Ever since he came onboard as the top executive at a company long known for its sturdy and reliable – but plain vanilla – products, Akio Toyoda has been pressing his team to pump some “passion” into its line-up.
Toyota has offered some hints of what’s in store with concepts like the exotic FT-1, as well as more stylish production models such as the Lexus RC coupe. But now, it seems, the Japanese giant is ready to take things to the next level.
A variety of sources have indicated that Toyota will roll out a new sports car concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next October. But this isn’t just a new version of the Lexus RC – or even a production version of the FT-1. The open-wheeler apparently will have room for three and use a high-performance hybrid drivetrain.
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Toyota has tinkered with exotic designs even before the debut of the FT-1. There was the Motor Triathalon Race Car unveiled at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show in 2004 which featured an open cockpit and was powered by four wheel-mounted electric motors.
If the reports are to be believed, the new Toyota sports car would be a blend of Mazda Miata, Caterham Seven and McLaren F1. Oh, and toss in the old Plymouth Prowler for good measure.
The overall dimensions are said to be similar to the new MX-5 Miata, but it will adopt open wheels, albeit with minimal fenders to meet government regs, ala the Caterham Seven and Plymouth Prowler. Meanwhile, the interior is expected to have an unusual three-seat layout with the driver seated forward and central, ala the McLaren.
The entire vehicle reportedly will weigh in at a mere 700 kilograms, or 1,540 pounds, Toyota turning to ultra-strong and super-light carbon fiber for most of the construction.
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The sports car reportedly will have a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 100-horsepower mounted up front but driving the rear wheels. That’s not much until you look at it from a power-to-weight ratio. A pair of electric motors will add to performance. The system will use a CVT much like the current Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system.
Toyota reportedly is targeting fuel consumption of 2 liters per 100 kilometers in the European cycle, or 117.6 mpg. That would likely drop using the U.S. EPA test standard but still rival even some of the best of today’s plug-in hybrids.
The maker has long had a history of introducing oddball designs, especially in concept form for the Tokyo Motor Show. But it has begun showing more interest in actually translating some of them into production models. Toyota is running several field tests of the quirky i-Road, for example, a cross between a commuter car and a motorcycle.
And what might be in store for the 3-seat sports car? One report suggested a production version could reappear at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show for launch early the following year at a price of less than $24,000.
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