Toyota will show off the new FT-86 'Toyobaru' – its new joint project with Subaru to build an affordable, rear-wheel drive sports coupé. The FT-86 will form the centrespiece of the 2009 Tokyo motor show later this month.
Although dubbed a concept car, CAR understands the new Toyota FT-86 is in fact a near-production ready model that will launch Toyota back into the sports coupé market to battle the VW Scirocco and Honda CRZ. It's pretty compact at just 4160mm long and 1760mm wide, making it smaller than a TT or Scirocco.
The FT-86 – hachi roku in Japanese – seats five and its design clearly draws from the dramatic Toyota FT-HS hybrid sports concept shown at the 2007 Detroit show. The nose in particular borrows the white bombshell's snowplough front end and surfacing familiar to owners of the diddy Toyota iQ. Unlike the FT-HS which was designed in the US, the FT-86 is credited to Toyota's French ED2 studio.
What's that Toyota FT-86 name all about?
It references the Corolla AE-86, a rear-drive coupé that became Japan's rally car in the 1980s. The Mk2 Escort from the East, if you will, and it's gone on to great things in the Jap drift scene.
Make no mistake, Toyota could be on to a good thing making the FT-86 rear-drive. All the existing competition in the £20k bracket sports coupé market are front drive, sharing hatchback underpinnings. The fast Toyota stands out.
Toyota FT-86: the tech story
A reminder of the Subaru JV link-up here: Toyota's new coupé has a 2.0-litre boxer engine from the Impreza, and much of the architecture is based on the Legacy's oily bits. The four-wheel drive has been dumped, however, in the name of saving weight while the six-speed gearbox comes from Aisin, who developed the LF-A's transmission.
The exterior design of the Toyobaru FT-86 is distinctive, edgy. Are we alone in finding shades of Aston Martin Vantage at the rear? Inside is a futuristic cabin, with simple dials in a pod in front of the driver and a flat-bottomed wheel.
Toyota's new Celica shold be a blast: between 140 and 200bhp depending on whether they turbocharge it, rear-drive and a price tag of around £20,000 make this one of the sports cars to yearn for in 2011-12. Yes, CAR understands it's still a couple of years away from production, although UK sales have yet to be confirmed.
Let's hope it gets the green light. We've missed the Celica and MR2 from Toyota's line-up and think a focused sports car like this could be the perfect tonic for a goody-two-shoes, pedestrian line-up.