Toyota's entry into the market for AWD performance cars was the mainstay Celica in 1987. The Celica had been doing extremely well as a RWD car for several years before the GT4 was announced. Many say the reason for the GT4 was to upstage the 4T-GTE in the World Rally Championship as that RWD version was only competitive on longer courses (it was, after all, a Group B car). Due in no small part to the popularity of the WRC many manufacturers were turning to AWD performance cars to get more involved in the WRC.
The first GT4 was the ST165 variant released in 1987. It had 185bhp inline four (3S-GTE) and went from 0-60 in approximately 7.5 seconds. Its AWD system operated on two different types of differentials: a viscous center differential and a TorSen differential in the rear (most AWD cars still only use open differentials in the front). Power distribution was 50/50 with this set-up. Toyota changed the design to the ST185 in 1990 to be more aerodynamic to stay competitive. Another variant was launched in 1993, the ST205. This design would be Toyota's last revision of the Celica before the Corolla would step in.
The ST205 used the same 3S-GTE engine that all its predecessors had used, though this time it boasted an estimated output of 242bhp. This, combined with the versatile AWD systems all Celica GT4 variants used, was enough to lead Toyota to 2 WRC titles in 1993 and 1994, and one driver championship in 1993 (piloted by Juha Kankunnen, the all-time leading points driver in the WRC currently). Unfortunately in 1995 the Celicas reign would come to an end when an FIA commissioner found something wrong with the way the regulated restrictor plate was installed. Somehow it was able to move when the car was running allowing more air to bypass the restrictor. All 3 works drivers were excluded from the rest of the season for an issue with their cars they probably knew nothing about, though leaving some to speculate if the previous two years' titles had been fairly earned. Regardless, the street version of this car would be one of the most sought-after Celica trims of all, especially in North America where it had a very limited release in numbers as the Celica AllTrac (1988-1993).
Toyota's only other stab at an AWD performance car came with the Corolla WRC car. The street version of the Corolla was never AWD or turbo as its WRC cousin was. Regardless its participation on the WRC is worth mentioning here. The engine was a variation of the same 3S-GTE that was in the Celica with some changes to make it legal for current WRC standards. This new engine created 299bhp and almost 500 lb/ft of torque! Since this was never going to be a commercially available car the AWD system was changed to new hydro-electrical differentials in the front and center, and a hang-on type in the rear. The Corolla WRC was introduced in 1998 with team pilots Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol. It was everything many people wanted from a rally car yet Toyota still didn't see fit to carry on the team after winning its final manufacturer's title in 1999 with it.
At the end of 1999 Toyota retired from the WRC and with it all hopes for consumers to see any AWD performance cars from the manufacturer for the near future. Instead Toyota has turned its focus toward its fantastic F1 team.
Some useful Toyota links:
Researched by Garrett