When the 2023 Toyota Prius was unveiled last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show, it took everyone by surprise because it was… actually good-looking.
Shallow as this may seem, the car that popularized vehicle electrification has never been big in the looks department, eschewing style and sportiness and favoring real-world practicality.
It’s your classic “jock versus nerd” story, only now, a concept mockup by Toyota hints that the plucky plug-in might also join the automaker’s athletic’s division.
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Toyota Gazoo Racing is the Japanese automaker’s motorsport division. Not only does this department field vehicles in multiple disciplines, it’s the source for Toyota’s GR line of performance vehicles. You’ll see the badge on the GR Corolla, the new Supra and, for now, on the Prius 24h Le Mans Centennial GR Edition, a concept vehicle honoring Toyota’s history with the historic endurance race.
Naturally, getting through an endurance race means making fewer stops, and that’s why the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been a test bed for Toyota’s hybrid technology. This is embodied in the concept GR Prius. Its look is inspired by the GR010 Hybrid race car that enters its third competition this year. It all starts with a number of aerodynamic bits heretofore unseen on a Prius, such as deep side skirts, rear wing, rear diffuser and a number of canards on the front corners of the car.
Beneath those is a beefy grille with a front lip and four-point headlamps in the style of its race car sibling. This is rounded out by a carbon fiber hood, wider track suspension and exclusive aerodynamic 18-inch wheels.
Underneath it all is the latest version of the Prius hybrid system which consists of an electric motor married to a 2-liter four cylinder engine. This whips up either 194 or 196 horsepower, depending on if it’s front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Not eye-melting power numbers, for sure, but it’s still the most powerful the Prius has ever been. The separate Prius Prime swaps in a more powerful e-motor to up the output to 220 horsepower, which makes things more interesting.
Either way, both vehicles nets between 51-57 mpg respectively, so while it may be lacking in speed, it can certainly go the distance.
With that said, while the concept is intriguing the question remains: would a GR Prius be a welcome addition to the lineup? The thought of having a ride with sporty chops that requires fewer trips to the pump is intriguing, if not a more wallet-friendly way to joyride. The Prius’ new slippery exterior is already turning heads, so does it need the performance accoutrement to fully silence the naysayers? What would you say if you saw a Prius rock up to a track day?
These questions will remain rhetorical as the Prius 24h Le Mans Centennial GR Edition is just a concept, but as far as those go, it’s not a far-fetched one. As it’s composed of mostly accessories, Toyota could easily make this an aftermarket kit. You want to make the Prius “cool”? Forget the track version, give it to the tuner crowd.
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