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Hot Wheels: 300-Horsepower Toyota GR Corolla

Meet the 300-horsepower Toyota GR Corolla
Meet the 300-horsepower Toyota GR Corolla.

Who doesn’t love a Hot Wheels? At one time or another, I probably had more than 100 of these die-cast marvels parked on shelves gathering dust. KITT from Knight Rider was always a favorite.

As a kid, I’d spend countless hours firing them across tabletops, making sounds of roaring engines and squealing tires. Mario Andretti came nowhere close to my cornering skills.

Today, there’s a full-size Hot Wheels racer you can buy that will deliver all the thrills of those Mattel-made models. It’s called the GR Corolla, and it’s made by Toyota.

The Toyota GR Corolla can go 0-to-60 in under five seconds
The Toyota GR Corolla can go 0-to-60 in under five seconds.

Here is a 300-horsepower pocket-rocket, powered by a screaming 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder, with a six-speed stick shift, and all-wheel drive. You can drive one away, rather quickly, from just $37,595.

It’s loosely based on Toyota’s bland-as-tofu, five-door Corolla Hatchback, but with a heavy dose of performance engineering by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division. Hence the GR badge.

Just ogle the thing. It looks like it’s just come off a Swedish rally, drifting sideways and kicking-up gravel. Find yourself an empty Walmart parking lot and you too could be a star of Tokyo Drift.

The Toyota GR Corolla's 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine
The Toyota GR Corolla’s 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine.

Here’s an exotic thrill ride for the price a Camry that will add wild excitement to even the dullest commute. “Honey, can you go out and grab a pizza? On my way.”

And like a rally racer, it’s built for action. The bodywork is all big-shouldered wheel arches that were surely modeled after Stallone’s biceps in Rocky 1 through 5. The front end has more air-gulping openings than an F/A-18.

At each corner, filling out those He-Man fenders is a set of 18-inch forged aluminum rims shod with super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. This thing grips asphalt like chewing gum on shagpile.

18-inch forged aluminum rims with Michelin Pilot Sport tires
18-inch forged aluminum rims with Michelin Pilot Sport tires.

To make the bodyshell I-beam stiff, compared to a regular Corolla Hatchback, it gets an additional 349 spot welds, an extra 108 inches of structural adhesive, and added bracing across the engine bay and under the floor. Guards outside Buckingham Palace aren’t this rigid.

And how off-the-wall is it to give this feisty GR Corolla a three-cylinder engine, rather than a four, or even a V6. Using lots of motorsport technology, this mighty three-pot delivers an insane 100 horsepower per cylinder.

Not a fan of stick shifts? Then the GR is not for you. The only transmission on offer is a Teflon-smooth six-speed for DIY shifting. It fits the character of the car perfectly.

The Toyota GR Corolla comes as a is a Teflon-smooth six-speed manual
The Toyota GR Corolla comes as a is a Teflon-smooth six-speed manual.

But maybe the best indication of the GR’s sporting intent is the front and rear limited-slip differentials that come standard. These distribute traction to the wheels with the most grip.

To add to the fun factor, a dial on the center console lets you balance the amount of power sent to the front and rear wheels. Select 60 front and 40 rear for balanced, everyday driving. Go for 30/70 for a rear-wheel-drive feel. Or 50/50 for the best of all worlds.

Even in straight-roads Florida, this little GR is a blast to drive. Off the line, it slingshots you forward, rushing to 60 miles per hour from standstill in under five seconds. And to the accompaniment of a booming exhaust that has more voices than that gal in The Exorcist.

The driver's seat in the new Toyota GR Corolla
The driver’s seat in the new Toyota GR Corolla.

And when you find yourself a pinch-tight on-ramp, or a curvy backroad, the Toyota’s combo of low center of gravity, circuit-tuned coil springs and shocks, and laser-precise steering makes if feel like it’s running on rails. Hitting the brakes stops you as effectively as hitting a brick wall.

The 300-horsepower Toyota GR Corolla
The 300-horsepower Toyota GR Corolla.

This is a car that will put a huge, Julia Roberts-wide smile on your face every time you hit the start button and turn every mile into a Hot Wheels table-top play day.

Three flavors to GR Corolla are on offer: the base Core version at $37,595; the mid-range Premium at $41,415; and the hard-core Circuit Edition at $46,235. Me? I’d be deliriously happy with the base model.

My only disappointment is that Toyota didn’t call it the GR Hot Wheels. A Corolla it’s not.

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