Sorry BMW, But Toyota is the Coolest Car Company of 2023
When I think about car companies that make cool cars, I often look toward the Europeans. Volkswagen, BMW, and Audi have a history of excellent performance cars. Meanwhile, Japanese brands like Toyota and Nissan have included legendary models amidst much more pedestrian fare. In 2023 though, the coolest car company isn’t European, it’s Toyota.
Toyota makes cool cars for every category
As hard as this is to believe, Toyota has a cool car for nearly every segment of the industry. For the compacts, the Toyota GR Corolla is undoubtedly the most head-turning hot hatchback in a generation.
Better than the defunct Focus ST, more enticing than the Golf R, and a bigger lunatic than the Civic Type R, the GR Corolla is a madcap contender in a field of increasingly boring products. Its turbocharged three-cylinder engine produces a ferocious 300 horsepower, and the adjustable all-wheel drive system makes it a rally monster akin to the defunct Mitsubishi EVO and Subaru STi.
For two-door sports cars, Toyota has a pair of compelling contenders. The GR86 is described by Hagerty’s Jason Cammisa as “The most fun you can have for under $30,000.” The new engine produces more power than the original and eliminates the torque hole that made the last car fall flat on its face. Combined with updated styling and the classic front-engine, rear-drive setup, and the GR86 sits alongside the Miata as the last pure sports cars.
Moving upmarket, the Toyota Supra is well worth the hype. And before you start with the “It’s a BMW!” harping, there are a few things to point out.
The chassis hardpoints and engine construction are the only things shared between these two cars. BMW and Toyota agreed to diverge their products when it came to setting up the specifics of each car. As such, the Supra has different engine and transmission tuning, a different suspension setup, and different wheel sizes. And while the two brands ultimately came to similar conclusions, the Supra is very much a Toyota product, despite the underpinnings from BMW. As such, the Toyota Supra is more lively at the back and punches to 60 mph a half-second faster.
Even Toyota Hybrids are cool now
Okay, maybe not every hybrid, but the 2023 Toyota Crown Hybrid MAX and both versions of the new Prius are genuinely stunning. In the Crown, a combined 330 horsepower and 2474 pound-feet of torque make it a stunningly quick four-door sedan.
The Prius, meanwhile, gets the Corolla’s futuristic looks with a dash of that long roof Prius hatch style from the old car. The new look is undeniably cool, and the Prime’s new 220-horsepower setup and improved handling make it more engaging than any Prius has a right to be.
The Camry is cool…seriously
The Toyota Camry has long been a stand-in for boring reliability, but these days it’s one of the coolest four-door cars on the road. The TRD model includes a 2.5-liter V6 pumping out 301 horsepower and comes with sport suspension and brakes. In a Camry. It’s handling isn’t BMW M5 sharp, but it’s certainly better than any bog-standard 5 Series or Audi A5 in terms of engagement.
And with Toyota build quality, it’s less worrying to live with over the long haul than any of those European options.
Something for the off-roaders out there
Switching gears yet again, Toyota seems to be leaning in at every level. Even Toyota SUVs and trucks are some of the coolest vehicles in their respective segments. The 4Runner may be a dinosaur, but it’s a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Genuine 4×4 capability, TRD-built off-road kits, and timeless SUV styling make it an easy choice for any adventurous driver. See also: Toyota Tacoma, though that truck is finally getting an update that looks even more badass than ever.
Meanwhile, the latest Sequoia is a three-row, twin-turbo hybrid SUV with an available TRD Pro trim that includes off-road suspension and tires straight from the factory.
Toyota has finally ditched its boring label
It was a stated goal of former Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda to rid the brand of its “boring” label. Safe to say that, before his departure earlier this year, he accomplished his mission. We’re not saying that every Toyota car is cool (looking at you, bZ4X). But for every category from compact four-door to three-row SUV, it has a product with genuine enthusiast appeal. That’s enough to make Toyota the coolest car company in the game today.