Toyota GR Yaris gains power, Direct Automatic Transmission

Toyota used the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon which kicked off today in the Japanese capital to debut an updated version of its GR Yaris hot hatchback.

Inspired by the Yaris that competes in the World Rally Championship, the new 2024 GR Yaris represents the latest evolution of Toyota’s high-performance Yaris subcompacts that go back to the Yaris GRMN launched last decade.

While the U.S. gets the GR Corolla, the smaller GR Yaris is unlikely to reach these shores given the demise of the Yaris nameplate here after 2020.

The latest evolution to the pocket rocket brings more power, plus an automatic transmission as an alternative to the standard 6-speed manual. The auto is no ordinary slushbox but a fast- and intuitive-shifting design developed in rally competition by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing motorsports department.

Known as the Direct Automatic Transmission, the 8-speed auto is designed to shift faster by using software to predict driving behavior. While such technology isn’t new, Toyota’s software looks beyond the standard metrics such as deceleration g-forces and speed, and integrates acceleration and braking into its logic. By doing so, it is able to anticipate when a shift is necessary before a change in driving behavior actually takes place.

According to Toyota, the GR Yaris with the new auto is able to deliver faster track times than the car with the manual.

Other modifications were required to deliver a decent level of driveability as well as counter automatic transmissions’ vulnerability to heat damage. Key measures included the use of new materials, closer ratios (hence the decision to go with eight gears), and a new torque control system.

2024 Toyota GR Yaris

2024 Toyota GR Yaris

The driver can control the performance of the transmission using the vehicle’s drive mode selector, and there’s a manual mode that lefts the driver choose when to change gears. According to Toyota, keeping the engine in the 4,900 to the 7,200 rpm range is ideal for performance.

The engine is a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-3 rated at 276 hp, up from the 268 of the current GR Yaris launched in 2020. Drive is to all four wheels as standard, via a GR-Four all-wheel-drive system that’s able to adjust the balance of drive torque between the front and rear wheels based on the mode the vehicle is in. Torsen limited-slip differentials also feature front and rear.

Further improvements to the GR Yaris formula were made via additional reinforcements to the car’s lightweight body, namely through additional spot welds and structural adhesive. The chassis is a bespoke design that combines the GA-B platform of the standard Yaris up front with the rear end of the larger GA-C platform of the Corolla and other Toyota compacts. The suspension, which consists of MacPherson struts and rear double wishbones with trailing arms, has also been slightly revised with new springs and extra bolts for the front dampers.

2024 Toyota GR Yaris

2024 Toyota GR Yaris

A major revamp of the interior has also taken place. Taking feedback from Gazoo Racing drivers, Toyota designers made key changes throughout. Some of the changes included moving key controls for performance driving closer to the reach of the driver when strapped in with a harness, such as the controls for the intercooler spray, stability control, and hazard warning lights. The driver’s field of vision has also been improved by dropping the height of the instrument panel, changing the position of the rear-view mirror, and angling the center stack 15 degrees further toward the driver. The steering wheel and front seats have also been lowered.

Sales of the 2024 GR Yaris start in select markets this summer. Toyota will also offer a pair of special-edition versions honoring its successful WRC drivers, Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä, which the automaker will reveal at the Monte Carlo Rally later this month.

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