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Toyota's performance revolution revs up: new go-fast models planned across the range

In Japan, Toyota is rolling out three new badges for its models; GR Sport, GR and GRMN.

Toyota has laid out the blueprint for its performance plans in Australia, with the Japanese brand to ditch its dowdy and practical image in favour of a new three-tier performance range that could encompass everything from the Corolla to the HiLux ute.

Australian executives point to Japan as a preview of what's to come here, where the company is rolling out three new badges for its models; GR Sport, GR and GRMN.

The idea is to offer three distinct levels of sportiness. The GR Sport-badged cars are restricted to cosmetic upgrades, the GR cars will offer more performance than their regular counterparts, and the GRMN badge will be reserved for the brand’s most hotted-up models.

It’s an about-face from a company that hasn’t been associated with performance for some time, but the new direction will surely paint a smile on Australia’s go-fast fans.

Speaking to CarsGuide, Toyota Australia’s product spokesperson, Orlando Rodriguez, explained the rollout in Australia would initially focus on GR-badged product, promising that to qualify vehicles would "need to show a noticeable performance increase on our standard line-up”.

“The plan for us is that any product that comes into Australia with Gazoo-racing branding will primarily be focused on performance. It needs to be the full package. It needs to show a noticeable performance increase on our standard line-up,” he says.

“And at this stage our plan is to bring in GR-branded cars. That’s the main focus at this stage, but we wouldn’t rule out GRMN products that align with our market, and we wouldn’t rule out GR Sport products, either.

“We will definitely put our hands up for anything that becomes available. And we will fight very hard for it.”

The company’s Gazoo Racing arm has been transformed from a marketing department to an engineering house, and Toyota has made no secret of its intention to set the team to work on more of its line-up.

"We cannot talk about future plans, but we can talk about intention. And our intention is of course to have more products and more derivatives, and this will be discussed car by car and model by model, based on whether it fits the purpose, and if there is a demand," Toyota's senior manager of product communications, Vincent Dewaersegger, told CarsGuide at the international preview drive of the Supra.

"But of course there is the intention - that's why we created the company. But I can't really comment much more than that, because it will be revealed in the course of the product launches. But the intention is to develop more cars and more models."

While a GRMN-branded Yaris is already available overseas, and company executives yesterday confirmed that work on a hot hatch version of the new Corolla was also already underway, Toyota isn’t limiting its performance overhaul to its passenger car range.

Vehicles like the top-selling HiLux have already entered the discussion, but Australia has ruled out introducing the GR-badged version revealed at the Sao Paulo Motor Show last year because it doesn’t offer the required performance upgrades the brand would demand.

“t’s not likely to make it to Australia, but mostly because it’s cosmetic and suspension changes only,” Rodriguez says. "But as you can see, the thinking isn’t limited to just passenger vehicles.

“We obviously want to the biggest and best products in the company. Obviously we can’t confirm anything today, but you can tell that the HiLux is an important vehicle.”

Can Toyota become a performance powerhouse? Tell us in the comments below