About a year ago, Toyota asked its designers and engineers a simple question: â€œWhat would be a suitable and appropriate Toyota sports car for the 21st century?â€ The result is the car you see on these pages, the FT-HS concept.Â FT-HS is a hybrid sports car designed at Toyotaâ€™s Calty design center in Newport Beach. The idea was to find out if it is feasible to combine ecology and emotion in a sports car; to make an eco-friendly car that is fun to drive. Why bother? Because Toyota thinks drivers of the future will be eco-conscious but wonâ€™t want to give up performance cars.
Details are sketchy, but FT-HS is a front-engine, rear-drive four-seater with a target of about 400 hp from a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and next-generation hybrid technology. Toyota officials figure the car should be able to hit 60 mph in the 4.0-second range.
The carâ€™s looks are bound to provoke some debate (they already have around our office), and indeed Toyota refers to it as â€œperfect imbalance.â€
Calty director Kevin Hunter says the FT-HS expresses the â€œvalues of a design strategy that combines two key elements: J-Factor and vibrant clarity. J-Factor is the conceptual umbrella. It refers to the local and global acceptance of Japanese-inspired design and cultural sensibilities.
â€œVibrant clarity, on the other hand, is the design language used to express the J-Factor, much in the same way that L-Finesse is the language of the Lexus division.â€
Hunter says the carâ€™s hard-edge corners will smooth airflow and reduce turbulence. The hoodâ€™s scalloped channel exposes the hybrid engine. The roof has a scooped-out section designed to reduce aerodynamic drag and provide more headroom. The front endâ€™s lower intake provides additional cooling and airflow management. The underbody is fully covered to improve aerodynamic efficiency.
The interior is designed with a carbon fiber beam down the middle, separating the driver and passenger cockpits. All important functions are directly in front of the driver. The hubless steering wheel incorporates the semi-automatic transmissionâ€™s paddle shifters. The beam also provides chassis stiffness.
All that remains to be seen is whether Toyota will bring this vision of a future Supra to production reality, maybe around 2009 or 2010. And much of that likely will depend on how those water-cooler debates go. [auto week]