Rally Legends: AWD Squad Meets the Toyota GR Yaris
Think of Japanese rally legends and models like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza STI, and the Toyota Celica GT-Four usually come to mind. These were the cars that dominated WRC during the 90s, after all.
Today, only the WRX/STI remains in production; the Celica and the Lan Evo have long been offed by their respective manufacturers. There is, however, a new kid on the block, and it’s somewhat a spiritual successor of the two – the Toyota GR Yaris. Toyota’s newest hot hatch is born from the rigors of WRC and was developed with both rally legend Tommi Makinen and Toyota CEO/Master Driver Akio Toyoda being heavily involved in the design process. This whole process of homologation is somewhat familiar, no?
Aurick already gave us a glimpse of how it drives and how it feels to live with the GR Yaris, but how does it compare to the rally-bred homologation models that came before it? We decided to meet up with the AWD Squad and ask what they think of Toyota’s new rally-bred hatchback.
As the name of their group implies, they consist of like-minded individuals that drive, you guessed it, turbocharged AWD vehicles. Founded in 2015, the AWD Squad isn’t like your typical car group today. For starters, there’s no brand war here; the group consists of WRXs, STIs, and Evos, together with a couple of GT-Rs in the mix.
While they are focused on everything 4WD, they’re still open and friendly to non-AWD models. Aurick and I have been invited to join them several times, even though we both drive RWD machines. Some of them also own cleanly built examples like JP’s EK9 Civic Type R and Law’s DC2 Integra Type R. After all, it’s the friendship that brings them together.
We’ve already featured some AWD Squad rides in the past: Law’s Tommi Makinen Edition Evo, VI along with Doc Alain’s Evo VIII and his dad’s local Evo IX MR. This time, we have almost the complete lineup of members joining us. It’s Evos and STIs galore, but without the usual trash talk between diamonds and stars.
The plan is to drive from the AWD Squad home turf of Banawe to Circulo Verde, meet up with other members, and do a quick shoot with the GR Yaris. The drive itself was a sight to behold. It’s not every day you see several generations of the Impreza WRX/STI together with Evos and the new GR Yaris on the streets of Manila.
We were no longer surprised to see people pull out their phones to take photos of the cars as they passed by. Honestly, we didn’t mind being stuck in traffic if the view looked like this.
Among the cars that caught our attention was this black Evo IV. On the outside, it looked like a standard Evo IV with an HKS Kansai bumper, an Evo V wing, and Ralliart mirrors. But once you see driving on the streets, it’s easy to see it means business. We’ll be taking a closer look at it in the future.
What’s special about AWD Squad is that they drive their vehicles quite often. Considering the prices of Evos and STIs today, most are probably locked up in garages as investments. Not for these guys. Given the opportunity, they drive their cars around town and props to them for doing so. These cars were meant to be driven, not locked up in the garage.
Going back to the GR Yaris, it certainly earned the AWD Squad’s approval. It was the star of the day with various members getting a feel of sitting in the driver seat. They even asked the mystery owner if they could put a sticker on the vehicle. It’s safe to say there was plenty of talk about who will be placing an order at the dealership sometime during dinner.
We won’t be surprised if some of them have secretly ordered a unit. But with Toyota Motor Philippines steadily releasing units, it will only be a matter of time before the hot hatch becomes a common sight at AWD Squad meets.
Words and Photos by Jose Altoveros