I’ve only ever been to Chittagong thrice aside from this trip – once when I was around 7, then again when I was around 12 and finally in 2019 for an Olympiad at East Delta University. It’s safe to say that I remember little to nothing from my first two trips while my last trip was only limited to Golpahar and the East Delta University campus. It was time for a reeducation and the tool of choice is the spanking new and crazy fast Toyota GR Yaris.
A month-long on-off conversation with Ahbaar, fellow photographer and car nut, led to another friend Raidur who had recently purchased the aforementioned Toyota GR Yaris. We needed to see it. We needed to experience it. We needed to touch it in ways still deemed legal by society. It was time for a road trip. This would be our first ‘boys’ trip.
I’ve seen pictures of the GR Yaris on the Internet. It looked like a petite, albeit potent, hatchback that looked not much bigger than a Smart car. However, a car that look deceivingly small in pictures took me by surprise when I first laid my eyes on it. Our friend Raidur, along with another friend of ours, greeted us with his GR Yaris at the hotel after we checked in and the first thing that registered in my head was, boy, this car is wide. Incredibly wide. Wide enough to have Shakira drool all over it because these hips in fact do not lie. It must be mentioned that this is no ordinary GR Yaris (if that’s a thing). This was, in fact, equipped with the Circuit Pack with its forged BBS alloys and a limited-slip diff amongst other goodies. And then it clicked, “How does a sporty hatchback that has birthing hips for rear fenders zip around in Chittagong city?” So Ahbaar, our friends and I went to find out on a rather scientific trip to the holiest place in all of Chittagong – Barcode Café.
Who wants to be a crash test dummy?
The door opened up to a cabin that was distinctively Toyota, but with an aura that emanated exclusivity. It felt familiar, but with the added sense of purpose. I was one of the unfortunate individuals who were forced into the back seat of the GR Yaris which, mind you, was surprisingly spacious for a 3-door hatchback thanks to the GR Yaris using, from what I read and understood, the rear subframe off of the Toyota CH-R crossover. In fact, the interior of the car in general felt, to my utter surprise, quite spacious. However, I believe sitting in the back exposed me to the fact that the GR Yaris was an extremely planted car. It wasn’t my entire body that was being thrown around as Raidur took corners and cut through the midday Chittagong traffic like there was no tomorrow. Gaps which seemed unimaginably small were being taken by him like a champ, almost negating the fact that the car was packing haunches the size of Jupiter on either side in the rear. Think of me as a crash test dummy, but more unfortunate, and terrified.
Following a decent meal and a full stomach at Barcode, we decided to take a small break then head towards Port Link Road toward the evening. This was in fact my first time on Port Link Road as it stands now. The scene was truly second to only the Marine Drive in Cox’s Bazaar – cargo ships and little boats trundling along on the Bay of Bengal with the sun setting behind them on one side, and the occasional small houses and open fields on the other.
The sky was throwing shades of violet, orange, yellow and red; like the world was a glass of some exotic cocktail and we were the olives on a stick. “Is this where you got the inspiration for the title of this article?”, I hear you asking. Dear readers, to this question of yours, I answer with a stern, “No” and then proceed to see tears rolling down your eyes. The weather was lovely; the sunset was beautiful; the vibes were immaculate, and the only sound that rang through the cabin during this moment apart form the Yaris’s electronically-pumped exhaust note, was us screaming when Raidur tested out the car’s genius switchable 30:70 front to rear torque split in Sport Mode around one of the multiple roundabouts that are dotted along Port Link Road. In Normal Mode, the torque is front-biased with the split being 60:40 front to rear, and in Track Mode this changes to 50:50. All three flavours were had; all three flavours were delicious.
Kaptai lake and some drowning in horsepower
Nothing prepared us for the drive to Kaptai. This is the closest we will get at the moment to, perhaps, a proper mountain pass-run. The Transfăgărășan of Bangladesh, if you will. The first leg of the trip was us trying to get out of the city amidst heavy traffic. We were split into two groups – the GR Yaris and a rented Toyota Noah. I was given the luxury of riding in the Noah and conveyed my good luck to those who would take the backseats of the Yaris in a serpentine road. I might have chuckled a bit too.
I took in the views from the Noah; hills in the distance on one side of the road overlooking vast mustard fields on either side. And then we entered the hills. Thus began our ascent to Kaptai Lake. The GR Yaris shot off, squatting down as it put every bit of power it had down on the ground through its Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, while the Noah was left to bite its dust. After what seemed like 30 minutes up the road, we were met with a glimpse of the Karnaphuli River on the right, behind a line of trees, meandering along.
However, we wanted to go to the dam itself. We were hungry for more. Peckish for views. Although, deep down we knew that wouldn’t happen for administrative reasons, however, our disappointment soon disappeared when we found a place on the banks of the Lake that offered boat trips. We parked the Yaris on the bank and, before pressing the shutter down, I stopped for a minute and took in the view. Kaptai Lake with a GR Yaris; the moment was too good to be true. It was truly exceptional. The scenery was down-to-earth, a realistic display of normalism whereas the GR Yaris was the fruition of a group of individuals saying, “Normalism is for the weak. Embrace dynamicism”.
The boat ride on the Lake further added to the increasing levels of happy drugs that our brain was already making in full swing. We went up the Lake, going past the Kaptai Dam, basking in the afternoon sun. After around and hour and 30 minutes on the lake, we went back to the car and finally, it was my time to experience the GR Yaris on our descent from Kaptai… in the back of the car yet again. “Fret not”, I told myself, “Being in the back is better than not being in the car itself”. And my god was I unprepared for the way back down the Lake. Raidur put the Yaris into Track Mode and then, we took flight. Raidur’s right foot was like lead, refusing to lift off from the accelerator, unleashing all of the 261 hp and 360 Nm the turbocharged three cylinder could produce. The car would shoot into corners and shoot out of it, like a rabid rabbit. The forged carbon-composite roof kept the centre of gravity down and the car incredibly stable while the monstrous 356-millimetre ventilated brake discs in the front kept us on the road and not in the Karnaphuli. With every row of its gears (six to be precise) the car would explode forwards with a sense of haste. None of the late-night sessions on Lake Louis in Assetto Corsa with a sim compared to what I was feeling, what my senses were being put through, at this moment. The car was alive; it was speaking to Raidur. It spoke to all of us (or not; I was quite car sick at one point so I must’ve gotten delusional). It was man and his machine working in harmony, preventing us from swimming with the fishes while rocketing us towards Chittagong city.
After we reached the hotel, we all felt like we went through an episode of Initial D on Mt. Akina. Tired, beaten up yet ecstatic; euphoric. We shuffled back to our rooms with barely enough energy to even talk, while Raidur pulled away, all hand on deck, in the usual fashion. This is what we had come to Chittagong for. Our trip had been made.
The morning after, we woke up with, well, depression to say the least. Our time had come to say farewell to Raidur and our friend in Chittagong, to Chittagong itself, and to the Yaris. While having breakfast, we were informed by Raidur and our friend that if we checked out early enough in the morning, we could perhaps do a rolling photography session with the Yaris on Port Link Road on our way to the airport. So, that is what we did; after a second round of breakfast, of course. Rarely are Ahbaar and I met with a car that perfectly fits into the frame without a fuss, a situation made only better by the Bay of Bengal dotted with cargo ships as the background.
Finally, after deciding that we have enough pictures which Ahbaar and I were made aware of by our cameras telling us we had little to no storage left in the memory cards, we headed to the airport. Aboard the plane, I felt like I was leaving a piece of me behind in Chittagong – a feeling that was displayed by the others as well. We were disconsolate, yet somehow at peace. We had accomplished what we had come here to do in the first place – take part in and create an experience that is unrivalled by any other. That was enough to put us at ease.
Throughout the trip it was neither the car, nor the moments or even the food and conversations that brought us together however, it was the song ‘The Colour Violet’ by Tory Lanez. “Oh my god is THIS your reference to the title of this article?” I hear you asking, to which I happily reply with a “Yes” as I see you grinning from ear to ear. We played it every single day, at every waking moment inside our hotel rooms, the Yaris, the rental Noah and while taking a shower. The tune, the beat, the melody and everything else about this song somehow perfectly fit into every adventure, every moment we had in Chittagong.
And, oh yeah, what an epic car that Gazoo Racing Yaris is.