Home » Let’s Convince Toyota To Build A GR Prius

Let’s Convince Toyota To Build A GR Prius

Gr Prius Top

The new 2023 Toyota Prius brings on so many confusing feelings. What was once regarded as a competent fuel-sipping commuter at best, and an infamous freeway obstacle at worst, has had a drastic She’s All That-style makeover, to the point where it’s now somehow probably the best-looking car in the Toyota lineup. The dramatic styling update, which feels more akin to a Tesla or even a supercar, wasn’t something anyone asked for, but hey—we’ll take it, right? But if Toyota is in the mood for some additional wish fulfillment, let’s request that the Prius gets some speed to match those newfound good looks. I’m serious: it’s time for a GR Prius.

This isn’t even my idea, to be fair. It’s in Automotive News today, from a reporter in Japan [Ed Note: Hans Greimel! Our Homeboy Hans!- MH] who was testing the Prius Prime at a race track (that alone says a lot!) and floated the idea to some Toyota executives. Here’s the gist, emphasis mine:

But could the redesigned Prius arriving in lots this year be sporty and sexy enough to warrant a special GR-branded performance version, under Toyota Motor Corp.’s Gazoo Racing tuning line? Prius Chief Engineer Yasushi Ueda certainly thinks so.

“Personally speaking, I would like to do it,” Ueda said during a recent test drive of the plug-in Prius at — drumroll, please — a winding racetrack outside Tokyo. “But first we have to listen to customer voices and think of what kind of concept we would be able to deliver in a GR version.”

Now, this is the kind of boilerplate non-answer that automotive executives offer up all the time. People spent years asking Mazda when an RX-9 would drop, and they’d typically get something in response like “Well, we’re always studying the market for new opportunities,” or something like that. They can’t—or don’t—often openly say “hell yes” or tell you what’s cooking because they don’t wait you to wait for it. They want you to buy what’s on the showroom floor right now.

But Ueda-san up there asked for some customer voices, so let’s give him some, shall we?

Gazoo Prius
Credit: The Autopian

I think this is a truly fine idea, personally. Maybe even an overdue one. See, we’re now well past the days when people expect—or want—their “eco-friendly” car to lose a drag race to a kid in a golf cart. Tesla and the upcoming generation of new EVs have changed that perception permanently. And it’s very clear that the next great frontier of performance is electrification.

We all know Toyota’s reluctant to go full-on EV, but when it comes to hybrids, nobody really does it better. Buyers have been screaming for an affordable performance hybrid for years now, like an Acura NSX but cheaper. Given its newfound sporting looks, I think the Prius could actually help prove that case. Hell, we live in the time of the 300-horsepower TRD Camry, and the even more baffling TRD Avalon before that. Both of those cars are shockingly great and they can outrun any supercar made before, I dunno, the mid-1990s or so. And this makes vastly more sense than “fast Avalon” ever did.

A performance Prius flying under the “GR” Gazoo Racing banner would be a hell of a lot of fun, and the kind that doesn’t use a ton of gasoline, either. The new Prius Prime is getting close to that anyway; as AN notes, it now has 220 horsepower (nearly what my old Subaru WRX had, good gravy!) and should do zero to 60 mph in the extremely respectable low-six second range. Hot hatchbacks were putting down those kinds of numbers just a couple of years ago. The new Prius is already pretty legit. Time to take it to the next level. Just imagining a GR Prius smoking an unsuspecting sporty car at the stoplight puts a smile on my face.

So, Toyota, if you want customer feedback, you got it. Let people have their cake and eat it too.


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36 Responses

  1. Eh, knowing that dealers would hold it hostage for $15k over sticker makes me say don’t even bother. Just build more regular models so maybe some people can buy one of those without a dealer bribe.

    1. Go in 50/50 with Hugh Honey, and the 15k doesn’t seem so bad. But TBH you are probably right, but that shouldn’t be a valid reason to not make it.

  2. I mean, if there is a case for a TRD Avalon… Automakers have become pretty good at making baffling decisions, like an insanely attractive Pruis, for example. So I feel like what ever I think will happen is probably exactly the opposite of what will happen. Prove me wrong Toyota… Because Toyota definitely spends so much of their time trying to that in the first place

  3. I am already seriously considering a Prius Prime for my next car, would be the first ever new car for me, but if they were to make a GR version (as long as it was announced before I buy the base prime) I would be all over that! Hesitation over!

  4. Yeah, but it’s Toyota, so the GR Prius will end up being 20mm lower springs, slightly stiffer roll bars and dampers and a few decals. There is as close to 0% chance as it comes to them actually increasing the performance of the highly optimised drivetrain. If it was a full EV, they could, but not in a hybrid drivetrain like this. Best they could do would be to increase the MGr in AWD models, but that’s a HUGE effort on a hybrid in terms of calibration and programing.

    So yeah, if we got a sporty model it would be a GR Sport and frankly not be much more than an appearance package.

  5. As little as just a few years ago if someone had told me I would actually find a Prius interesting in the future I would have cracked a rib laughing, and yet here we are. A performance version in this new body style would definitely be interesting.

    1. I was about to comment this, until I read it. The Prius could have just such a monstrosity, without a significant hit(if any) to its fuel economy. A 400 horsepower GR Prius with AWD would likely do 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds.

      And if they do this, there shouldn’t be any downforce adding BS, UNLESS it is designed to cut drag or avoid adding drag. Don’t take away the slipperiness, because that is where most of its economy comes from! If that means it has to be governed at an artificially low top speed, so be it, although if they focus on ground effects for downforce, they might get just enough stability for a very high top speed(160+ mph) without significantly adding drag, even if 400 horsepower in such a thing could theoretically have it doing 220+ mph if stability were of no concern. No obnoxious rear wings or aggressive front splitters, large grilles, and excessive plastic cladding, or its slipperiness will be ruined and the car will be slower/less efficient as a result.

      They also need to put such a system in a sub-2,500 lb mid-engined car for the next MR2, and again, focus on making it slippery so that it also delivers on fuel economy. They could eat the Miata’s lunch with a comparatively priced, but faster and more efficient product.

  6. I test drove a 2022 Prius last year and for anyone who hasn’t driven one – you should. It’s just *extremely competent*. Something they don’t advertise, but should: the back seat room is excellent. Probably why so many found homes as taxis. Apparently the new gen gives up some back seat room for aero, though.

    I didn’t end up purchasing it because the GIANT TABLET where the buttons & dials should be immediately triggered my partner’s vertigo. No bueno.

    1. Actually, Toyota has admitted that compromised some aero in the new one for the wedge styling. Toyota has alternated moving the cab forward and back every generation. The peak of the roof was over the driver in the Gen 2. The roof peak shifted back in the Gen 3, shifted back forward in Gen 4, and now shifted back again in Gen 5.

      Assuming all else the same, the forward cab is more aero and has more interior space in the front. Visualize aerofoil profiles and they all have more volume towards the leading edge. I agree with most that the new Prius styling is pretty good except that I would have preferred the forward cab look more than the wedge. The cab forward also something shared with prototype race cars.

  7. I’ve been pounding the table for this since we first got a look at the new Prius. Performance hybrids are cool as hell but they’re six or even seven figure propositions. When it comes to both hybrids and BEVs, there aren’t any performance options that are within reach of most customers. They’re all very expensive.

    If you’re a budget minded enthusiast who also cares about the environment, the best you can do under about 50 grand is either a slower version of a few EVs (which won’t deliver thrills) or a turbo 4 popper and in my experience their fuel economy benefits don’t really hold up when you drive them as god intended. My GTI averaged about 24 MPG over the course of ownership and my Kona N has averaged a paltry 20.7 through the first 5,000 miles. Which uh…isn’t very good. Obviously the V8 murican cars are much worse and the Toyobaru twins aren’t great either.

    A GR Prius would have both fuel economy and performance benefits. We could hypothetically have that instant EV torque off the line and MPGs in the 30s. Plus Toyota knows how to do hybrids so I trust they could pull it off without breaking too much of a sweat. My only concern would be the transmission…and E CVT isn’t going to cut it and their autos are dinosaurs.

    I guess they’d have to find a way to shove a manual in it…but Honda has paired manuals with hybrid powertrains before so it’s doable, and making things manual only or making the automatic so bad no one would choose it anyway is a Japanese performance compact staple already and doesn’t harm their sales at all so…get to it, GR.

    1. Or build your own EV. A classic car plus $20-30k in parts and a few hundred hours of work can go a very long way to making a fun, reliable daily driver that can perform like a 6-figure exotic, and is easy on the wallet to use.

  8. I thought the consensus was they couldn’t get anything else out of the electric engine and would have to re-tune the M20A. Instead of a Gr Corolla they should rebadge it as the next gen HS. Drop the A25Afrom the rav 4 prime/ NX450H+, call it the HS450H+. The Hs was a great car that existed in its own segment 10 years before it would’ve been popular

    1. They wedged an AWD system into the GR Yaris, so if they put as much effort into a GR Prius we could expect a bigger electric motor, or maybe two of them! The only limit is how much of a drugs budget they give to the designers. 😉

  9. I’d be very down for this. Leave the battery pack the same physical size and weight, but raise current output and more regen capability. Use the triple cylinder engine from the GR Corolla. Add AWD to improve balance. Improve turn in with better / different suspension tuning. Upgrade brakes.

    Honestly, this doesn’t sound like that hard an engineering job for Toyota if they put their minds to it. And it would change the conversation about both the Prius and Toyota – for the better!

  10. Problem with Prius and Rav4 prime.. they are pretty darn heavy when compared with pure ICE. In RAV4 it seems ICE > Hybrid > Prime are ~500lb increments.

  11. This is a North American problem only. I don’t think the new version is getting launched anywhere else (other than Japan) due to being too similar to the Corolla Hybrid. And there’s already a GR Corolla. But there’s no GR Corolla Hybrid…so there’s still the opportunity to use the full of fat RAV4 Hybrid driveline to make it!

  12. “See, we’re now well past the days when people expect—or want—their ‘eco-friendly’ car to lose a drag race to a kid in a golf cart.”

    Hey, some of us are still in the market for a Nevco Gizmo or an AM General DJ-5E Electruck, just so you know.

  13. Honestly I don’t care. It would be cool to have another manual transmission Hybrid like the Insight and the CR-Z but I doubt Toyota would do that for a GR Prius.

    Give it a manual transmission FWD drivetrain with an AWD-e system.

  14. It looks fast, they might as well make it go fast too.

    As someone who owns both an older Corvette and a Prius, if they could give me near-Corvette 0-60 times and near-Prius MPG that would be a hell of a compelling package. And if they can find a way to drop those “near” prefixes they can shut up and take my money.

  15. I speak as someone who has not been shy about hating the driving experience of the Prius while fully respecting the utility of said car as a transportation appliance. I also hoon a Fiesta ST as my daily, so you know I’m all about handling and fun if not outright speed.
    Thus it may shock you to hear I am quite impressed with the looks of the new Prius. 220hp sounds like a hoot, and if they could tune the suspension to be 80 percent as fun as my FiST I think I would be in if I needed to buy a new daily. A GR Sport might just be enough without having to go full-zoot on the motor – although the RAV4 Prime drivetrain could be a barrel of laughs.
    Along with the GR Corolla and LC500 that would make three new US domestic market cars from Toyota intriguing me (up from exactly zero in past years), and the Prius would be the only one I’d be likely to drop my hard-earned cash and actually buy given the cost of the other two.
    Do it, Toyota!

  16. Stef posted about this in the range article yesterday, but there are not many “performance” EV’s from the major car manufacturers. There should be more track oriented versions, and I assume it will happen.

    1. Kia EV6 GT comes to mind, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N and upcoming Ioniq 6 N are also coming soon according to folks online.
      Those are definitely priced higher than what you would want from a Prius GR but the idea is great. If you give up a few mpgs and make the handling and appearance a little better, sounds like a win for me.

      1. And the upcoming Chevy EVs are supposed to have sportier variants, not to mention the Mach e which is also designed to be sportier than your average cuv.

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