Exclusive: First track drive in the GR Corolla

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
Sep 18, 2022 | Toyota, Corolla, GR Corolla, Morizo, Track Test, Toyota GR Corolla, Toyota Corolla, GR Corolla Morizo | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

Photography Courtesy Toyota

What a time to be alive.

The automotive marketplace is now positively full of 500-horsepower muscle cars, and with the GR Corolla hitting dealerships this fall and next spring, we’ll have a nice selection of 300-horsepower hot hatches to pick from as well.

[ICYMI: 300-horsepower GR Corolla starts at $35,900]

On paper, the natural enemy of the GR Corolla would seem to be the Honda Civic Type R, a fellow 300-ish-horsepower compact built on the bones of a popular commuter chassis. Likewise, it’s also outfitted with all the goodies we dreamed of bolting to these cars when we were doodling in history class.


Until we can do a proper track test, though, we won’t know exactly how the GR Corolla stacks up against the Civic, but now that we've spent some time on track with each version of the forthcoming Toyota, we can make some educated guesses.

First, let’s talk about what turns a Corolla into a GR Corolla.

For starters, it’s not simply a Corolla with a bunch of stuff bolted to it. The GR Corolla is built at a dedicated GR assembly line at Toyota’s Motomachi plant and receives structure-level upgrades, including an additional 349 spot welds and special structural adhesive to increase chassis rigidity.

Front suspension is via MacPherson struts, while double A-arms hold up the rear. Both the Core-trim GR Corolla, which should hit dealerships in fall 2022, and the limited-edition Circuit trim, which hits dealers in spring 2023, wear 235/40R18 Michelin Pilot PS4 tires. The super-sporty Morizo edition, meanwhile, gets the 245/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, along with stiffer springs and different damper tuning to accommodate them.

[Where did the GR Corolla Morizo get its name?]

All trims get a beefy set of 14-inch front rotors squeezed by aluminum four-piston calipers. In the back, 11.7-inch rotors are clamped by two-piston calipers. Red-painted calipers come standard on the Circuit and Morizo, and they're available with the Performance Package on the Core trim.

All trim levels share the same powerplant: a 1.6-liter three-cylinder producing 300 horsepower. Thanks to an additional 1.1 psi of peak boost over the Core and Circuit trims–peaking at a whopping 26.3 psi–the Morizo edition also sees higher peak torque than the other models, topping out at 295 lb.-ft. rather than 273.

Although torque in the Core and Circuit specs is a bit more spread out, with the engine making peak torque between 3000 and 5500 rpm, the Morizo’s torque peak lands between 3250 and 4600 rpm.

The Morizo also mechanically leverages that additional torque with a revised drivetrain featuring a shorter final drive ratio (4.25:1 in first through fourth gears versus 4.08:1 for the Core and Circuit) and slightly revised first- and third-gear ratios.

The result: Gears that pull harder but for (sometimes frustratingly) less time. We saw a GPS-verified top speed of just 55 mph in second gear in the Morizo, while the Core and Circuit ran second all the way to 61 mph–and that’s on shorter 235mm tires. Add a little tire diameter to the Core or Circuit, and you’ll pick up another mph or two.

The real magic of the GR Corolla, though, is in the slick all-wheel-drive system with three user-selectable torque splits. The base setting divides the torque 60/40 front to rear, while Track mode results in an even 50/50 split.

There’s also a 30/70 split, which was our subjective favorite on the mid-speed curves of Utah Motorsports Campus’ east loop.

Front and rear differentials are standard Torsen units on the Circuit and Morizo editions, while Torsen diffs are optional on the Core trim.

All GR Corollas get Toyota’s clever torque-splitting system that uses a multi-disc, electronically controlled wet clutch pack to send torque to the rear axle. The clutch pack is driven from a driveshaft that comes off the front differential and is overdriven by 0.7%.

As a result, the system always operates with at least a small degree of slip, although Toyota reassures us that heat and premature wear are not issues with the clutch pack. First, the wet nature of the clutch pack, which immerses the discs and friction plates in oil, does an excellent job of transferring heat from the friction surfaces.

And second, the system is not engaged all the time. When the car is heading straight and there’s enough traction for only two wheels to handle the situation, the controller disengages the clutch pack, effectively turning the GR Corolla into a front-wheel-drive car. The torque-biasing ECU reads inputs like steering, wheel speed, yaw, throttle position and torque demand and only engages when it's needed to affect the chassis balance and traction in whatever the user-defined torque split is at the moment.

On track, the different modes each have their own distinct personality. The 60/40 mode is predictably pushy, but the GR Corolla still displays good grip, particularly in steady-state cornering.

In 50/50 Track mode, the car is a bit more neutral, particularly on corner exits, but entrances still demand a bit more patience.

Our favorite mode on track, the 30/70 split, was an absolute delight. We could very precisely set our entry attitude through trail braking, and we seemed to get back to power much sooner with this more rear-biased split. Exits were nice and neutral, and mid-corner adjustments could be easily made with steering while we just kept our right foot planted through the apex.

As for which mode is fastest, that will take proper testing. (And sadly, we weren’t able to record any meaningful data on our limited track preview.)

Our seat-of-the-pants impression is that the 30/70 split is probably the hot setup on track based on the way we were able to roll into the throttle earlier and get to full throttle sooner than in other modes. When we have a car to take to our test track, this will definitely be on the docket.

Also notable on track were the brakes, the front rotors of which are as large as the ones on our C5 Corvette time attack project car.

Even with OEM pads and repeated journalist abuse, the car never emitted anything worse than a light whiff of eau de pad from the brakes, and engagement and modulation were just as good at the end of the day as they were in the morning. A slightly more aggressive pad may be necessary for repeated lapping, but the as-delivered braking system seems to have the thermal capacity for track use.

[The difference between street brakes and racing brakes]

Those brakes are hauling down a car that, according to Toyota, weighs 3262 pounds if you opt for the Core trim with the dual-Torsen option. The Circuit trim adds 23 pounds to that figure, mostly through additional comfort and convenience options, although it also comes with a carbon-fiber roof panel.

The Morizo edition also receives that carbon roof, but it strips out the rear seat, the rear window mechanisms and a few other luxuries–like some of the speakers–to come in as the lightweight GR Corolla at 3186 pounds.

MSRP on a Core trim will start at $35,900, and if you want the Torsen diffs, you can add $1180 to that figure. The Circuit model will start at $42,900 and has no real options listed aside from premium colors.

The limited-edition Circuit will basically be a loaded Core, so it will get premium audio and nav, heated seats and wheel, the carbon roof and some cool-looking hood vents.

A rear-seatless Morizo will set you back $49,900, with premium colors being the only options there as well.

Of course, these are prices from the manufacturer, and dealer prices will vary. We haven't seen any evidence of dealer gouging on these cars yet, but as prices are being announced on September 14, they may have just been waiting to see how bad they wanted to stick it to you.

So how good is the GR Corolla? How does it stack up against its competition? Well, those are tough questions to answer objectively at this point for a couple reasons, but we will discuss some of our educated guesses.

First, the GR Corolla–in all its trims–is superbly easy to drive on track. In that regard, it reminds us more of a Hyundai Veloster N than a Civic Type R.

The Toyota’s chassis is extremely communicative and intuitive, making you feel like a trail-brake hero by the second lap. The pedals are well placed and swept for heel-and-toe, although the excellent, user-switchable rev-matching system is probably better than you, giving you one less thing to worry about when thousandths of a second matter.

We’re also curious to sample the GR Corolla at sea level. At the nearly 5000-foot elevation of Utah Motorsports Campus, the three-cylinder engine felt less urgent than the 300-horsepower unit in the current Civic Type R.

[10 reasons why you want the new Honda Civic Type R]

However, this could be as much of a case of the Corolla’s chassis doing an excellent job of putting the power down and calming the delivery as anything. We expect the GR Corolla to run with the Civic R and Veloster N on our test track when we have one to sample from the local press fleet.

As for which trim level is best, that’s another subjective decision. On track, the Morizo certainly felt more urgent and direct when changing direction, and it had more ultimate grip. But its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are more aggressive and 10mm wider. A tire upgrade on a Core or Circuit model should bring the handling more in line with the Morizo, despite its specifically tuned springs and shocks (of course, those are upgradeable as well).

The transmission is another choice that could come down to specific use cases. We actually preferred the longer gears of the Core and Circuit models. The low-speed thrust of the Morizo was fun, but the engine is torquey enough even in the lower-peak-boost Core and Circuit trims to make the longer gears in those cars feel more flexible on track.

Of the cars we sampled during our track preview, the LSD-equipped Core and Circuit editions in the 30/70 split mode were the easiest to drive, balance and push to–or even beyond–the limit at speed. The Morizo had superior reflexes, largely due to the tire choice, but the short gearing meant dates with the rev-limiter well before track-out in more than a few spots.

Regardless of trim, though, Toyota seems to have accomplished its goal of delivering a hot hatch that can compete in the current marketplace.

Now people can speculate on where the car will be slotted for various autocross and time trial competitions–we predict it goes wherever the Civic Type R is currently classed, until it proves it doesn’t belong there for one reason or another–and how difficult dealers will make it for enthusiasts to access the car at a fair price.

It's definitely more than a slapped-up Corolla. If the additional assembly line steps didn’t convince you of that, one drive atop the superbly refined chassis will. This is a welcome return to the days when many major manufacturers were competing in the hot hatch market space.

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Comments
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/14/22 8:37 a.m.

Interesting. Seems like the Core with the Torsen is actually the hot ticket for motorsporting. Well done Toyota!

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/14/22 8:40 a.m.

This car made me pause before buying my Elantra N, wondering if it would be priced in the same category. In the end, I didn't want to wait and I wanted a DSG, but the fact that this landed within a few dollars of the DSG EN is awesome. Yes, you can bump it over $50K and there will be markups, but that is an amazing (IMHO) MSRP for a car that offers all of this.  

Jerry
Jerry PowerDork
9/14/22 8:41 a.m.

I'm really leaning towards skipping the 3rd fun car, pay off the Crosstrek early this year, and see if I can find one of these.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/14/22 8:48 a.m.

Between this and the GR Yaris it looks like there's no shortage of worthy Celica successors, just with hatchback bodies.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
9/14/22 9:52 a.m.
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

Interesting. Seems like the Core with the Torsen is actually the hot ticket for motorsporting. Well done Toyota!

I think it's going to be somewhat venue dependent, but I really don't think the MORIZO is a clear track favorite in anything outside of as-delivered condition. 

For example, even in the SCCA's least-prepped time trial class, Sport, you can do springs, shocks and a tune. All of the MORIZO's torque advantage comes from the tune, so that gap is easy to erase, then you can tune the chassis to your preference with tires, alignment, shocks and springs. So that all seems like a clear advantage case for saving $15,000 and essentially building a FAUX-RIZO with the savings.

06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/14/22 9:59 a.m.

I have never in my entire adult life lusted after a Corolla.. Damn you Toyota..

calteg
calteg SuperDork
9/14/22 10:03 a.m.

Make mine a circuit. I've been peppering my Toyota dealers with questions about this car. So far only one of them even knew it existed. They've all said the same thing: expect extremely low allocation and extremely high markups

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/14/22 10:03 a.m.
06HHR (Forum Supporter) said:

I have never in my entire adult life lusted after a Corolla.. Damn you Toyota..

No AE86 and/or FX16 love? :)

But, yeah, Toyota has aimed this one right at us. 

Jesse Ransom
Jesse Ransom GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
9/14/22 10:11 a.m.
calteg said:

So far only one of them even knew it existed. They've all said the same thing: expect extremely low allocation and extremely high markups

"Oh, that exists? Right, um, huge demand. That's gonna cost you."

Slippery
Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/14/22 10:19 a.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

Interesting. Seems like the Core with the Torsen is actually the hot ticket for motorsporting. Well done Toyota!

I think it's going to be somewhat venue dependent, but I really don't think the MORIZO is a clear track favorite in anything outside of as-delivered condition. 

For example, even in the SCCA's least-prepped time trial class, Sport, you can do springs, shocks and a tune. All of the MORIZO's torque advantage comes from the tune, so that gap is easy to erase, then you can tune the chassis to your preference with tires, alignment, shocks and springs. So that all seems like a clear advantage case for saving $15,000 and essentially building a FAUX-RIZO with the savings.

What about the different transmission ratios? That has to help it feel more peppy, no?

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