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The Hardcore Toyota 4WD Turbocharged Hot Hatch That Got Away

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Here is yet another gem from Japan that’s been stopped at the border. No, unfortunately, we will not be getting Toyota’s rally-honed GRMN Yaris, which incidentally just happens to be Japan’s most powerful 3-cylinder hot hatch ever. It’s based on the multiple award-winning GR Yaris, but in stead of four seats, it gets two, and incorporates a whole host of upgrades over the stock GR model.

Yes, Toyota has some odd names these days to refer to its growing range of sports cars, and the weirdest must be this one — “Gazoo Racing tuned by the Meister of Nurburgring,” or GRMN. That’s because basically every car from its GR lineup, including the GR Supra and the GR86 has been tuned at the famed 13-mile long Nurburgring race track in western Germany.

Launched at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January this year, the limited run of 500 GRMN Yaris models sold out in a day when it went on sale this month as some 12,300 eager buyers lodged their interest in securing a car through an online purchasing system that selects buyers in a reservation lottery. Each lucky buyer will have to fork out the equivalent of $62,600, a sizable jump from the GR Yaris’ $33,700.

Available in two specs, Circuit Package and the Rally Package, the GRMN Yaris is based on the GR Yaris platform, and therefore employs the same turbocharged 3-cylinder 1.6-liter engine pumping out 268-hp/6500rpm. While power remains the same as the GR Yaris, the GRMN version gets a boost in torque from 273 lb-ft to 288 lb-ft. The 6-speed manual gearbox has also been reinforced and tuned from the GR version to deliver quicker, more precise shifting.

By switching the roof and hood from steel to carbon fiber, engineers have saved some 42-lbs of weight. Those weight savings, extra torque and sharper gear action with smoother shifts improve the GRMN Yaris’ 0-60mph acceleration times to 5.3 seconds, down from the GR Yaris’ 5.5 seconds.

The Circuit package brings bespoke 18-in BBS wheels, adjustable Bilstein shocks, a carbon-fiber rear spoiler and aerodynamic body kit, while the Rally package employs a bespoke GR suspension upgrade, a protective undertray and a roll bar. The main upgrades are a stiffer body, thanks to 546 new spot welds and 39 feet of extra structural adhesive, a 42-lb weight loss (the rear seats make way for a solid cross-brace), a half inch increase in width for improved aerodynamics and a half inch drop in ride height, which brings a lower centre of gravity. The main difference between the Circuit and Rally specs are the suspension setups and the tires. In contrast to the Circuit’s Yokohama Advan rubber, the Rally spec shods gravel-friendly Dunlops.

The GRMN Yaris also receives a mechanical limited-slip differential and a new gearbox with close-ratio first through fourth gears to make efficient use of the engine’s power band. Inside, it gets bespoke snugly fitting Recaro bucket seats with side airbags, aluminum pedals, a leather bound gear shifter, bespoke gauges and a steering wheel wrapped in alcantara to counter sweaty palms.

While the actual GRMN Yaris will not be exported, Gazoo Racing did say that overseas GR Yaris owners as well as those driving the GR Supra and GR86, will have access to bespoke GRMN aero parts and suspension upgrades including Bilstein dampers by spring 2023.

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