2023 Toyota GR Corolla on the Track
Earlier this week we sent the latest iteration of Honda’s hot hatch around the track at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway, today we have perhaps its biggest rival in the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla.
While both performance cars are based on competing compact sedan/hatchback underpinnings in the Civic and Corolla, these two performance variants go about the mission of speed and performance in very different ways.
While the Civic Type R sticks to its formula of putting a lot of power down through the front wheels from a modified 4-cylinder engine, GR Corolla’s approach takes things a bit more extreme.
In an interesting turn of events, the GR Corolla is currently the only performance vehicle from Toyota that is actually produced by Toyota, with the GR Supra and GR86 being made by BMW and Subaru, respectively. For Corolla the detail-obsessed TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team and master driver Akio Toyoda, a.k.a. Morizo, signed off on this all-new addition to Toyota’s growing lineup of sports cars which brings the performance, handling, and functionality that hot hatch fans love.
And love it I did!!!
I only just this week declared my newfound love and adoration for the hot hatch culture thanks to some all-too-limited track time in the Honda Civic Type R (a vehicle that now owns the record for fastest production FWD car around Suzuka and Nürburgring Nordschleife). Now, getting into a similarly-powered AWD competitor, I’m just torturing myself with great-driving, affordable, and practical cars. Torture because we are only allowed 3 laps per vehicle to allow all journalist participants a shot at some track time. Torture because as much adoration I gained for these vehicles, they would not be going home with me (nor do I need another vehicle in the driveway). Torture because I live 3 hours away from this particular track and only occasionally have a vehicle worthy of testing on a track. Yes, as fun as these hot hatches were…it all must come to an end.
Toyota, God love ‘em, brought not one but TWO versions of their GR Corolla for us to test on the track. The first is a Supersonic Red “Core” model, which is the most affordable of the three trims. Making things like the performance upgraded brakes and limited slip differentials part of a performance package vs. standard on the 2023-only Circuit trim level.
The second variant they brought was a pearl white super rare version in the “Morizo”, named after the company’s then-leader Akio Toyoda (yes, it’s spelled differently, but the company is his family’s legacy). The Morizo gets added power, removes unessential items like rear seats and rear window wipers, and replaces the metallic roof with one of stronger and lighter carbon fiber. The wheels are wider and are wrapped in a stickier tire as well.
All this translates into a package that does feel noticeably different on the track. It wasn’t like getting out of the Core model then jumping into a Hellcat-powered Challenger, but it was a noticeable difference to be sure. The tires alone were a big enough upgrade because the wider Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires had no intention of letting go once warmed up.
Rowing through the gears with the extra 22 lb-ft of torque on tap, exclusive close ratio manual transmission with rev-match, and shorter differential gears make for satisfying acceleration across the power band. Much like the Core, the Morizo too likes to rev. However, even with a redline over 7,000 rpm, the Morizo will deliver most of its power in the 3250-4600 rpm range.
Piloting both around the track, my obvious choice would be the Morizo. It’s lighter, more powerful, with stickier tires. If I were to buy one and live with it (more on that in a future review) it would be the Core. These cars with their triple tailpipes make a great sound puttering around the track. The way they change direction is fun and makes you feel like a “Star in a reasonably priced car.” Have I dated myself with that reference?) With both of these, finding your favorite windy road near your house would be an instant pick-me-up. There really isn’t a way to drive these fast that does not put a smile on your face.
These short spurts of driving many different cars for a limit of three laps on a track really is like speed-dating. It’s only really enough to let you know if you want a real date with a car or if it’s time to move on. Having sampled all GR-branded vehicles (GR86, Supra, and Corolla) this is the best one for your weekend enthusiast. Its AWD is forgiving enough that it won’t put you into a spin if you take a corner too hard and fast. Sure the Supra is more powerful, has an enthusiast-friendly rear-wheel drive powertrain, and can now also be had with a proper manual gearbox, but the Corolla is more approachable. While the Supra may feel like you’re going up to the supermodel at the bar, Corolla feels more like a relatable beauty who just gets you from the start. I can say from sampling both of these cars, I want more time. I want that next date.
2023 Toyota GR Corolla Specs:
1.6L Turbocharged Inline 3-Cylinder Engine
273 lb-ft of Torque (295 lb-ft in the Morizo Edition)
6-Speed Manual Gearbox with Rev-matching
Driver-selectable Torque Split:
60 Front/40 Rear
30 Front/70 Rear
MacPherson Strut Front Suspension
Circuit-tuned Coil Springs, Shock Absorbers, and Stabilizer Bars
Double-wishbone Multi-Link Rear Suspension
Four-piston Front Two-Piston RearBrake Calipers
14-inch Front Ventilated and Slotted Rotors
11.7-inch Rear Ventilated and Slotted Rotors
Front and Rear Torsion Limited Slip Differentials
235/40 R18 Michelin® Pilot® Sport 4 S Tires
245/40 R18 Michelin® Pilot® Sport Cup 2 High-performance Summer Tires
Toyota-claimed 4.99 Second 0-60
4.92 in Morizo
12.3-inch Digital Instrument Cluster
Added Aero for Increased Downforce
Cloth Front Sport Seats with Increased Bolstering for Cornering Support
8-inch Color Infotainment with Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Qi Wireless Phone Charger
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0
Pre-collision System with Pedestrian Detection
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
Lane Tracing Assist
Automatic High Beam Headlights
Road Sign Assist
JBL 8-speaker Premium Sound
Complimentary 1-year National Auto Sport Association (NASA) membership, *including one free High-Performance Driving Experience (HPDE) *
Starting Price: $35,900
Price as tested: $40,159
Images courtesy of capturingthemachine.com