What happened to Toyota? How the world’s largest auto company went from boring to crazy and what its next performance plans are – Car News
Flashback to 2017 and auto stores around the world were in turmoil, thanks to an extremely surprising promise – and an even more surprising admission – from the president of the world’s largest automaker.
It was a promise that would lead to a true performance revolution, from the GR Supra and GR Yaris to the new GR Corolla and GR HiLux, as well as a new MR2 or Celica to complement a “three brothers” performance strategy.
But it all started with a pledge, when Toyota boss Akio Toyoda apparently issued an edict to his staff promising “no more boring cars,” essentially promising to take the power of the experts in control from the quality of the bean count and hand it over to designers and performance engineers to usher in a new era of excitement for the brand.
What about admission? Well, is that Toyota vehicles – or at least some of them – were boring. Which, to be fair, we already knew, but it’s also not the sort of thing most auto company executives will readily bow to.
But be careful, he did, and besides, he really did something about it. And it didn’t take long.
Pretty much the first Toyota vehicles to roll out of the darkroom after this statement were the boldly designed Prius and the sensational new Camry, which debuted not only with a great new look, but a willingness to drive with enthusiasm – something something sorely lacking in its predecessors.
Camry’s chief engineer, Masato Katsumata, probably summed it up best in an interview with AutoWeek when this vehicle was launched, explaining that, historically, designers would sketch out their vision for a new vehicle, before that vision came into existence. be slowly shaken in the search for less expensive manufacturing costs and the guarantee of simple and flawless manufacturing processes. Eventually all that was left was, well, a boring car.
“Toyota styling is not normally that sexy or three-dimensional,” he said. “That’s because, I’m sorry to say, on the production engineering side, they don’t take any risks. So ultimately the designer’s direction is removed.”
In the same interview, Ian Cartabiano, then chief designer at Toyota’s Calty studio in California and now president of Lexus and Toyota’s ED2 design center, made an even more specific point of what the change in leadership would mean. high.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of amazing products coming out of Toyota over the next couple of years. And the Camry is a good start, ”he said.
The following year, the GR Supra (rumored to date back to 2012) appeared, as part of a joint development with BMW, which borrowed its transmission technology from the German giant.
So while the Supra did launch the GR brand, it wasn’t until late 2019 that Toyota would have its first in-house model to wear the badge, in the form of the truly excellent GR Yaris. CarsGuide was on the international launch of this model, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the engineering team were on the verge of tears in the emotion of putting Toyota back on the performance map.
Better yet, those same engineers saw the GR Yaris as a first step towards the performance light of a company that had spent two decades in obscurity. So much so that when AutoCar in the UK gave it a five-star performance rating, chief vehicle engineer Naohiko Saito disagreed.
“We appreciated your kind words,” he said. “But in my humble opinion, we can never get the perfect car. We had to start from scratch with this car, and we had lost 20 years of experience. So this is only the beginning of the development of our sports car. The important thing now is just to keep improving it for the future. “
The big question, however, is what does this future hold for us? Here’s what you can look forward to.
The Toyota GR 86 will be the first to arrive, with the Subaru BRZ twin carrying a more powerful engine which will now produce 173 kW of power at 7,000 rpm and 250 Nm of torque at 3,700 rpm.
You might think this is delaying the party, given that the BRZ was due to arrive before the end of 2021, before delays push it into the first quarter of 2022.
But in exciting news, Japanese media claim that the delay is mainly due to President Akio Toyoda sampling the new model and then ordering his engineers to further differentiate it from its twin Subaru, such is the importance of the GR badge.
Toyota GR Corolla
The next row cab should then be the fire-breathing GR Corolla, with reports suggesting it will be revealed around the middle of next year.
It’s a case of when, not if, for the Corolla, with the brand confirming that a “GR hot trap” (not the Yaris) would be launched. The rapid Corolla project was therefore clearly the green light.
This vehicle would benefit from the GR Yaris’ 1.6-liter turbo petrol three-cylinder engine. But rather than the 200 kW of power and 370 Nm of torque of this vehicle, the GR Corolla is expected to increase its power to 224 kW. There is also an option to remove the rear seats, as well as a manual transmission, GR-FOUR 4WD system, LSDs and weight saving panels.
Toyota GR HiLux
Another in the camp when, not if (the GR HiLux nameplate has already been filed in Australia and elsewhere) a fast HiLux is expected to arrive with the ute’s next major model change, in 2023 or 2024.
What we don’t know (but hope) is what will fuel it. In 2018, Toyota said it would be looking for a “big diesel” to power a GR HiLux, suggesting that a gasoline engine wouldn’t cut in a GR model. The problem, of course, is that such an engine did not exist. But that all changed with the launch of the LC300, which houses a powerful new diesel V6.
That would make, at least by today’s standards, the GR HiLux the most powerful double cab on the market, so keep your fingers crossed.
Toyota MR2 or Celica
Toyota is officially keen to complete its performance trilogy – or what it calls its “three brothers” strategy – with a new performance hero to join the GR 86 and GR Supra.
What we don’t know yet is what it will be exactly. Some media reports point to a rebirth of the MR2 with a plug-in hybrid powertrain – a two-door performance vehicle with a 2.8- or 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine supplemented by an electric motor and lithium battery. -ion to produce about 298 kW.
Other camps suggest it could be a reborn Celica, with Toyota this year re-registering “Celica” as a brand in North America, saying sources at Toyota have confirmed that a third performance model join the range, wear a Celica badge, and be powered by forward-looking technology, whether electric or hydrogen powered.