If you like performance cars, Toyota has long been the world’s most frustrating carmaker. From the twin-cam, six-cylinder 2000GT launched in 1965, this is the company that over the years has produced gems like the mid-engine MR2s, sundry super-quick Celicas, brawny, barrel-chested Supras, and the Lexus LFA, whose screaming 412kW naturally aspirated 4.8-litre V10 remains one of the greatest engines ever put in a road car.
Yes, Toyota can build – has built – some impressive driver’s cars, but it’s just never seemed all that committed to the idea. It launches them, then invariably leaves them to die of neglect while it gets on with building more Priuses.
Akio Toyoda wants to change all that.
The scion of Toyota’s founding family is a bone fide performance-car enthusiast. He’s raced in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring several times, and is one of the founders of Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s global motorsport brand. On becoming president of Toyota in June 2009, he declared he wanted the company to stop building boring cars.
He’s reiterated that desire several times since – Toyota’s formidable bureaucracy is a challenge even for a man who’s had a version of his family name on more than 195 million vehicles built since 1935. But the launches of cars like the 86 and Supra coupes, and the edgy GR Yaris – a near hand-built World Rally Championship homologation special – have suggested Akio’s might be finally getting what he wants.10
The GR Corolla proves he’s finally getting what he wants.