I know I shouldn’t like the new Toyota C-HR GR Sport crossover that the Japanese automaker just debuted for the European market. I know it isn’t a “real” Gazoo Racing creation. I know this vehicle shares nothing, save for a badge, in common with the GR Super Sport that we’ve been repeatedly told will one day herald the return of hypercars on the Mulsanne. And yet...
There’s a fast-growing tradition in the auto industry of punched-up, sporty versions of otherwise unremarkable crossovers. One of the latest examples is Ford’s Edge ST, which adopted a moniker typically applied to the Blue Oval’s sprightly hatchbacks. And while I’m not precisely sure where the trend began, I do recall the Juke NISMO RS turning heads in the early part of the last decade, if for no other reason than seeming like a concept too ludicrous to be true.
What differentiates the sporty Edge and Juke from this C-HR, though, is that those were legitimately tightened up, boosted, and generally improved under the skin. So while you could argue that they weren’t as fast on track as, say, a Focus ST or a 370Z, you also couldn’t argue that they were nothing more than appearance packages, which is certainly true of the C-HR GR Sport.
But I reckon that the GR aesthetic works really well on the C-HR, at least better than you’d think. The contrast between the black roof, skirts and grille with the white body slims the crossover down and underscores those haunchy haunches. It doesn’t look quite as unique or special as what Toyota whipped together for the Japanese version of the GR trim, but it gets the job done.
It’s worth stressing as well that the C-HR can, indeed, look cool when modified properly. The rally raid-type build Toyota brought to the Tokyo Auto Salon in 2017 is thoroughly perfect to my eyes, with its chunky tires, red TRD-adorned mudflaps, and flared fenders. This is a crossover that can surprisingly pull off a multitude of styles.
But back to this GR edition. Inside, you can option Alcantara-wrapped seats — Alcantara, of course, being the most performant mode of leather upholstery.
For what it’s worth, Toyota’s press release stipulates that the C-HR GR Sport “rides on model-specific tires” and features a suspension tuned to “improve body roll and pitch control,” which I suppose could make for a slightly alter- ah, who am I kidding. This is ultimately a C-HR, powered by the same hybrid system that C-HRs do have. (The Toyota U.K. website tells me the optional powertrain generates a combined 184 hp which is fine! Totally fine.)
Really I just like the way this thing looks, even though the looks mean nothing in this case. I certainly couldn’t say the same about the name, which is perhaps alphanumeric taken to its most absurd form.
When pressed for his opinion on the C-HR GR Sport, my colleague Jason Torchinsky had this to say: “GR was the command used to start the 40x40 16 color graphics mode in Apple II basic.” Good to know that those initials did more for the Apple II than they’ve evidently done for Toyota’s little hybrid crossover.