To recall, the launch of the GR and GR Sport range of vehicles included the Corolla Cross GR Sport sports utility vehicle (SUV), Hilux GR Sport pickup truck, GR Corolla hot hatch, GR Supra sports two-seater coupe and the playful 2+2 seating GR86 coupe.
It has to be stressed that because these vehicles now carry the GR moniker, owners can expect performance from them while those that carry the GR Sport title have been enhanced with a sportier road-going experience and added kit.
To put it simply, the GR Sport enhancements aren’t just “skin deep” with just a sporty body kit, redesigned wheels and maybe some decals to boot.
Far from it.
These vehicles have been massaged to bring about some handling improvements. And when Toyota slapped one of its products with a GR-only badge, it means serious business.
Ever since the arrival of the GR Supra (2019) in Malaysia and the GR Yaris (2021), the two marked the end of Toyota Racing Development’s (TRD’s) reign which started in 1954.
The sampling of Toyota’s latest GR range found the motoring fraternity under the relentless heat commonly associated with this track - specifically the South track which consists of turns 8 to 14.
The GR Corolla and GR86 were on-hand for track duties with a six-speed manual transmission while the venerable GR Supra and its eight-speed manual transmission was available for comparison.
The Corolla Cross GR Sport and Hilux GR Sport had powertrains that were not meddled with and were relegated to an experience on public roads.
Although some might scoff at the two latter GR Sport models for not having their performance upped to new levels, their road-going experiences are noticeably different compare to their non-GR Sport stablemates.
Corolla Cross GR Sport
Significant changes have been made to improve the Corolla Cross GR Sport’s road-going manners.
For instance, the amount of chassis flex has been reduced and its comfort-oriented suspension has been done away with before increasing the sharpness and response of the Electronic Power Steering system with Sport ECU.
The overall result is a more communicative feel that’s been coupled with added nimbleness to give this SUV the right to wear its new sporty exterior as well as the plethora of GR badges that litter this SUV’s exterior and interior.
The roads around SIC allowed us to experience how the SUV was able to pick up notes and nuances of uneven surfaces even if the weather “rained” in on the opportunity to put it through a more aggressive pace.
In throwing this SUV into potholes along the way (for the sake of science), the shocks from such weren’t bright enough to be cringe-worthy.
Rather, the suspension soaked up a significant amount with just the tail-end of it intruding into the cabin and helped to trigger the need for a longer-term test for a clearer picture of its cruising characteristics and corner-carving abilities.
Hilux GR Sport
Jumping into the Hilux GR Sport revealed the biggest surprise.
We’ve tested many pick-up trucks over the years and they have grown characteristically closer to becoming more car-like in terms of ride and handling.
Having the suspension setup stiffened with new monotube dampers, the result was a pleasant amount of refinement experienced and this extends to rear-seated passengers.
Doing so has helped shaped this Hilux’s steering feel with a greater amount of communication rather than the usual disconnect that’s commonly felt with most pickup trucks due to their high-profile all-terrain tyres.
Playfulness can be characterised by this Hilux with the addition of paddle shifters for the six-speed automatic transmission, allowing drivers quick access to the 2.8-litre turbodiesel’s 204PS and 500Nm of torque.
The interior, although similar to the Rogue variant, is nothing short of delightful; looking premium and coupled with a level of sportiness that’s complemented by plenty of GR logos help supply a good amount of ownership pride.
This is one pick-up truck that has certainly reset the bar for others to aim for and the inclusion of the re-upholstered seats from the Fortuner in a combination of suede and leather means drivers should be able to access power without slipping and sliding around.
The GR Corolla hot hatch is inherently a more convenient five-door version of the three-door GR Yaris and while there is a 6AT available for sale, only the 6MT variant was available.
Impressive acceleration and agility are how best to describe this hot hatch with a well-balanced chassis and a responsive three-cylinder 1.6-litre turbocharged engine allowing for easy access to its 300PS (+39PS) and 370Nm (+10Nm) throughout its rev range.
All that gets sport engine notes gets trumpeted out the triple pipe exhaust system with a slight amount of bass emanating into the cabin.
To deal with the increased performance figures are reinforced exhaust valves, a higher capacity direct injection fuel pump, stronger pistons and a larger engine oil cooler.
Launching from a standstill will help create an imprint in the stiff bolsters of the suede-leather combination upholstered front seats.
While the gear shifts are crisp, a healthy dose of nose authority is ever-present thanks to the all-wheel-drive system with a Torsen limited-slip differential when inputting aggressive directional changes.
The combination of suspension and tyre imbues the GR Corolla with a calm disposition around tight bends and takes directional changes like a champ from the get-go for a smooth undramatic experience.
The upright seating position provides a commanding view and there was a high level of ergonomics with controls always within easy reach.
Build quality was also on point both visually and physically.
Getting into the tight confines of the GR Supra was expected even if it is larger than the GR86.
The two-seater coupe was unfortunately consigned to just “drag racing” duties alongside a GR Corolla.
The accelerative qualities of the GR Supra were immense as the driver gets pinned into the seat while the rear end of the car adopts a slight squat while rocketing off the line.
To watch the GR Corolla keep up with a slight lag for at least the first hundred metres before losing out was a testament to the AWD system of the hot hatch. A definite David versus Goliath scenario.
The GR Supra comes with a twin-scroll turbo-charged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine that delivers a hefty 388PS and 500Nm of torque.
Its on-the-road without road tax and insurance price of RM645,000 delivers every ringgit of it.
The GR86 was one of the GR cars that left quite an impression.
Rear-wheel driven and ready for action, this 2+2 coupe may be smaller in size compared to the Supra, but its cabin is noticeably less filled out.
Nevertheless, the car was able to showcase its fun side.
The larger 2.4-litre engine over its 2.0-litre predecessor pumps out 237PS (+37PS) and 250NM (+45Nm) while having a 7,500rpm red-line left many wanting more seat time.
Armed with crisp gear throws for GR86’s manual transmission, adequately spaced pedals and a low-slung seating position helped create better operational familiarity and made it a little more ergonomic than the GR Corolla.
Corners and directional changes are what the GR86 seems to crave, thanks to its lower centre of gravity attained by the use of lightweight aluminium for the bonnet and roof.
The sporty suspension of the GR86 is able to provide some serious driving moments when in Track Mode. But tread carefully here because this 2+2 coupe will provide some tail-out instances – even more so when in the wet.
For this reason, the GR86 has become the choice pick here (at least for this writer) with all its abilities, which have been amazing.
Marry it with some practicality and it would be a fantastic daily car to own.
Compared to the other two GR counterparts, it had a far more playful disposition; better ergonomics (seating position and all-around visibility); nicely-sized cabin considering its overall size and power that’s easily tapped into for its 50:50 weight distribution.
The only question now is – should it be specified with an automatic or manual transmission? - Jay Wong