Friday, October 9, 2009

Toyota Unveils Sports Coupe

Toyota will debut the FT-86, a sports car developed jointly with Subaru, at this month's Tokyo Auto Show.

By Hans Greimel of AutoWeek

Toyota Motor Corp. goes sporty at this month's Tokyo Auto Show, unveiling its vision for a sport coupe being jointly developed with Subaru.

The Toyota-badged car, dubbed the FT-86 Concept, is the spiritual successor to the AE86 sport coupe of the 1980s, which was based on the Corolla. Like its boxy predecessor, the FT-86 Concept is compact and lightweight and has a low center of gravity.

But the styling is modernized with a rounded, sleek silhouette.

The FT-86 is Toyota's concept for a sporty coupe being undertaken with Fuji Heavy Industries Inc., the company that manufactures Subaru vehicles. While it is fitted with a 2.0-liter boxer engine from Subaru, the overall design was created by Toyota's ED2 styling studio in France. Even the blue-red metallic paint was specially developed by Toyota.

"Sports cars have to be red, but we wanted a new red," chief engineer Tetsuya Tada said. "So we came up with shoujyouhi red, the traditional red color of a Japanese monkey's" backside.

Toyota and Fuji Heavy plan to start producing a sporty car in late 2011.

Toyota will be responsible for most of the engineering. Fuji Heavy will supply the horizontally opposed engine and manufacture the car at a Subaru plant.

Fuji Heavy won't comment on whether the FT-86 Concept is that car or not; Subaru won't be displaying a sports car at the Oct. 24-Nov. 4 Tokyo show. But the car clearly underscores new President Akio Toyoda's push for more muscular, fun-to-drive models.

Tada said Toyota wants the FT-86's sticker price to be in the $20,000 range. "It won't sell if it's over 3 million yen ($30,000)," he said. "The price has to appeal to regular customers."

The car seats four and has a front-engine, rear-drive layout. The boxer engine allows for a lower hood and gives the FT-86 a lower center of gravity. Key to the design was maximizing fuel efficiency by reducing weight and creating a compact design, Tada said.

Tada also said it gets a dedicated chassis, noting that "enthusiasts don't want a shared platform."

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