Toyota has been experiencing an unprecedented wave of success in the realm of thrilling performance automobiles as of late. This is chiefly attributed to the impressive efforts of Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division, which has infused the automaker’s lineup with a newfound sense of excitement. The GR86, GR Supra, GR Yaris, and GR Corolla serve as prime examples of how a Japanese automaker renowned for producing sensible, everyday commuter vehicles can shock the world with its performance offerings.
Of particular note is the GR Corolla, Toyota’s premier all-wheel-drive hot hatchback, which stands poised to challenge the likes of the revered Golf GTI and the Civic Type-R. However, unbeknownst to many, 15 years prior to the release of the GR Corolla, Toyota had already produced a high-performance hatchback based on its top-selling model. This vehicle was none other than the Toyota Blade Master G, which, in addition to its catchy moniker, boasts some truly intriguing engineering feats.
Arguably, the most captivating element of any performance-oriented vehicle is the engine, and Toyota’s Corolla has historically been regarded as a rather mundane, unassuming option for practical, levelheaded individuals. The Blade Master G, however, eschews such a notion, ditching the humdrum inline-four engines in favor of a 3.5-liter, naturally-aspirated V-6 powerplant.
Though the letters “GR” are present, it’s important to note that Gazoo Racing played no role in the production of this vehicle. Rather, the “GR” designation is due to the engine code, which is the same 2GR-FE engine that propels a range of more upscale Toyota models such as the Camry, Aurion, Avalon, and RAV4, among others. Most notably, this engine also drives the Lotus Evora, Exige, and Emira, with some variants utilizing a supercharger to generate in excess of 400 horsepower.
In the case of the Blade Master G, the transversely-mounted 2GR-FE engine is naturally-aspirated, resulting in an impressive output of 280 horsepower (209 kilowatts) at 6,200 RPM and 254 pound-feet (344 Nm) at 4,700 RPM. One notable divergence from the GR Corolla is the absence of all-wheel-drive, with the Blade Master G solely sending power to its front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Although manual mode and paddle shifters are available, this setup is predominantly geared towards comfort rather than performance, resulting in a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time of 6.3 seconds. Nevertheless, this is a commendable figure, especially considering the hatchback’s curb weight of 3,262 pounds (1,480 kg).
It’s imperative to understand that, despite the presence of a potent DOHC V-6 engine, the Blade Master G is not a fully-fledged, performance-centric model. It is notably less intense than the rally-inspired, all-wheel-drive GR Corolla, lacking a sport-tuned suspension and performance tires with limited sidewall. Instead, the Blade Master G boasts rather generic-sized 225/45 R17 tires on both its front and rear axles. In many respects, the Blade Master G is comparable to the Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo, with both models featuring a muscular, naturally-aspirated engine, automatic transmission, and a luxurious interior.