Toyota Gazoo Racing has begun testing its first battery-powered prototype – and company chairman Akio Toyoda is personally involved in development work to ensure it meets expectations, Autocar can exclusively reveal.
Talking during the recent Le Mans 24 Hours, in which the firm finished second to Ferrari after winning the previous five events, Toyoda revealed that his baseline expectations for the car are that it must be at least as good to drive as current combustion-engined models, which include the GR86, GR Supra, GR Yaris and GR Corolla.
Toyoda, who is nicknamed 'Master Driver', said: “The starting point is not what powertrain the car has, but how fun it is to drive regardless of that powertrain. I actually had the opportunity to test drive a BEV GR we are working on recently. I don’t know if that car will make it onto the market yet, but the first priority of making these kinds of cars is that they need to be fun to drive, no matter what powertrain they use.”
Consequently, Toyoda also suggested that the car will be developed to have many characteristics of combustion-engined cars, including having a clutch, gearbox and even making a sound to mimic engine noises.
Toyoda has long championed the aural delight of driving a car quickly and has cited its importance when promoting the company’s involvement in developing hydrogen combustion technology for motorsport, and potentially road car, applications.
“The biggest difference to other BEVs we are developing is that, when you are in the GR BEV, you can actually hear the engine noises, even if you can’t smell gasoline,” said Toyoda. “There is also a manual transmission and also a clutch. If you put someone in the car and asked them to drive it and guess the powertrain, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.”
Toyoda’s reference to the manual gearbox adds credence to suggestions the GR model could be co-developed with a Lexus equivalent, as last year the upmarket firm revealed early details of a manual transmission project it was working on for future BEVs.