Whether a critically-acclaimed novel or a chapter in life, it’s unfortunately still true that all good things must come to an end. With word of Akio Toyoda departing from his role as the guy in charge of Toyota, It only feels right to dust off the press photo archives and go over some of Toyoda’s greatest hits. The most astonishing cars made with him in charge, if you will.
The development of Lexus’ only supercar didn’t start under the Akio Toyoda era, but it certainly finished under it. A bespoke V10, an obsession to detail, and incredible sound engineering make the LFA one of the all-time greats. In an age where performance cars are either quieted by turbochargers or entirely silent, a car that sends shivers down your spine with its noises is worth whatever it may cost. It may have been an expensive failure when it came out, but this amazing machine has aged like a fine wine. No wonder that Toyoda raced it.
Whether badged as a Scion FR-S, Toyota 86, Toyota GT86, or Subaru BRZ, these affordable rear-wheel-drive sports coupes get the formula right with a high redline, a limited-slip differential, and massive potential. They’re so popular that several motorsports programs are dedicated to them, and they’re still practical-ish in daily use. They’re the first serious competition the Mazda MX-5 has seen in years, and that takes guts to pull off. Expect pristine examples to pull a premium in fifteen years, as most owners enjoy these cars to the fullest. Perhaps even better news, the replacement Toyota GR86 and second-generation Subaru BRZ are even better than the first smash-hit.
Lexus LC 500
The Lexus LC 500 is a car that shouldn’t exist. A big grand-touring coupe or cabriolet with a five-liter naturally-aspirated V8 isn’t the sort of car you’d expect an automaker to still build in 2023, but this breathtaking machine defies all odds to be the last proper naturally-aspirated V8 GT car ever made. It’s exquisitely-made, surprisingly competent in the bends, and produces a howling note that will haunt your dreams. In an age where we’re bombarded with six-figure luxury cars to the point where they feel dull, the LC 500 is still one to get excited about.
Toyota GR Supra
Akio Toyoda might just sell the best new BMW on the market. Alright, that’s downplaying the role that Toyota engineers played in making the new Supra, but the BMW bones are undeniable. Where Toyota really differed from BMW on the Supra/Z4 project is by focusing on driver engagement, resulting in a car that’s properly spicy. The back end just wants to step out and the ride is very firm, but that’s how I like it. Toyota’s even paired the excellent B58 inline-six with a manual gearbox in the name of driver engagement. The automatic may be quicker, but who cares? Dip clutch, pull big lever, release endorphins, enjoy taking the silky-smooth engine to redline again.
Lexus GS F
The Lexus RC F may be more common, but the GS F is where it’s at. Take the same V8 from the LC 500, put it in a midsize luxury sedan, and tune the chassis to evoke shades of E39 BMW M5. The F10 BMW M5 may have been much faster than Lexus’ hotted-up GS, but the F was secretly brilliant. It’s a shame these cars weren’t more popular, but that just makes them incredibly rare sights today.
Toyota GR Yaris and GR Corolla
The homologation special GR Yaris was a cast iron bathtub dropped on the heads of people who claimed that Toyota couldn’t make a performance car without another marque’s help. From its potent three-cylinder turbocharged engine to its radical bodywork changes to its astounding all-wheel-drive system, the GR Yaris was made to tear up tarmac, gravel, and snow. While Americans won’t be able to own one for quite a while, the GR Corolla is one hell of a consolation prize. Same amazing all-wheel-drive system, same available front and rear limited-slip differentials, same raucous engine. Hell yes.
Toyota Century GRMN
This one’s cheating a bit as it’s a car you can’t buy. However, there’s just something so boss about taking an iconic chariot of Japanese dignitaries and turning it into a bit of a hot rod. Think Alpina B7 but even rarer. Not much is known about the upgrades to Toyoda-san’s Century, but I’m willing to hazard a guess that it’s more than just tough appearance bits.
Toyota Camry TRD and Avalon TRD
Yeah, these two are weird. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Nissan Altima SE-R, but the funny part is that the package actually works on Toyota’s fairly ordinary sedans. Sure, the Camry TRD isn’t as hilariously gutsy as the Hyundai Sonata N-Line, but the TRD exhaust on the Camry is fun and the 3.5-liter V6 makes a raucous note. The Camry TRD and Avalon TRD are proof that if you love cars, you can make any car entertaining with a few tweaks.
Toyota Mark X GRMN
Right as the second-generation Toyota Mark X was about to exit production, its makers went completely mental. Toyota built 350 GRMN examples that packed a 314-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, a six-speed manual gearbox, and a limited-slip rear differential. Tweaked suspension and a bunch of cosmetic alterations rounded out the package, and the result was an incredibly rare 3,439-pound sports sedan in the traditional sense of the genre. Set your alarm clocks to 2044 because this thing isn’t a car you’ll want to miss out on when it becomes legal to import.
The best part is that this is just a list of the fast stuff. Not only did Akio Toyoda oversee some amazing performance cars, his tenure also breathed life into the rest of the Toyota range. The current Corolla looks fabulous and rotates well under trail-braking, something I never expected to say. The new Prius is astonishingly sexy and surprisingly quick. The 4Runner is an overlanding icon. The Tacoma still offers a six-speed manual gearbox. Lexus has a proud identity of its own now. Toyota cars are no longer only desired by people who live and die by Consumer Reports, they’re desired full-stop. Now that’s how you craft a legacy.
(Photo credits: Toyota, Lexus, Scion)
Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.