The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is a 300-hp lever-action pocket rocket

With a turbocharged three-cylinder, massive split disc brakes and variable-torque all-wheel drive, this hot hatch came to party.

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[Well, Toyota itself leaked the Corolla GR’s reveal early March 31, posting on a customer-facing landing page (see screenshot below) what appeared to be the details, specifications, and some features of the much-anticipated hot hatch, the automaker accidentally breaking its own embargo.

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Our story below lays out our impressions of the car based on the information revealed in this leak. — Ed.]

A screenshot of information about the 2023 Corolla GR that Toyota accidentally leaked before its own embargo on March 31.
A screenshot of information about the 2023 Corolla GR that Toyota accidentally leaked before its own embargo on March 31. Photo by Toyota, via the Wayback Machine

Me want. want me badly. Very very bad.

It’s not often that my most basic instincts come out, especially when it comes to cars. I have always been – and will always be – a bike guy. I make my money writing about cars. I spend it on motorcycles. The number of cars – surprisingly few of them “super-” – that really run my engine are very few. There’s BMW’s 3.6-liter M5 inline-six; Lincoln Continentals suicide carrier; and the Dino who didn’t dare call himself Ferrari among the very few that make me cringe to drive.

Now add a corolla to the mixture. Yes, a humble Toyota Corolla. The most ubiquitous car on the planet, the Japanese compact overtaking Volkswagen’s evergreen Beetle in 1997 as the most manufactured automobile in history. But, mind you, this is no ordinary Corolla I covet. This is the highly anticipated GR version of the family runabout.

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What is a GR, you ask? Good question. Basically, “GR” stands for “Gazoo Racing” which started, for all intents and purposes, as a skunkswork project so that now president and then executive vice president Akio Toyoda could race. In 2007, he wanted to drive the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. As this could not be an “official” Toyota effort, the team was called Gazoo Racing. But it was made up entirely of Toyota employees, with Toyoda himself, thanks to strict Japanese corporate sayings, having to race under a pseudonym – “Morizo”.

As underground as the effort was, the two Altezzas-born-Lexus-ISes – both used, says the Gazoo legend – finished the grueling race, and thus GR was born. It should be noted that Toyoda, despite being CEO now, still has a hand in all of this, apparently testing the breathy Corolla at Fuji Speedway and Suzuka.

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The turbocharged three-cylinder of the 2023 Toyota Corolla GR
The turbocharged three-cylinder of the 2023 Toyota Corolla GR Picture of Toyota

And what a Corolla it is. By freeing up the Yaris GR’ed’s 1,618cc inline-three, Toyota has upped the Corolla’s power, with the turbocharged little howler even making 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm; and 273 lb-ft of torque from 3,000 to 5,550 rpm.

And the little beast has all the latest hot-rod stuff. The turbo is integrated directly into the exhaust manifold to reduce the distance between the exhaust valve and the turbine, and thus reduce turbo lag. Fuel is injected directly into the GR’s high-compression combustion chamber and into the six-speed manual transmission – remember that Toyota is one of the few diehard automakers still actively promoting “sticks” – rev matches for smooth downshifts.

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Even more impressive is the GR-Four all-wheel-drive system. Designed by Gazoo’s World Rally Team engineering team, it offers adjustable torque distribution for almost any condition. Able to vary from a winter-friendly 60-40 frontal distribution; at a 30-70 rear bias for sport slides and slides, the GR-Four can also automatically vary its vectoring.

And, like the final coup de grace, the front and rear axles are equipped with Torsen limited-slip differentials for maximum grip in tight corners. Add sport-tuned shocks for the McPherson front struts; and rear multi-link independent suspension systems, and the GR should have very little, uh, In the shape of a corolla handling. Michelin Pilot Sport 4 235/40R18s ensure that the suspension and stabilizer bars have plenty of cornering grip to work against. To slow it all down, four-piston calipers work on massive 355mm ventilated – and slotted! – discs up front and a few still substantial 297mm rotors out back. It’s a Corolla that’s equipped to party.

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It’s definitely dressed up for a night out. There’s a ‘forged’ carbon fiber roof; a pronounced roof-mounted rear spoiler; and conduits supplying both the motor and the brakes. Inside, the race-inspired 12.3-inch TFT gauge set displays AWD torque split, turbo boost and rpm. The shifter, meanwhile, has been shortened for quicker shifting, and the GR has a good old-fashioned mechanical parking brake. For an added touch, the top-of-the-range “Circuit” edition even comes with “Morizo” integrated into the shift knob.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any pricing information yet. But, in France, the GR Yaris sells for 37,600 euros, more than double the price of a basic Yaris. Using the same exchange rate and model upgrade, that would see a Canadian GR Corolla start at somewhere just north of $40,000. We’ll find out just how much later this year when the GR Corolla hits Canadian Toyota dealerships.

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