Gordon Murray gives CAR a guided tour of the T25

Published: 28 August 2009

Gordon Murray’s radical new T25 city car will boast a rear-mounted 660cc variable-valve-timing Mitsubishi engine available in turbocharged and normally aspirated forms, the talismanic designer has revealed exclusively to CAR Online. It’s one of several details Murray revealed during an exclusive viewing of the T25, ahead of an official announcement next week about its unconventional seating arrangement.

The sub-600kg supermini will carry three people and more luggage than a Toyota iQ or Smart ForTwo while giving 80mpg and a dynamic drive Murray says rivals are missing.

Gordon Murray T25: the engine details

The T25 will use an all-aluminium, twin-cam, four-valve Mitsubishi motor weighing in at just 69kg and canted over at 45 degrees – a bike-like set of specs lifelong rider Murray says is no coincidence.

The T25 aims to be resemble a bike in its convenience, driver involvement and low impact on the cityscape and the environment. Not a car for environmental penitents, says Murray, but a joy machine. ‘We had to give this car the dynamics and styling which make you want to drive it in the morning,’ he told CAR. ‘We’ve taken everything you would expect from a bike and put it in a very small footprint car.’

Bike-maker Yamaha was originally slated to design the motor before a change of plan put the Mitsu engine in contention.

Gordon Murray and the T25… and T26 and T27

Murray also revealed work is well under way on T26 and T27 – in the latter’s case a dramatically different vehicle with a different powertrain. Both will be built using the ‘iStream’ production system which does away with metal pressings. Murray says iStream is the real object of his project – under development since 1993 – not T25. ‘We’re selling a manufacturing system, not a car,’ he said. ‘T25 is just one example of what you can build using iStream.’

So who will buy into Gordon Murray’s new production method?

Potential licensees for iStream – which reduces the scale of production facilities by up to four-fifths – range from conventional car makers to governments, according to Murray.

‘We’ve had 20 inquiries from 15 different countries; only seven are existing car producers,’ he said. ‘We’ve had governments saying “we need a car for our cities”. But equally you could start seeing cars coming from brand owners like Apple or Virgin or Sony.’

Several of the interested parties have different vehicles with different powertrains in mind he added – including full electric iStream vehicles, and hybrids.

Smarter than a Smart

At 2.4m (7ft) long, Murray’s T25 is a foot shorter than a Smart and half a metre narrower. It’s up to 25% lighter too: the stripped-out ‘student spec’ version – lacking niceties such as air-con – will weight just 550kg, he revealed.

Don’t doubt its eco credentials; Murray said 40% less energy than a conventional car is consumed in its lifecycle. It’s so compact that 12 T25s can be parked in the space of four standard parking bays, yet in spite of its tiny size it will be Euro NCAP four-star compliant.

Crumple zones within the wheel bays and assemblies ensure it meets all requirements for a full-sized car, and it won’t be seeking any legislative get-outs like the G-Wiz’s ‘quadricycle’ designation.

The acid question: what does it look like?

Murray said he intends the T25 to appeal to men and women equally, and CAR’s exclusive viewing confirms he’s pulled it off. The buggish headlights and cabin-forward stance lend it cuteness but the muscular flanks and wedgy glasshouse are dynamic. There’s no sense of the Smart Fortwo’s plastickyness and details like the black mesh through which heat from the rear-mounted engine escapes and twin exhaust pipes exit are sports car sexy.

Most surprising perhaps is the car’s stance and sheer presence – in spite of its minuscule footprint it’s tall and has a presence to rival the current-generation Mini and make a Fiat 500 feel positively old-hat. Does it look like our earlier artist’s impression from last year? Not really – we got the dimensions right, but it’s way less curvy at the front and has a tauter look like skin stretched over the skeleton beneath. But, hey, it was just an artist’s impression!

When can I buy Gordon Murray’s T25?

Not until an investor has bought into the project, revealed Murray. So we can’t say it’ll be on sale by 2010 or 2011 or 2012. It might never be shown, and that would be a shame. Once a sponsor signs up, they’ll be responsible for unveiling the new car complete with their own branding.

Smaller than a Fortwo, funkier than an iQ, more dynamic than a Fiat 500 and arguably more desireable than the lot: Murray may have pulled off the miracle in the micro-car market he did for supercars with the F1.