Toyota Gives Its Yaris GRMN The Engine From The Lotus Elise

As the pioneer of hybrids, Toyota is the quintessential “green” brand. It’s a nice reputation to coast on; once established, it gives the company leeway to get away with a bit more than the competition. Case in point: the Europe-only Toyota Yaris GRMN. No, they didn’t leave the vowels out of “German”; the letters actually stand for Gazoo Racing Master of Nürburgring. No kidding.

The name is more than smoke and mirrors. This top-of-the-line Yaris doesn’t settle for Europe’s base engine, a modest 1.0-liter three-cylinder, or even the 1.5-liter inline-four that sits under the short hood of U.S. models. Instead, it comes with a 1.8-liter four that’s supercharged and rated at a full 209 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This Dual VVT-iE engine also propels the Lotus Elise.

With a claimed zero-to-62-mph sprint of 6.3 seconds and top speed of 143 mph, the Yaris GRMN is seriously quick for this class, which would include the Fiat 500 Abarth and the Ford Fiesta ST.

Toyota’s racing partner Gazoo (the team behind the Japanese maker’s oh-so-close-to-winning Le Mans effort) helped to ensure it is an ace in corners thanks to a Torsen front differential, larger brakes, heftier anti-roll bars, and 17-inch BBS wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza rubber. It’s loud, too, with a single catalytic converter and a large-diameter exhaust system for optimized back pressure.

A short-throw six-speed manual gearbox is the only choice, and the front occupants are embraced by Boshoku sport seats. The steering wheel comes straight from the GT86. The Yaris GRMN, in other words, is a sports hatch without compromise.

It also isn’t cheap; in Germany, it retails for €30,900 (including 19 percent sales tax), which would put its U.S. base price, pretax, at about $30,000. That’s more than the larger Volkswagen Golf GTI. No wonder Toyota kept the (complex) production run to 400 units; it expected that was all the market would absorb.

But Toyota might have gotten away with even more: All units were spoken for well before the end of the reservation period despite a mandatory down payment of about $1200. Maybe they should cut the Gazoo Racing Team loose on a Prius.