Since our first test of the Toyota GR Yaris, an exciting city car mixing 261 hp, manual gearbox and all-wheel drive, one question has been bothering us: what other sports car to oppose this jewel? A 231 hp Audi S1? No longer produced. A 265 hp Audi S3? Too big and too polished. A 306 hp Mini John Cooper Works GP maybe? Too much “automatic gearbox” and not at all integral. No, for lovers of old-fashioned 4 x 4 sports cars, since the disappearance of the Subaru WRX STI, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and Ford Focus 3 RS, there is only this Yaris GR … or rather these Yaris GR, the bougresse being available in Premium Pack and Track versions. One Yaris, two executions: for our duel, the solution was there.
As its name suggests, the GR Yaris Pack Premium sprinkles a touch of comfort on its sporting gear. The Gazoo Racing components remain (bucket seats, carbon fiber reinforced plastic roof, four-piston brake calipers at the front and two at the rear, three-mode all-wheel drive playing on the distribution of torque between the axles), but are complemented by GPS navigation, parking and blind spot radars, a JBL audio system and a head-up display.
So many gadgets left on the workbench by the GR Yaris Track, more cut for the chestnut. The 15-spoke Enkei rims give way to wrought-aluminum 10-spoke BBSs, which are about 2 pounds lighter per unit. “Open” differentials are driven by limited-slip Torsen, both front and rear. As for the suspension, it stiffens its four shock absorbers, as well as the springs and anti-roll bars at the front.
The ultimate evolution concerns the tires, the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 50 of the Premium being replaced by Michelin Pilot Sport 4S on the Track. Due to the lack of immediate availability of Dunlops, our Yaris Premium Test Pack however fitted the Michelin her too. Too bad for the timed session, so much the better for the perception of the adjustment differences with equivalent pneumatic mounting. On the way !
Can we fall in love twice? Save a few psychoanalysis sessions and trust us: the answer is yes. After a first love at first sight for the Yaris GR Track on a dry road, we are now victims of a second on a wet circuit, which further exalts the facetious balance of the little Japanese girl. ESP disconnected and transmission dial in Sport position (70% of the torque is then returned to the rear axle), the affiliation between the Yaris GR Track and its majesty Yaris WRC becomes even more obvious.
The slightest braking applied during the steering immediately causes the rear axle to drift, which retains this position if the right pedal is pressed liberally. As long as you haven’t countered too much, the Yaris then extricates itself from straight steering wheel turns, sliding all four wheels, in a posture that will delight fans of the late Colin McRae. We move from pin to pin, without panicking the stopwatch but smiling from ear to ear, which does not weaken in the straight lines.
The astonishing 261 hp 3-cylinder turbo catapults the curious beast from 3,500 to 7,000 rpm, aided by the weight of the whole (1,280 kg, high for a city car but reasonable for a sporty 4 x 4 ) and the short gearbox. Let’s talk about it: firm control, reduced deflections, precise guidance, the lever never makes you regret the absence of a robotic gearbox, very fashionable, but which would seem quite incongruous in this gripping “active” driving experience. At this point, nothing would make us stop in the pits, despite a brake pedal gradually losing its bite and our photographer, Thomas, getting impatient.
Fortunately, we trade our favorite Toyota Yaris GR for another Toyota Yaris GR. Switching from the Track to the Premium Pack does not reveal any immediate difference (ah, this seat too high…), apart from the presence of the head-up display, which is more useful than expected. The information projected in the windshield in fact combines the speed AND the tachometer, making it possible to monitor the engine speed without looking away from the trajectory… except when it scrolls through the side window.
If the Yaris Pack Premium derives just as much from the butt when entering a turn approached on the brakes, it unfortunately stops much more quickly its choreography with the reacceleration. The absence of self-locking differentials allows the inner wheels to spin, which makes the power go up in smoke and lose the speed necessary to maintain the glide and keep the “nose” to the rope. The exits of turns then resemble those of a simple traction, in slight understeer and with the obligation to measure the accelerator… Damn!
Without waiting for the rain to stop to confirm this trend on a dry track (we would still be there), we took the direction of the small roads, just to give the Yaris Pack Premium its revenge on a bumpy course. Alas: its barely more flexible suspension does not create a significant difference in terms of quality of damping as in everyday comfort (the Yaris Track is far from delivering the “racket hits” felt on board Mini JCW GP or Mégane RS Cup chassis). We barely notice a steering a little more assisted in Premium, but which always correctly informs the level of grip available.
On a daily basis, therefore, our two GR Yaris carefully avoid caricature, presenting the same qualities… and the same faults. On the battery side, both versions have adaptive cruise control and active centering in the track, comfortable seats on long journeys and a flexible 3-cylinder, although a little vibrating at certain (low) speeds. On the front side, the rolling noises can be heard quite well on expressways, especially at the rear, where it will be necessary to be flexible to access the bench and not to measure more than 1.75 m to avoid repeated contact with Pavilion. As for the 174 l trunk (or 112 l less than a classic Toyota Yaris!), It will struggle to contain the pre-containment reserves, even if the folding bench will accommodate a few additional rolls of toilet paper.
In use, the lower endowment of the Yaris Track does not constitute a real handicap, because its interior is nothing like a monk’s cell: no integrated GPS navigation but the touch screen manages Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, no parking radars but the reversing camera is delivered as standard, no mood lighting but it boils down to timid LEDs on the door handles. The audio system, it will not leave lasting memories for music lovers … no more than the JBL installation of the Premium, with two additional tweeters in the windshield pillars. Therefore, we can bet that you can already guess our conclusion, to discover on the next page …