VOLUME 3 GAZOO DRIVES

The Pinnacles, Western Australia

Find out how the GR Yaris Rallye handles in the sand, weaving through mysterious limestone pillars.

Words by Kate Hulett
Film photography by Kate Hulett and Sam Bloor

4 MIN READ

GR Yaris in WA desert
GR Yaris in WA desert

Film photographers and (semi)-professional road-trippers, Kate Hulett and Sam Bloor, head north out of Perth on a sun-bleached drive to the Pinnacles Desert.

Disclaimer: my usual ride is a 2010 HiLux, the kind with a metal tray and wind-up windows. So, when I slipped into the low-lying, body-hugging, Ultrasuede racing seat of the GR Yaris Rallye it felt a bit like I’d left the bridge of a container ship, and had taken charge of a James Bond-esque speedboat.

Our new ride was badged 057 (and named ‘Carlos’ by the staff at Toyota HQ). Once we’d familiarised ourselves with the driver assistance tech, we set off on our trip, immediately aware of the ultra responsive and robust acceleration. Ordinarily we’d head south on our photo assignments, but we fancied taking the vehicle into the desert, where we’d have the long roads to ourselves and could stretch Carlos’s metaphorical legs. But first, to avoid peak hour, we grabbed coffee and headed to the defunct, but beautiful, Midland Railway Workshops on the eastern fringes of Perth.

Midland Railway Workshops

Despite its small size and whip-fast reactions, the GR Yaris felt anchored to the road as we nipped around the 100-year-old sawtooth sheds, accelerating and braking with powerful confidence. An hour in, quietly wondering if I’d converted to a performance car person, Sam asked for a drive. Not yet, I said, as we sprinted north through the lush, vineyards of the Swan Valley.

“The nonchalant power of the GR Yaris was both reassuring and exhilarating”

GR Yaris on WA road
GR Yaris on WA road

I’m still wondering how I have existed until now without a head-up display – what a joy. I found the road sign assist particularly helpful (there aren’t many speed limit signs in the outback) and given the road-feel of the car at 40kph and 120kph is practically identical, it was a useful feature to avoid creeping over the limit. The nonchalant power of the GR Yaris was both reassuring and exhilarating as my ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ alter-ego came to the fore. I was grateful for the active cruise control – such a dream on long drives – and the lane departure alert with its steering assist, which I thought might be irritating, but was actually excellent.

Along the Great Northern Highway

“...no cars in sight, long straights, and just a couple of emus bobbing through the shrubby coastal flora...”

We powered up the Great Northern Highway before cutting toward the coast and jumping on to the Indian Ocean Drive for the 100 kilometre run up to Nambung National Park. It was here – no cars in sight, long straights, and just a couple of emus bobbing through the shrubby coastal flora – that we could really test the power of the engine, and I finally, reluctantly, gave Sam a turn behind the wheel as we shot north to our destination.

GR Yaris on WA desert road
GR Yaris on WA desert road
GR Yaris on WA desert road
GR Yaris on WA desert road

We arrived at the Pinnacles Desert around midday, and were soon cruising through the jagged, butter-yellow limestone pillars that rise from the shifting sands, mysteriously (geologists still can’t agree on exactly how they formed).

I had imagined capturing burnouts, donuts and yellow plumes of dust within this 30,000-year-old moonscape, but having met Carlos’s guardian at Toyota – I felt any “rally-effects" on the frosted white paintwork would be deeply unappreciated, so we stuck to the beaten unsealed track. The GR Yaris is built for bumps, twists and turns, and we smoothed through the course, climate control on, like a snake gliding over sand.

“we smoothed through the course, climate control on, like a snake gliding over sand.”

GR Yaris on WA beachside road
GR Yaris on WA beachside road

It was hot enough for lizards to be basking on the road, but not quite hot enough for a swim – even so, we took the coastal road home, stopping in at windswept Lancelin en route and grabbing a beach-side snack at the unchanged-from-the-80s Endeavour Tavern. From here, toward the abandoned Atlantis Marine Park, we passed old weatherboard houses, through winding coast roads, and down deserted dead ends. It was a real pleasure, especially when transitioning through the six gears with the subtle assistance of the shift indication.

GR Yaris in WA coast
GR Yaris in WA coast

Listening to a Freo-acts-only soundtrack, we pulled into our home town of Fremantle as the sky was turning orange, heading out to the South Mole lighthouse to watch the sun set and catch our breath. Afterwards at my apartment, we unloaded our gear, ordered dinner, and had a ‘Do we need a GR Yaris?’ talk before bed.

GR Yaris in WA coast
GR Yaris in WA coast

When I got back to the HiLux, I felt like a baby giraffe attempting to walk. After a day in character as a GAZOO Racing driver, I’d apparently forgotten how to drive my beaut, brute of a ute. The GR Yaris is a punchy and comfortable ride full of hi-tech functionality. It is cool, calm and collected, and makes driving on and off-road, on short and long trips, deeply pleasurable.

Itinerary

distance

TOTAL DISTANCE

455km

Drive time

TOTAL DRIVE TIME

5h 31m

Good for

GOOD FOR

Ocean views
Open roads
Off the beaten path
Wildlife spotting
Coastal towns

Good for

LOCATIONS

Perth
Swan Valley
Lancelin
Nambung National Park
The Pinnacles
Fremantle

highlight

HIGHLIGHTS

Midland Railway
Workshops
Gravity Discovery Centre
Indian Ocean Drive
Endeavour Tavern
Atlantis Marine Park
The Pinnacles
South Mole
Lighthouse

on the radio

ON THE RADIO

'FREMANTLE'
Spotify playlist

CONTINUE READING

GR Yaris and GR Supra grills
GR Yaris and GR Supra grills

DRIFT CADET'S GR SUPRA AND GR YARIS OWNERS' MEET

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