With rumors coming in that Toyota is repositioning its planned FT-86 “Toyobaru” sports coupe to reflect higher price and higher buyer age targets, word around the enthusiast fring of the autoblogosphere has been downright apocalyptic. After all, the promised combination of a $20k base price, manual transmission and rear-wheel-drive were what launched the FT-86 to internet notoriety. But development overruns are a fact of life, and Toyota says it has no choice but to bump the FT-86’s projected price point to $23k base, $26k loaded-level. So while the FT-86 faces the bloat that comes with a more upmarket target, another sports coupe aimed at undercutting the FT-86’s prices by about $5k is already under development according to Road & Track.
According to RT’s source,
This car will measure about 150 in. overall length and come powered by the company’s 3SZ-VE engine, a 1.5-liter inline-4 that produces 109 bhp. It will feature a front-engine/rear drive layout.
Motor Trend adds that this new baby coupe is being developed as
a two-door version of the Gazoo Racing inspired rear-wheel drive GRMN (GRMN = Gazoo Racing Meister of Nurburgring) hot hatch concept unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon. Our insider tells us that this concept, destined for a late 2012 debut, is based on the European-spec Aygo’s platform, but modified to rear drive… engineers are shaving as many pounds as possible off the new coupe, with an end goal of approximately 2200 pounds
That weight goal is nearly 500 lbs less than the Honda CR-Z (with manual transmission), highlighting the fact that Honda should probably have just built a sporty non-hybrid coupe on its Fit/Jazz platform. It’s also on target to match the predicted weight of the next-generation Mazda MX-5.
Interestingly, that (GRMN) concept was shown along with a Gazoo-tuned version of the FT-86 as well as one other concept, a mid-engined MR-2-based roadster with a 392 hp V6 hybrid drivetrain derived from the Highlander Hybrid. With news that the FT-86 is moving up in price, and a smaller Miata-fighting lightweight coupe is under development, one has to wonder if Toyota is moving hard to repair its enthusiast credentials and developing a three-car RWD sports line with the 100 hp coupe as an $18k entry, the $25k FT-86 as a mid-point, and a $35k-50k-ish hybrid roadster as the flagship (with the LF-A as a hyper-halo of sorts). Alternatively, Lexus doesn’t have a successor to its SC lined up yet.
Given all of Akio Toyoda’s talk of building cars with “splendid flavor” again, and the anti-enthusiast reputation Toyota has earned in recent years, this three-nameplate attack might just be the image overhaul the company needs. With the FT-86 planned for 2011, and the “Baby FT” scheduled for 2012-ish, there’s plenty of time for Toyota to develop a mid-engined hybrid flagship. If this all pans out, enthusiasts might just forgive Toyota for abandoning enthusiasts by offering nothing more sporty than the Celica over the last several years.