Not that the Corolla Cross needs any more street cred, it is hands down one of the best compact SUVs you can buy at the moment. The amount of emails, DMs, messages etc that I got about this car when it launched is almost unmatched. Everyone was interested in buying one, but then the Durban floods happened and Toyota had its hands full trying to pick up the pieces after the plant was severely damaged by the floods. But now, we are back in business and a new derivative has been added to the Corolla Cross line-up, in the form of the GR-S.
THE GR WHAT NOW?
A little secret I probably shouldn’t reveal, but when it comes to BMW and the M Sport models, I never know when it is an actual M car or merely body kit etc. I know, I know, I really should know, and believe me, I try retain the info in my busy head, but is always escapes my brain. The same as when someone tells me their name. I repeat it a thousand times in my head, yet five minutes later when I have to say their name I am left looking like a total knob. The same goes for Gazoo Racing within Toyota’s models. So, before writing this review, I quickly Googled it and found that my trusty colleague, Ashley Oldfield from cars.co.za, put it in to layman’s terms for me, “…GR Sport (GR-S) encompasses merely cosmetic upgrades to the exterior, with a few minor handling improvements made to the likes of the suspension and steering. The GR-S in the Land Cruiser 300 line-up has a slight off-road upgrade (if you are wondering how it fits in there). GR models, such as the GR Yaris, get performance and handling upgrades and finally, GRMN models are the pinnacle products of the Gazoo Racing brand.”
To be fair, the Corolla Cross GR-S press release also put it nicely, “The GR product hierarchy comprises four levels; represented as a pyramid, the first layer is GR Parts (currently under investigation for SA) which allows customers to inject their normal model variant with GR flavour, followed by the GR-Sport moniker which offers cosmetic and dynamic handling enhancements (Hilux and Land Cruiser 300). The third tier is occupied by fully-fledged GR performance models (GR86, GR Yaris, GR Supra), while the fourth and final layer is GRMN – which represents the highest level of performance tuning.”
Let’s hope this info sticks!
THE COROLLA CROSS GR-S
Based on the top-spec Xr model, this guys gets a bespoke exterior package with a revised front grille, finished in gloss black, which now extends towards the headlamp assembly. The lower apron is also finished in gloss black as is the ‘GR Mesh.’ The exterior mirrors are black as is the roof and roof rails. So it’s all about the bi-tone vibes with this model. You can only choose from three colours, however, namely Arizona Red, Chromium Silver or Glacier White. Oh how I wish it had come in full black as well. But no matter, it still looks pretty awesome.
The interior is only slightly enhanced with big GR logos on the headrests and red stitching on the seats and steering wheel. A red strip also runs across the instrument panel. Toyota’s Safety Sense – with its adaptive cruise control, hill assist and the pre-collision system – is standard, as is ABS, traction control and stability control.
POWERING THE GR-S
As it was explained earlier, there is no upgrade to the performance of this model. It sports (pun not intended) the naturally aspirated 1.8-litre petrol engine that kicks out 103 kW and 172 Nm of torque. There is no hybrid model available, but I am not sad about that. Where there has been a change, however, is to the handling. New shock absorbers and revised coil springs amp up the dynamic performance without detracting from ride comfort, according to Toyota. I am not sure the average customer will feel too much of a difference to the slightly firmer ride, but I can assure you that it is as comfy as ever and just a great drive overall. We took it along Chappies and as much as I want to say we gave it horns, it just didn’t feel all that necessary. It is still, after all, meant as a family car.
PRICING Of THE COROLLA CROSS AND MY LAST WORD
The GR-S is priced at R453 200, which is about R15 000 more than the Xr model. Usually I am one to steer clear of cosmetic upgrades at a premium, I find it to be a waste of money if the truth be told, but I don’t think that R15k is too much of a jump from the top-spec model to this, especially when the model looks as good as the GR-S does. Like I said in my original Corolla Cross review, this model was certainly worth the wait, and if you love the look of this “sportier” model, then you will be hard pressed to find something as impressive.