Report: Automatic-equipped Toyota GR Yaris almost ready for primetime

The Toyota GR Yaris and GR Corolla

are two of the most exciting cars the company has ever made, but their hardcore performance and manual-only transmission might intimidate enthusiasts not familiar with rowing their own gears. Last year, we reported
that Toyota was developing an eight-speed direct automatic transmission for the car, and a recent story Japan’s
Magazine X says that the gearbox will be revealed at the Tokyo Auto Salon
in January.

While the Yaris’ gearbox is fantastic, not everyone can drive cars with manual transmissions for various reasons, almost none of which are related to “not being a true car enthusiast.” Manuals can be intimidating for inexperienced drivers, and the fear of failure can stop some people before they really start. Toyota’s new direct automatic transmission (DAT) aims to fix those problems with responsiveness and intelligence not seen in traditional automatics.

The DAT is much better at predicting the driver’s intentions, which cuts acceleration lag. It can detect braking for timelier downshifts, which could render the car’s paddle shifters irrelevant in some situations. That performance would make track driving much easier and safer for people trying to learn car control.

Former CEO Akio Toyoda said the DAT would be a “game-changer.” He noted that “there’s no time lost when shifting, so the gap between myself and the pros was much smaller than usual. I can just concentrate on braking and accelerating.” Toyoda is a legit driver, inspiring the automaker to name a trim

after his racing nickname, Morizo.

Toyota is expected to start production of the automatic GR Yaris in January at its dedicated GR Factory in Japan, where it also builds the GR Corolla

. Though Americans don’t get the GR Yaris, the GR Corolla is a fantastic alternative, and it’s more practical with two extra doors. Interestingly, the two cars share a powertrain, making it not unreasonable at all to daydream about the possibility that we could see a DAT-equipped GR Corolla at some point.