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Who doesn’t love a Hot Wheels? At one time or another, I probably had over 100 of these die-cast marvels parked on shelves gathering dust. KITT from Knight Rider was always a favorite. 

As a kid, I’d spend countless hours firing them across table tops, making sounds of roaring engines and squealing tires. Mario Andretti came nowhere close to my cornering skills.

Today there’s a full-size Hot Wheels racer you can buy that will deliver all the thrills and spills of those Mattel-made models. It’s called the GR Corolla, and it’s made by Toyota.  

Here is a 300-horsepower pocket-rocket, powered by a screaming 1.6-liter turbocharged three-cylinder, with a six-speed stick shift and all-wheel drive. You can drive one away, rather quickly, from just $37,595.

It’s loosely based on Toyota’s bland-as-tofu, five-door Corolla Hatchback, but with a heavy dose of performance engineering by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division. Hence the GR badge.

Just ogle the thing. It looks like it’s just come off a Swedish rally, drifting sideways and kicking-up gravel. Find yourself an empty Walmart parking lot and you too could be a star of Tokyo Drift

Here’s an exotic thrill ride for the price a Camry that will add wild excitement to even the dullest commute. “Honey, can you go out and grab a pizza? On my way”. 

And like a rally racer, it’s built for action. The bodywork is all big-shouldered wheel arches that were surely modeled after Stallone’s biceps in Rocky 1-thru-5. The front end has more air-gulping openings than an F-18 fighter. 

At each corner, filling out those he-man fenders, is a set of 18-inch forged aluminum rims shod with super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. This thing grips asphalt like chewing gum on shag-pile. 

To make the bodyshell I-beam stiff, compared to a regular Corolla Hatchback, it gets an additional 349 spot welds, an extra 108 inches of structural adhesive and added bracing across the engine bay and under the floor. Guards outside Buckingham Palace aren’t this rigid. 

And how off-the-wall is it to give this feisty GR Corolla a three-cylinder engine, rather than a four, or even a V6. Using lots of motorsport technology, this mighty three-pot delivers an insane 100 horsepower per cylinder. 

Not a fan of stick shifts? Then the GR is not for you. The only transmission on offer is a Teflon-smooth six-speed for DIY shifting. It fits the character of the car perfectly.

But maybe the best indication of the GR’s sporting intent is the front and rear limited-slip differentials that come standard. These help distribute traction to the wheels with the most grip. 

To add to the fun factor, there’s even a the dial on the center console, lets you balance the amount of power sent to the front and rear wheels. Select 60 front/40 rear for balanced everyday driving. Go for 30:70 for a rear-wheel-drive feel. Or 50:50 for the best of all worlds. 

Even in straight-roads Florida, this little GR is a blast to drive. Off the line it slingshots you forward, rushing to 60 mph from standstill in under five seconds. And to the accompaniment of a booming exhaust that has more voices than that gal in The Exorcist

And when you find yourself a pinch-tight on-ramp, or a curvy backroad, the Toyota’s combo of low center of gravity, circuit-tuned coil springs and shocks, and laser-precise steering makes if feel like it’s running on rails. Hitting the brakes stops you as effectively as hitting a brick wall. 

This is a car that will put a huge, Julia Roberts-wide smile on your face every time you hit the start button, and turn ever mile into a Hot Wheels table-top play day. 

Three flavors to GR Corolla are on offer; the base Core version at $37,595, the mid-range Premium at $41,415, and the hard-core Circuit Edition at $46,235. Me? I’d be deliriously happy with the base model. 

My only disappointment is that Toyota didn’t call it the GR Hot Wheels. A Corolla it’s not. 

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