The Toyota GR Yaris seems like it will be an insanely awesome hot hatch, even if its connection to the Celica GT-Four is dubious. We said it smelled like a retcon, but we have to admit, when Toyota put all four cars on the stage at Makuhari Messe for the GR Yaris’s debut, it did look downright cool.
The GR Yaris is visually distinguished from its plebeian siblings by an aggreessive factory widebody kit and yawning grille. Underhood lies a turbocharged 1.6-liter three–cylinder good for a mighty 268 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, all mated to a 6-speed manual.
That is pretty nuts, but it’s a homologation special based on the Yaris WRC, which marked the Big T’s return to the World Rally Championships in 2017. Toyota promptly followed that with a Manufacturer’s Championship in 2018 and helmsman Ott Tänak’s Driver’s Championship in 2019.
As such, the GR Yaris isn’t just a regular Yaris with an engine swap and a body kit. Due to use of aluminum for the hood, trunk, and door panels, as well as a carbon fiber roof panel, the car weighs a scant 2,822 pounds. Power and torque are sent to all four wheels via two Torsen locking diffs, and the driver can select three front/rear settings. Normal sets the split at 60/40, Sport mode has a strong rear bias at 30/70, and Track mode divides it evenly 50/50.
Toyota calls this system the GR-Four, or Gazoo Racing Four, a reference to the famous Celica GT-Four that underpinned three generations of WRC racers. And to underscore that fact, Toyota brought to the stage the ST165 Celica GT-Four that won the 1990 Safari Rally Kenya and parked it next to the Yaris WRC.
However, the car we fell in love with at first glance was the bone stock ST165 Celica GT-Four in Super White. flanking the stock GR Yaris. The Japan-spec cars had different multi-spoke alloys, smoked lenses and, as mandatory on all high-tech 1980s cars — a sticker on the side denoting the specs. “GT-Four 2.0 Twin Cam Turbo Charger Full Time Four Wheel Drive,” it read, gloriously.
Elsewhere in the massive display, Toyota displayed three versions of the A90 Supra. The first was a carbon-bodied GT500 race car packed with complex composite shapes, which will replace the Lexus LC500 as Toyota’s entry into SuperGT. As per league rules, the engine will be a 2.0-liter turbo four, perhaps making this the most Toyota of the A90s.
The second was a GT4-spec Supra, a for privateer use in (relatively) low-cost series such as the Super Taikyu Series in Japan, Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nürburgring (VLN Nurburgring Endurance Series) in Europe, the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series in the US, and any other GT4-eligible races around the world. The blue A90 was a showcase of GR Parts available for the new Supra, mostly a bunch of add-on aero bits.
An AE86 Corolla Levin, along with a Sprinter Trueno Black Limited, was on hand to promote the 86 Black Edition Concept, which could signal the final special edition of the Toyota-Subaru 86.
A Toyota Land Cruiser prepped for the 2020 Dakar Rally sat beside a HiLux that formed the foundation for last year’s overall winner of the desert rally. The Dakar took place in the Middle East this year so it’s no wonder Toyota entered a model that is widely considered the Cadillac of the region. Powered by a 1VD-FTV 4.5-liter diesel V8, the rig produces 300PS and 590 lb-ft of torque.
Nearby, Toyota showed off Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso’s TS050 LMP racer, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year. The big trophy, along with its extremely fancy carrying case, was on full display. No matter what you think of Toyota, you have to give it to them, they sure do compete in a lot of different motorsports arenas.
Rounding out the display were more Yarises (or is it Yari)? A white and red race car showcased the 2021 Yaris Cup one-make series, which will replace the long-running Netz Cup Vitz Race. The entry-level contests have been going on since the debut of the original Yaris/Vitz in 1999 and have remained popular. Last year, it welcomed 658 entrants. It’s great to see manufacturers still providing enthusiasts with an affordable way to get into racing.
A red hatchback showcased the portfolio of GR parts available for the Yaris (which is different from the Mazda 2-based Yaris offered in the US). And lastly, the red, white, and black car was the GR Yaris Rally Concept, a concept for a rally car based on a road car that homologates a rally car.
Still, those Celica GT-Fours. Oof.
Images courtesy of Toyota.