Track mode makes the bias 50/50.

The Morizo Edition adds two braces that span the rear of the cabin for structural support. It also has a retuned, stiffer suspension and wears sportier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (Core and Circuit models have Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires). It also drops weight by losing the back seat, adding forged wheels and deleting speakers. The Morizo is about 100-pounds lighter than the Circuit Edition that comes in at 3,285 pounds.

2023 Toyota GR Corolla
The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla has an analog parking brake.

Inside, the 2023 GR Corolla comes with a 12.3-inch digital driver cluster and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. A volume knob is attached to the touchscreen while climate knobs and displays are below and easy to use while driving. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and buys can get Wi-Fi though AT&T.

Base models get fabric seats while upgraded models get leather inserts. Morizo Editions come with sporty bucket seats that help keep the driver in place during even the highest g-force maneuvers. The back seat area is small, but it would be fine for children and teenagers. With the seats folded down the GR Corolla will fit four race tires.

On the track the GR Corolla is surprisingly well mannered. Though the three-cylinder engine feels high strung, the hatchback doesn't seem like it's working hard to keep up the speed. The grip is amazing and the brakes on all grades are confidence inspiring, though the Morizo's bigger versions in particular were excellent.

The steering and clutch take more effort on the Morizo Edition as well, leading to a more aggressive feel overall. The tires aren't just stickier, they're also wider, making high-speed corners even more fun. The middle Circuit Edition will only be available for the 2023 model year and adds a forged carbon fiber roof, vented bulge hood, a rear spoiler, suede and synthetic leather-trimmed trimmed sport seats and a leather-wrapped Morizo-signed shift knob.

2023 Toyota GR Corolla
The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla starts at $35,900.

The Circuit Edition feels just a tiny step slower than the Morizo with less torque, but it is more comfortable bouncing over the curbing at the edge of the track. It's price also slots in the middle with the Core starting at $35,900, the Circuit at $42,900 and the Morizo at $49,900. As fun as the Morizo is, if a buyer isn't looking for a dedicated track car, the limited-edition Circuit trim is the way to go.

The Core grade can be enhanced with the Performance Package including front and rear limited slip differentials, upgraded brakes in red, slotted brake rotors in front and ventilated brake rotors in back for $1,180.

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard across the GR Corolla line with emergency braking, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, lane tracing and more.

There aren't many competitors still on the market to compete with the all-wheel drive Toyota GR Corolla. The all-wheel drive Subaru WRX was just renewed in 2021 for another generation. The turbocharged four-cylinder delivers 271 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It's bigger than the Corolla with much more space for passengers. It starts at $29,605.

The Volkswagen Golf R also fits the bill. It delivers 315 hp and 295 lb-ft to all four wheels. The Golf R starts at $44,090. If all-wheel drive isn't a major concern the Hyundai Veloster N ($32,500) and Civic Type R, which currently starts at $37,895.

Those competitors are all good options, but if a buyer is looking for a sports car, the best way for them to save time is to first hit the Toyota dealership. There are still come boring cars on the lot, but none of them will be wearing the GR badge.