Two wild versions of the same supermini in as many years might "look like carelessness" by an automotive Lady Bracknell, but that's exactly what Toyota has done with its second Gazoo Racing (abbreviated to GR) Yaris, based on the next version of the supermini of the same name which goes on sale later this year.
After Akio Toyoda, Toyota's boss, climbed out of the company's Yaris World Rally Championship (WRC) contender and said "build it" to his nonplussed engineers, the team set to work to most closely match the experience of driving the WRC car on public roads.
This is a stunning machine and a true homologation special, for while it's unique four-wheel-drive system isn't eligible for WRC competition, the specialised, low-roof, lightweight three-door bodyshell most certainly is. To qualify to use the new car in the WRC, however, the company will have to build 25,000 road-going models in a single year.
With carbon-fibre polymer for the roof and aluminium for the doors and bonnet, the GR Yaris is, at 1,180kg, about 10 per cent lighter than the standard car. There is also a wider track (width between the wheels) at the rear, with race-style double wishbone rear suspension replacing the less sophisticated twist beam set-up of the standard car.
The engine is an all-new three cylinder unit, with chain-driven twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and a turbocharger with ball bearings for quick response. From a swept volume of 1,618cc it develops 257bhp and 266lb ft of torque. For better weight distribution, the engine is mounted 21mm further back in the chassis than that of the standard car.
The 4x4 system takes drive from the front-mounted, transverse engine and six-speed manual gearbox to the front wheels with driveshafts and to the rear wheels via a multi-plate, oil bath clutch. The rear differential is set up to drive the back wheels slightly faster than the road speed, so the clutch can be closed fully to over-speed the rear wheels to steer or slide the tail of the car. Torsen mechanical limited-slip differentials at the front and rear are options in the Circuit Pack, which also includes Michelin Sport Pilot tyres on 18-inch wheel rims.
Three driving modes are offered. The first has 60/40 per cent front/rear drive for city driving, the second with 30/70 per cent rearward bias for sport driving and the last, with a 50/50 per cent split, is for loose-surface stage rally driving or snow. The brakes feature four piston calipers at the front, with twin piston units at the rear.
Set up by Toyota's rally team as well as Tommi Mäkinen, four times WRC champion and now team principal with Toyota's Gazoo Racing WRC team, as well as some of the squad's roster of drivers, the GR Yaris will accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.5sec and is claimed to have amazing handling.
This is the first homologation special from Toyota since the Celica GT-Four of the 1990s, which was also intended for top-flight rallying, so the GR Yaris is expected to be oversubscribed.
There are no prices yet, but expect it to cost from the mid-£30,000s – which, when you think about it, seems a bit of a bargain for a supercar-humbling supermini.
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