They did it. Toyota called our bluff. The marque built a Corolla with 300 horsepower, all-wheel drive, brakes that could stop an airliner and a seriously tweaked chassis.
It’s the kind of car you doubtlessly sketched in a middle school notebook when you should have been paying attention to a lecture on the Magna Carta but were letting your mind drift …
What’s the Big Deal?
Okay, let’s talk about this car that has us torn between excitement and jealous bitterness at the fact that we probably can’t have one because what limited stock is out there will be snapped up by folks with money to burn.
The Toyota GR Corolla hits the streets with 300 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque from a 1.6-liter three-cylinder ingesting up to 25.2 psi of boost. The only available transmission is a six-speed manual driving all four wheels through a variable torque-split, electronically controlled center differential.
Photography Credit: Donovan Dwyer
All three trim levels for 2024–Core, Premium and Circuit Edition–feature the same mechanical specs for driveline, suspension and brakes. The Core model is equipped standard with open front and rear diffs, but the Premium and Circuit Edition get Torsens in the front and rear pumpkins. The Core, however, can be upgraded with a Performance package that adds the Torsens to the base model as well.
Aside from that available upgrade, differences in the models are largely cosmetic and comfort-related. The Circuit Edition , the one that we tested, does get a carbon-fiber roof–although it doesn’t actually save any overall weight–and some hood vents, which are probably a nice touch for a car turbocharged to two atmospheres, but it is possible to build all the greatest performance bits into the most basic GR Corolla.
And that final word there is kind of the alpha and omega of the entire experience. The GR Corolla, after all, is a Corolla. Sure, the chassis spends a little more time on the assembly line–reportedly the GR model receives 349 additional spot welds and 9 more linear feet of structural adhesive to improve platform rigidity and durability–but the economy car DNA is never completely erased.
On the contrary, the budget roots of the GR Corolla feel almost embraced. Yes, the ergonomics are typical Toyota excellent, and the seats receive a serious upgrade from the base Corolla chairs, but the…