As the world’s first high-volume gas-electric hybrid, Toyota showed how far you could stretch a gallon of gas. But, with last year’s launch of the fifth-generation Prius, the automaker also shows hybrids can be not only attractive but also fun to drive. Might the Japanese giant be ready to take the fun factor to new levels? That’s a distinct possibility, rumors from Japan suggesting it has a GR edition in the works.
Toyota has long fostered an image of building reliable, albeit decidedly plain vanilla, products. It’s been working to shift that image a bit lately. No, it’s not deemphasizing quality. But it’s trying to inject a bit more fun-to-drive in some of its products.
That’s no surprise with a model like the reborn GR Supra. But Toyota delivered a real shock when it set its high-performance Gazoo Racing team onto its mainstream compact Corolla, delivering the decidedly sporty GR Corolla.
Now, according to reports from the Japanese rumor mill, the GR group is tackling another familiar product line: the Toyota Prius.
Gen-5 Prius is a whole ‘nother beast
Until recently that might have seemed like a ludicrous idea. Through generation-four, the Prius was the ultimate nerd machine, Toyota proudly focused on squeezing out every last possible mile of fuel economy at the expense of anything approaching driving excitement.
It literally shifted gears when the 2023 model made its debut. Prius gen-5 takes a decidedly different direction. Yes, it’s still set to deliver benchmark mileage. But, as Chief Engineer Satoki Oya told Headlight.News, fuel economy wasn’t even one of the top three goals for the 2023 makeover.
The fifth-generation Prius got a ground-up makeover. Now based on Toyota’s TNGA platform, it’s an inch longer and an inch wider than the outgoing hybrid — but about two inches lower. And it adopts a decidedly more stylish appearance that no longer looks like it rolled out of a bad sci-fi movie.
A gutsier powertrain
It also helped to have a much gutsier powertrain, with the updated hybrid delivering 193 horsepower, a 60% increase, with the pony count for the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime jumping by 77%, to 220 hp.
We’ve already seen an example of what the Gazoo Racing team might do with the latest Prius — in the form of the one-off Prius 24h Le Mans Centennial FR Edition.
Now the speculation part of the story
Exactly what a GR Prius might be like is anyone’s guess, it seems. According to Japanese website BestCar, it could carry the domestic GRMN badge, reserved for only the very hottest performers among the Gazoo Racing models.
Various reports have suggested it could run as high as 300 hp or more, perhaps by swapping out the current 2.0-liter gas/electric combo in the Prius for the even beefier plug-in package used for the RAV4 Prime.
Alternatively, the GR team could simply beef up the existing drivetrain in Prius Prime, perhaps up into the 270 hp range.
There is, of course, the possibility that Gazoo engineers would leave well enough alone and simply work on the Prius suspension and body, perhaps adding things — according to a report in Motor Trend — like a front air dam, rear wing and diffuser. As with the GR Corolla, a carbon fiber roof might even be available to help reduce weight and lower the hybrid’s center of gravity.
That’s more in line with the approach Gazoo Racing took with the Prius 24h Le Mans Centennial FR Edition which was, notably, touted as a concept model and also got such intriguing touches as quad LED fog lights and unique wheels, as well as a distinctive black body treatment.
Ironically, some potential body tweaks not only would enhance performance but improve fuel economy by improving the aerodynamics of a GR Toyota Prius.
We’ll start pressing Toyota officials to see if we can get any insight into the GR Prius reports.