'Toyobaru' rear-drive coupe will use a Subaru chassis and engine; concept to be seen at Tokyo
3 March 2010

This is the rear-wheel-drive sports coupe that Toyota and Subaru have been co-developing behind closed doors in Japan.

In this unusual joint venture, Toyota and Subaru will each produce their own versions of the car, with sales kicking off in late 2011. Subaru will build all the cars at its Gunma factory in Japan and Subaru’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre flat four will provide the power for both cars.

See the full hi-res Toyota FT-86 RWD sports car concept picture gallery

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This concept car, badged FT-86, is the Toyota version and is very similar to the proposed production car. The company will be relying on it to restore driver appeal to the Toyota line-up, something that’s been missing since the demise of the Celica and MR2.

It’s also a car Toyota sees as rekindling the spirit of its one of its old 1980s stars: the similarly codenamed AE-86 Corolla GT, whose easily driftable rear-wheel-drive chassis and eager 1.6-litre twin-cam engine has made it an enduring hero in Japan.

This is a project Toyota has wanted to do for some time now, in order to improve its image and increase its credibility with young Japanese drivers, who have become increasingly less interested in cars in recent years. But for a number of reasons, including the lack of a suitably sporty engine, Toyota’s money men kept it in limbo.

Toyota also wants to keep the car affordable.A target price of ¥2 million (£14,000 at current rates) is the ideal, but with two years still to go until production that could yet change. A price of about £18k is more likely in the UK.

The car’s styling is credited to Toyota’s ED2 studio in the south of France. The profile shows the clear influence of the FT-HS, Toyota’s 2007 hybrid show concept, with elements of the Nissan 370Z visible in the roofline.

Toyota is keen to push the car’s driver appeal and what it terms ‘emotional performance’, describing the car as small, light and easy to control. At 4160mm long and 1760mm wide, it’s slightly shorter and narrower than an Audi TT, and at 1260mm high it’s also lower.

Under the bonnet is the current Subaru 2.0-litre flat four, as used in the Impreza, but by the time the coupé goes into production it may use the next-generation boxer unit. The current engine produces 146bhp and 141lb ft of torque, but the new engine could go up to 160bhp, with lower CO2 emissions. A turbo would increase performance but would also increase the price.

The Subaru engine has several advantages. It’s compact, light, smooth and nicely balanced. But more critical for Toyota is the structure of the unit, which allows engineers to keep the car’s centre of gravity low. The gearbox will be a conventional six-speed manual.

Toyota says the coupé is based on “an all-new platform”, although there has been speculation that this will be a shortened Impreza chassis converted to rear-wheel drive.

The FT-86 has struts at the front with rear double wishbones, as does the Impreza.Keeping the weight down will be crucial. Toyota was able to build this car’s antecedent, the Corolla GT coupé, to weigh 960kg, but this time it will be nearer 1200kg. The FT-86 officially seats four, but in reality it’s going to be a 2+2. The show car’s interior, decked out in grey, has some unusual touches, such as a big, oval instrument panel, with minor controls and unusually slim air vents mounted on the console and dashboard.

Toyota won’t confirm that the final production car will look exactly like the FT-86, and things may change in the next couple of years. But the car is already at the running prototype stage, and if development goes according to plan it could be unveiled at the 2011 Tokyo motor show, with an on-sale date in 2012.

Peter Nunn

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Comments
31

6 October 2009

if they can get it on sale without changing the interior or exterior much, at the prices mentioned they should be onto a winner ( Although they can lose the zips on the dash). It looks very small and taut, and assuming it drives well, it should be just the required image boost they are after. A turbo version has to follow though. Unless it only weighs 800kg, 160 bhp wont make much of the rear drive.

But why wait until the end of 2011?

6 October 2009

I like the look and concept of this on the basis of what we know so far. But it does have to be light. With 160hp it can probably afford to be as heavy as 1000 kg (i.e. Opel Manta weight - and a Manta with a 160 hp twin cam conversion was a quick and amusing car) rather than 800 kg (Mark 1 Escort weight) but even that would be a huge step forward in the era of the 1400kg BMW 1 series.

6 October 2009

Looks like a 260Z

6 October 2009

[quote artill]if they can get it on sale without changing the interior or exterior much, at the prices mentioned they should be onto a winner[/quote]

I agree absolutely.

Don't agree that it needs much more power though - keep it light (say 1000kg) and don't give it too much grip (but do give it an LSD) - think slightly tauter and more practical MX5 (since it has a roof). It doesn't need to be super-fast, but does need to be exploitable and 'chuckable'.

MX5 is a hoot even as a 1.8 with 'only' 120 bhp or so (and 1150kg).

6 October 2009

I don't normally like the look of Japanese cars, but this cars body looks great! The interior looks naff though! Cheap, plasticy and flimsy...

6 October 2009

Most Japanese cars have too many body creases and other lines all over the place. This seems to concentrate all the detailing in the corners, leaving the flanks, nose and tail clean and sleek. It looks fantastic and I want one.

6 October 2009

Power seems plenty, assuming its fairly lightweight. A turbo version will undoubtedly follow.

Love the interior - really fresh and futuristic. Impressed that they had the balls to make it like that, rather than going conservative. Exterior is OK - nice from the back but I'm not sure the front bumper really does it for me.

6 October 2009

Love the external shape and detail - very Japanese ... but I hope the "concept" interior is ditched - it looks too fussy and impractical.

6 October 2009

The exterior looks great - really good but I'm not sold so much on the interior. It will probably age poorly.

If they can build that though for £18k or so, then they should be onto a winner.

As said before, they need to watch the weight if its got 160bhp - I can see why they've kept power down though if they're aiming it at younger drivers. Trouble is in this day and age, we're used to hot hatches with 200plus bhp and a weight to match.

6 October 2009

I really like the external body shape of the car. I think most of the interior will change, but I hope they keep the lines around the front light (reminds me of the Aston Martin 1-77) and the rear end has a Z4 look about it. Looks slim and athletic.

Would be great for Subaru as I think some people are put off by a negative image of the typical Impreza driver.

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