The Truth About Cars » FT-86 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:30:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » FT-86 FT-86: Will It Blend, I Mean, Doooorift? Thu, 12 Apr 2012 20:34:42 +0000

So here’s what’s going to happen… They’ll drive it as hard as they dare, swinging it through corners and stamping on the gas, chucking it into hairpins and willfully trying to unsettle the rear, and all the while traction will be total. And you know what, not one of those drivers will say anything about it, because they’ll be too scared to be the limp-wristed bloke that can’t even drift what they’ve been told is the most driftable car in decades

So says Ben Barry in a recent Car editorial. He’s driven the car, we haven’t, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s correct. Well, so what? What if all that additional dealer profit won’t even get Joe Sixpack (sixpack of Sapporo, of course) sideways? What if the new Toyota can’t deliver the tofu?

Before we consider this question seriously, a brief personal disclaimer: I think drifting is literally the most idiotic thing someone can do with their car. I literally mean “literally” in this case. Ghost-riding the whip? Compared to drifting, I believe that is street ballet, the Joffrey of the parking lot. Street racing? Go ahead, you little rebels, you! Running over a group of nuns carrying baskets of kittens to a home full of lonely orphans? Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of vehicular homicide, my good man! Exiting a fourth-gear corner of the North-Shuh-Lyfe Ring just a little hot in a P7-shod ’76 Turbo Carrera is bad-assery on the hoof; modifying a Corolla so you can put the thing sideways at walking pace with no particular place to go is synchronized swimming on asphalt, without the women and the difficulty. Oh, look, you’re drifting. How impressive. Now get out of the God-damned way so I can win this race.

Luckily for just about everyone in the civilized world, drifting is a lifestyle more honored in the breach than the observance. Possibly as many as twenty FR-Ses will be dressed up in Affliction-style fake-tattoo vinyl and listlessly stroked around Cal Speedway or some Japanese backroad somewhere. The rest of them will be driven by people for whom “drifting” means nothing more than “tail-happy behavior”.

The man from CAR says the Toyobaru isn’t tail-happy. This should surprise precisely no one. Since the disappearance of the swing axle from even the most stubborn German manufacturers’ products, no car sold in the United States has had handling characteristics which include steady-state oversteer, “snap oversteer”, “surprise oversteer”, or any other thing of the sort. If you are a consummate dumb-ass who has no idea how to operate a vehicle correctly, your million-monkey-like banging on the pedals may occasionally produce the Shakespeare of a mild yaw. If it’s snowing outside, this may even kill you, in which case I hope you don’t mind if I stop by the accident scene and steal the $189 Porsche-branded valve caps from your Panamera Ultimate Turbo 4 GTS Collector’s Edition Sonderwunsch and put them on my 1984-vintage normally-aspirated 944 so they can live with dignity in the cathedral of my garage. But when you have your face-to-face with St. Peter, Karl Marx, or whomever, don’t blame your demise on “oversteer”. Steve McQueen will laugh at you, and rightfully so.

Is it possible to make production cars go sideways, deliberately? Of course. It takes effort. You are trading momentum along one axis for movement on another. You can pull the e-brake, trail it in with your left foot, wig-wag the wheel in time with the oscillation moment of the suspension. The way most people do it, however, is to get the car in a corner, using something like 70% of the available tire grip, and stomp on the accelerator. This reliably produces “oversteer” in Corvettes, Mustangs, AMG Benzes, and lightly-laded F-150s. The only problem is that you aren’t inducing “oversteer”. Real oversteer happens when the car is at its absolute limit of traction and the rear end has a natural tendency to rotate in towards the corner. That isn’t what you are doing. You are simply spinning the back wheels, depriving them of grip, and scaring your passenger.

Naturally, the above activity is highly amusing, which is why people do it. The FR-S can do it. Chris Harris recently did a whole video showing him pulling that trick. The problem is that, due to the car’s relatively modest power, you apparently need to use 99% of the car’s traction before it works, not 70%. Chris Harris can get to that 99%. He’s a licensed, experienced racer with a free pass to shitcan someone else’s $25,000 car sans consequences. The man on the street is likely to find himself in someone’s lawn if he tries the same thing, and the consequences will be greater than a half-scolding from a PR rep terrified of having his product ripped in a major publication.

“Ironically,”, Barry notes, “it actually takes a whole heap of skill and years of experience to unlock the potential of a car that we’ve been told is perfect for rear-drive novices.” I’m not sure I see the irony in it. Novices, by definition, are given novice-level equipment. This is a slow car with big tires on it, just like a modern MX-5. If you start with this car and graduate to a new Z06, no matter whether we are talking about trackday use, street use, or actual drifting competition, you will have a better result than you would have going from the Chevrolet to the Toyota.

No matter what happens to drivers of the FT-86, it will happen at a lower speed than it would in a Corvette or Mustang GT. That is why it is a novice car. The handling limits of the vehicle will appear at a lower speed, the accelerator will get you into less trouble, and the brakes will work approximately as well as they would on a high-performance vehicle. No, it won’t be easy to drift, but so what? No factory-spec car is easy to drift correctly, and you might as well start in something that hits the wall at eighty miles per hour, not a hundred and twenty.

Most importantly, the little coupe is properly balanced and it has “proper” rear-wheel drive. If you learn to drive it well, you will eventually be qualified to drive something similar that operates at a higher speed, like an E92 M3. You won’t learn those correct reflexes and responses in a Civic Si or Volkswagen GTI. Those only “qualify” you to drive more powerful FWD cars, like… um… a Lucerne Super or something like that. Congratulations. You’re Lucerne Super Qualified. Now move over, you are holding my Town Car up on this off-ramp

My enthusiasm for the FT-86 hasn’t been diminished a whit by any of the pricing issues, the specification concerns, or the vehicle’s supposed non-drift-ability. As long as it’s cheap to operate and honest to drive, I will recommend it every chance I get. Even if I don’t get to go to the fancy press intro, even if I don’t get free shoes or commemorative USB drives, even if I have to find a TTAC reader who is willing to let me drive the thing before we can provide a proper review. We’ve waited a long time for a car like this. My companion in crime, the infamous Vodka McBigbra, invented the word “premorse” for situations like that. Pre-remorse. Premorse. I’m not going to premorse about the FRSZ86whatever, and neither should you. Let’s drive.

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Hachi-Roku Pricing Announced. Got 25K? Thu, 22 Mar 2012 10:32:11 +0000

Long faces in hachi-roku land. Following a multi-year propaganda campaign, expectations for an “affordable” sports car collide with hard (currency) realities.

Toyota today announced dealer pricing for the 2013 Scion FR-S compact rear-wheel drive sports car. The FR-S (a.k.a. Toyota FT/GT86/86/Subaru BRZ) starts with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $24,200 when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, and $25,300 when equipped with a six-speed paddle shifted auto. Those who expected $19,000 or less: Save some more.

The car “will go on sale this spring” in the U.S., says Toyota. And not on August sixth or June 8th, as surmised by some bloggers who are fascinated by Asian numerology. First cars rolled off the line in Japan last week and should be in the U.S. some time in April.

There is one news outlet that is absolutely ecstatic about the pricing: USA Today. ”We doubt anyone expected the starting price for the 2013 Scion FR-S to be this low,” says the paper.

Scion FRS. Picture courtesy Toyota Scion FRS. Picture courtesy Toyota Scion FRS. Picture courtesy Toyota Scion FRS. Picture courtesy Toyota Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 120
Scion FR-S: How To Say “Hachi-Roku” In American Thu, 01 Dec 2011 18:13:34 +0000

TTAC has long been bearish on the Scion brand, and in a lot of ways, Toyota’s global tri-branding strategy with its new “86″ sportscar (Toyota, Subaru and Scion versions are being sold) highlights how Toyota has lost its branding focus. On the other hand, the FR-S, Scion’s version of the 86, is by far the most compelling product that brand has offered… well, possibly ever (OK, since the Mk1 xB). If I were king of Toyota, I’d probably still kill off Scion and sell the 86 as a Celica in the US… after all, how much sense does it make to have two sporty coupes at Scion and none for the Toyota brand? But if Scion follows the FR-S up with a new truly compact pickup co-developed with Daihatsu, as has been rumored, I’d be willing to concede that Scion has a place in the market. After all, truly unique, funky vehicles justified Scion’s existence in the first place, before a watered-down second generation of products killed that positioning (and Scion’s sales). With the FR-S, Scion seems to be heading back towards focused and freaky niche confections… let’s hope it continues to return to those roots.
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FT 86 To Go Live On Saturday Night! Shall I Take Slushbox Or Stick? Thu, 17 Nov 2011 09:28:09 +0000 Toyota steadfastly refuses to refer to its upcoming  new compact rear-wheel-drive sports car as anything else than a “new compact rear-wheel-drive sports car.” But Toyota sure knows how to whip up more excitement (if that is possible) before the pocket racer will be officially unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show. While websites around the globe publish every scrap of paper or digits they can lay their hands on, Toyota will paint you a picture.

Starting at 10 am Tokyo local on November 20,  a group of Tokyo artists will create an outdoor street painting of the car in front of Shinjuku Station’s East Exit in the Shinjuku Station Square. In case you can’t be there in person (for Shinjuku-connoisseurs: The East exit is at the interesting side of Tokyo’s Shinjuku station, close to the many cultural attractions) no problem: The creation of the painting will be transmitted in real time at a dedicated website.  Note: Sunday 10 am in Tokyo will be Saturday 8 pm in New York – you can see the picture live before the Tokyoites!

Now it gets interesting: What is the site called? No, it will be the “FT-86 Fastest Painted Website.” And just to baffle you more, Toyota says the site is to celebrate “the production prototype of the ‘FT-86 II Concept’.” Are we confused yet?

We shall have more clarity on Sunday, November 27, when yours truly is promised a seat in an otherwise undefined “compact RWD sportscar” at a racetrack somewhere in Japan. I am told that I have to wear a helmet. I also must choose whether I want the automatic or the manual.

Help me out B&B: Slushbox or stick?

As proper preparation, I would appreciate pointers in the proper heel-and-toe technique, in discerning soft from hard plastic, and how to tell understeer from overbite. I admit having problems with all three.



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FT-86: The Specs Mon, 31 Oct 2011 15:08:37 +0000 We’ve already seen what Toyota’s forthcoming FT-86 looks like (basically), and now that the spec sheet has been leaked [via] there’s really not much more suspense left around the new rear-drive sports coupe. In case you don’t read Japanese, here are the basics:

HP: 147kw (200ps) / 200hp @7000rpm
Torque: 205nm (151 lb/ft) @ 6600rpm
Weight: 1210kg (2662 pounds)

Of course, that’s for a low-spec, manual transmission version, which rides on 16 inch wheels. Top-spec versions with an automatic transmission will weigh as much as 2,755 lbs. Toys for the top-spec version include LED headlights, leather steering wheel, 6 speakers audio and sport pedals… but then, this is all JDM spec anyway. Since the FT-86 will be coming to the US as a Scion, it’s tough to predict how the spec sheet will be structured. Still, the basics are there… and they look tempting (and in line with what the car’s chief engineer has told us). Now we just need to drive the thing!


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What’s Wrong With This Picture: The FT-86 Mystery Edition Thu, 27 Oct 2011 13:33:48 +0000 The autoblogosphere is agog this morning over what appears to be yet another leak of a Toyota JDM catalog, this time of the highly anticipated Toyota FT-86 sports coupe. But is this what Toyota’s lightweight, rear-drive sportscar will actually look like? Not exactly:the image above is clearly labeled as a Modelista version, which means it’s been visually tweaked by Toyota’s in-house tuner. On the other hand, if you pull off the Modelista bits, specifically the front fascia and ground effects kit, you’ll find that this model more closely resembles the FT-86 Concept than the FT-86 II Concept, most notably in its proportions. With a more compact, cab-forward look, these images show a car that shares the first Concept’s basic shape with just a hint of the II Concept’s wild wheel arches and sweeping character lines. That comports with what the FT-86′s chief engineer told TTAC in a recent exclusive interview, when he said the initial Concept was “kind of close” and the II Concept was “not close at all.” Another clue that this is the real thing (or close to it): ft86club shows that the interior appears to be similar to mules that were caught testing.

Finally, there’s one key issue with this FT-86 image leak that must be considered: when this car comes stateside, it will be as a Scion FR-S, not a Toyota. Which means it could well be visually tweaked even further for our market, as it transitions to Toyota’s youth brand. In any case, the mystery won’t last long: TTAC’s Bertel Schmitt will be on hand for the FT-86 (and Subaru BRZ) reveal at the upcoming Tokyo Auto Show. Until then, speculate away!

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The Truth About The FT-86. Straight From The Mouth Of The Chief Engineer Wed, 31 Aug 2011 02:25:43 +0000

“When we started working on the FT-86 we had no idea where we would end up,” said Tetsuya Tada, whom I met last Sunday to talk about his work.

Was it going to be a ridiculously expensive car? Or one anyone can buy? All we knew it was going to be a sports car. The rest was a blank sheet.”

The FT-86 that eventually took shape on this blank sheet will be in showrooms down the street from you, all over the world, next year.

The FT-86 ”may just be the car to herald Toyota’s ‘second renaissance,” if some enthusiast blogs are right.

At the very least, this car will change how we think and dream of a sports car: We won’t. This is not a dream car. For most of us, it will be an impulse buy.

Tetsuya Tada tells its story.

Tetsuya Tada is the Chief Engineer of the FT-86, Toyota’s new sports car that had powered the rumor mills for many years. Some enthusiast blogs enthusiastically painted Tada as the “Jason Bourne of Toyota Sports car development.” If that is the case, then he is the friendliest and most unassuming Jason Bourne I ever heard of. He is the man I’d expect to see carrying two bags when I take out my carefully sorted garbage after midnight in a quiet Japanese neighborhood. As a Toyota Chief Engineer however, Tada carries more responsibility and more power than the Ludlum hero. Scott Bellware once described the role of a Chief Engineer at Toyota like this:

“He is the person responsible for the design, development, and sale of the product. He is the organizational pinnacle and the hub through which authority and ability flow. The CE isn’t just an architect or technical lead or just a customer proxy or just a project manager or just process master. He’s all of these things and more. He doesn’t just pass along customer requirements for the product, he defines them. He doesn’t just implement the business’s design for the product, he creates it. He’s large and in-charge, and he’s uniquely and deeply qualified to be so.

Because all of these abilities and authorities are invested in one extremely capable, senior, trusted product development person, the coordination of the various perspectives, values, and vision of a product and its execution don’t suffer design-by-committee issues. And because the CE has these many responsibilities and abilities, he’s a rare person.”

Tada indeed is a rare person. Dressed in khaki pants and a striped shirt, the affable attitude accentuated by rimless glasses, he hides all that power well.

We met last Sunday at Toyota’s Megaweb down by the waterfront. Megaweb is part theme park, part test drive venue. We met there, because an FT-86 prototype is on display. We didn’t go there to drive it. First off, Megaweb is not a test track. It was barely appropriate to give the iQ a slow spin. Second, most of the FT-86 is still a secret. Doors and hatches of the car on display are locked tight. So were the lips of its Chief Engineer.

“You can ask anything except specs and price,” Tada-san announced after we found a quiet space away from the din of the Megaweb.

“In that case, let’s have lunch,” was my answer.

In lieu of talking about cars, we found out that Tada lived where I lived during his time in Germany: In Düsseldorf Oberkassel, me because of its watering holes, him because of the Japanese school. Japan’s Jason Bourne is a dad who rather did a 100km round trip commute to Toyota Cologne each day than put his children’s education at risk. Speaking of lunch, we established that we both had regular lunch at the Kikaku, Düsseldorf’s best sushi place. That created a bit of bonding, and Tada started talking about the car.

When Tada stared at a white page, it was 2007. He didn’t know what to think:

“We did know from the very beginning that it was going to be a sports car. I said, well, if it’s going to be a sports car, it has to go fast. We were looking at the Nissan GT-R, the Mitsubishi Evolution, those cars were in our heads at the original stage.

Then we thought: Should we make a car that is faster than the GT-R?

You know what we did then? We did a lot of research. We talked to owners, fanatics, real buyers of sports cars around the world. They told us: Speed isn’t everything. If it’s just an incredibly fast car, they don’t really want it. What they want is a sports car that is small, compact, light, and that handles just the way they want it to handle.”

The customers wanted more: They wanted a sports car for less. A Veyron makes for good copy and dreams. But it also causes can’t-have-it frustrations. Tada listened intently to his future customers:

“The super-super-super fast cars are only for the super-rich. Even most super-rich don’t want to buy them. The people I talked to were looking for something like the 80s kind of a sports car, echoes of an AE86. They wanted a stripped-down, basic sports car with the price more like that of a piece of sports equipment, not the price of a house. Those people wanted something that doesn’t exist.”

Tada and his team set out to design the impossible. A year later, they had the design, the specs, and the price point. Tada presented it to the board of Toyota. The concept was approved. The project had an important advocate on the board: Akio Toyoda. At the time, the CEO was Katsuaki Watanabe. The time was 2008, and all over the world, the skies were falling.

Tada puts it in his trademark humble words when he describes the boardroom discussions:

“Sometimes, it is a little hard to explain why this kind of a vehicle is needed for the Toyota brand. If you just take the commercial point of view – it won’t make a lot of money, and of course, there are some people who object to that. But as they say, money isn’t everything – especially when it comes to branding.”

At the height of carmageddon, Tada received the go-ahead for what we would call an “enthusiast car.” The Japanese have a more befitting description. It’s a nekkyousha car” a car for maniacs – in a good way. It helped that Toyota’s resident auto otaku, Akio Toyoda, was behind the concept, and it helped even more that he became President of Toyota a year later.

Asked what changed for the FT-86 when Toyoda took the helm of Toyota, Tada says: ”He became one of our test drivers.”

Asked what it means when you work in the shadow, but also in full view of the President of the world’s largest carmaker, Tada changes the subject. His true boss is the customer, and the customer didn’t want another rice racer:

“It is possible to soup-up sedans or hatchbacks to make them sporty. But what these people are after is a body that is already very low to the ground, very sleek, a body that they can then work on – if they want.”

As for low to the ground, Tada promises a “production car with the world’s lowest center of gravity.” The FT-86 will be a tinkerer’s car. The car is named “FT-86” for a reason. Toyota wants to make a mental connection to the AE86, the archetypical cult-craze car from the Star Wars era. Nearly 20 years later, the hachiroku (Japanese for 86) still commands a following for which some modern day Messiahs would kill. Toyota wants to build a new millennium hachiroku so bad, they even kept the number. Says Tada:

“The 86 was such a popular maniac car not because of what the maker did, but what the users did with it. It created its own aftermarket and a tuner industry. The idea of the FT-86 is basically the same. We want to create a car that is easy for people to tune and to play with.”

Tada indeed is a rare person. The Teutonic engineers I grew up with used go into convulsions or threw screaming fits when people modified “their cars” – except maybe using factory-approved and overpriced accessories.

Tada smiles when you ask him whether is hurts his pride as an engineer when the people of SEMA gang-rape “his car.”


A short, but honest answer. Isn’t it painful to spend years designing the perfect car, and to make it so perfect in a sense that some guys in a garage can modify it beyond recognition without even breaking a sweat or lighting a welder?


The Chief Engineer’s sensitivities are touched by the most benign act of modding – the choice of tires:

“We usually come up with a designated tire, a tire that is optimal for the car. We arrive at this decision after long tests. That some guys go and decide their own tire steals a little something from the enjoyment of the engineer – but that’s the concept of this vehicle. It is not made for the enjoyment of the engineer – it is made for the enjoyment of the owner.”

That owner may not need a lot of money, but he will need to know how to drive. He will need to use his own brain and the seat of his own pants. Tada had jotted down the principle in his self-derived design guide, and he sticks with it:

“From the beginning, the concept was to put the driver back in the driver’s seat, and to eliminate computers as much as possible today. Powerful sports cars use a lot of computer technology so that anyone can drive and handle them. We decided not to go down that road.”

The FT-86 has about half of the computing power that is dragged around in a modern day car. The preferred shifter is a stick. An automatic is optional. The slushbox is nothing fancy. “No DSG or anything of that kind,” says Tada, and is proud. Sure, the automatic has a computer, but the shift points cannot be changed – at least not at the flip of a switch in the dashboard. Computers want to keep you on the straight and narrow, but some FT-86 owners want that car to go sideways. If you need nannies, go down to the children’s hospital.

The FT-86 will be built at Fuji Heavy’s Subaru, and when I mention that, the engineer’s pride shifts into low gear – for extra revs. Tada quickly explains that this is just contract production, and it’s the same as “when we make cars at Central Motors or Kanto Auto Works.” Both are separate companies, but they are also part of the greater Toyota empire. Toyota owns a good chunk of Fuji Heavy, so Subaru is part of the family – in a way.

Subaru will produce its own version, probably called the BRZ. Both companies also developed the car together, and that must have been an interesting exercise. Recalls Tada:

“The first year was actually quite tough. The character and processes of the two companies are quite different. In the beginning, we sat down and decided who does what. That didn’t work out very well, because of the cultural differences between the companies. When people started to become more interested in the car itself, people from both sides ended up becoming one team. In the end, it wasn’t so much Toyota doing this and Subaru doing that, but people working together with one goal.”

In the maniac, well, enthusiast scene, it is pretty much gospel that the cars use Subaru’s flat four “D4-S” boxer engine. Depending on whom you believe, the production engine ranges from a tried & true to a refined & modified D4-S. That elicits protests from Tada, as loud as the softspoken man can manage:

“No,no, no – it is a completely new engine. The engine is still a boxer. The technology, even the engine block are completely new. Everything is new. The only thing that remained are the mounting points.”

Imagine how much engineer’s pride that one did cost. A completely new engine was developed. At the same time it comes with an invitation to be swapped for whatever follows the Subaru bolt pattern.

After years of concept cars, the production version of the FT-86 will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, December 2 – December 11, 2011. “Next year” (most likely in spring), the car will be launched. It won’t be available in Japan first and years later elsewhere. It will, says Tada, be available next year “all over the world.” In the U.S., it will definitely by a Scion. In the rest of the world, it will be a Toyota.

Jack Baruth and Sajeev Mehta equipped me with a long list of questions. After Tada’s initial admonition that we can talk about everything except specs and price, I didn’t have much hope for answers, but nonetheless, I tried. The following Q&A ensued:

“Can you tell me the weight?” “No.”

“Can you tell me the horsepower?” “No.”

“Can you tell me the weight distribution?” “No.”

“Can you tell me the price” “No. It will be affordable.”

“Suspension?” “McPherson, double wishbone.” And a smile.

And so it went while Tada was conspicuously consulting his watch, signaling that time, patience, or both are running out. All I could do was to use the old investigative reporter trick, put two versions on the table, and ask which one is close. I used the crowd-sourced specs from the fountain of knowledge.

Tada eye-balls both. And gives his verdict. See above.

Last question time!

“Mr. Tada – is it true that you compared the color of the FT-86 to the ass of a monkey?”

Ooops. The Chief Engineer covers his mouth in feigned shock and explains that he indeed had experienced “some trouble” after magazines had written that he indeed had compared the car’s color to a monkey’s derriere. He quickly adds that he had referred not to just any monkey, but to a genuine Japanese monkey, those amicable animals that visit hot springs in wintertime, with icicles dangling from their furs – parts of Japan’s storied heritage.

And that’s not all, says Tada. The FT-86 red can also be compared to the world famous Japanese sunset (no sunrise is mentioned) and to the dragonfly. In Japan, the dragonfly is a symbol of courage, strength, and happiness – it even symbolizes the whole Japanese archipelago.

So there you have it. The FT-86 is so customizable, so tunable, so hot-roddable that it gives you a choice of associations triggered by its color. Depending on your mood, you can pick sunset, dragonfly, or an entirely appropriate greased monkey. As long as they are Japanese.

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Near-Production FT-86 Rubs Shoulders With Supra [Video] Wed, 25 May 2011 17:07:46 +0000

SB Medien may call the forthcoming FT-86 a “Celica replacement,” but in this first video of the latest near-production prototype, the budget rear-drive coupe nearly runs into a Supra which apparently belongs to the development team. The Supra shows up once more in the video’s ‘ring testing footage (about 1:55 in), suggesting again that it’s somehow involved in the testing or benchmarking process. How and why? Your speculation is as good as mine…

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What Was That About Boring Toyotas? Wed, 20 Apr 2011 19:48:27 +0000

The joint Subaru-Toyota “FT-86″ has been hyped for some time now as a modern-day AE86, a car with which Akio Toyoda hopes to recapture the “splendid flavor” of driving excitement that has been missing from Toyotas for some time. An affordable halo, in other words, which reconnects Toyota to the youthful enthusiasm of young men in search of rear-drive antics. And since it’s facing an aging demographic, that’s not a bad idea for the Toyota brand. Unfortunately, the latest look at the Toyobaru’s evolving styling is being shown in New York as a Scion, the brand that exists to prove that the Toyota brand can’t be youthful and exciting (and which just got a new sports coupe).

I’ve been on the record as a Scion-basher for some time, so I won’t beat a dead horse here… but if the FT-86 is supposed to be a halo for Toyota, it can’t just be shuffled off to the Scion ghetto. The car will probably sell regardless of the badge it ends up wearing, but the Toyota brand needs this enthusiasm investment, and Scion just needs to die.

scionfr-s5 scionfr-s15 scionfr-s22 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail scionfr-s11 scionfr-s16 scionfr-s4 scionfr-s6 scionfr-s24 scionfr-s7 scionfr-s20 scionfr-s13 scionfr-s21 Oh wait, not a Toyota... scionfr-s12 scionfr-s9 scionfr-s14 scionfr-s18 scionfr-s8 scionfr-s3 scionfr-s25 scionfr-s17 scionfr-s2 scionfr-s23 scionfr-s19 scionfr-s scionfr-s10 ]]> 63
Toyota To Produce Small Subarus. And A FT-86baru? Fri, 25 Jun 2010 09:44:48 +0000

Toyota will supply small Subarus to Fuji Heavy, so that Fuji Heavy and Subaru can focus on midsize cars. According to information developed by The Nikkei [sub], “Toyota and Fuji Heavy intend to release a jointly developed sports car under their respective brands as early as the end of 2011.” If the Nikkei has its stuff together, then we might finally see the often delayed FT-86 next year. As a Toyota and a Subaru.

The Nikkei expects that the deal begins with Toyota making their Ractis subcompact as a Subaru. It is due for a refresh, and Subaru-specific mods can be incorporated when that happens. The aforementioned “jointly developed sports car” is expected to – finally – ship “under their respective brands as early as the end of 2011.” According to the article, Toyota will also  provide technologies for Subaru hybrids.

According to the Nikkei, this would be the first time that Toyota makes finished cars for another Japanese automaker. It’s not that the two are perfect strangers. Toyota has a 16.5 percent stake in Fuji Heavy.

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Toyota’s FT-86. The Car Worth Waiting For – A Few Years Longer Thu, 27 May 2010 12:10:17 +0000

Car & Driver voted Toyota’s FT-86 as one of the 25 cars worth waiting for. It seems like the wait will be a little longer than anticipated. Toyota had shown their sports car concept at many motor shows, from Tokyo to Beijing (but not in New York.) Of course, this was read as an imminent launch of the little brute. 2011 model year, hopefully. Mid 2011, maybe. Wrong. Not even close.

And there, C&D had already floated that the FT86 would revive the Celica nameplate, that the initial version would come with a puny 170hp engine (with a 230hp blown version to follow) and that the price would be a tad over $20,000 in Japan. Later, Autocar was sure that the price would be a bit higher, say $23,000. A FT86Club appeared on the net that said that “in terms of target demographic, Toyota has now upped the increased target buyer age from 30’s to the 40’s.” They all sounded as if they already had the dealer kit.

According to a report from Japan’s Best Car Magazine (via 7Tune), the release date of the FT-86 has been shifted back two years, which could mean 2013. Maybe. According to Best Car, the reasons are that the design is being revised, and that Toyota thinks there may be a better time than now to release a sports car.

A call to Toyota HQ elicited a not too surprising “as a policy, we do not comment on future cars.” The way it was said makes me think that Best Cars has it right this time. From what I’m hearing, the second reason (not the right time) is the real one. In any case, a Toyota insider had warned me not to expect too many product launches in Japan in the near future. Domo. I won’t.

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Toyota Hints At Cheaper, Lighter “Baby FT-86,” Is A Mid-Engine Hybrid Roadster Next? Mon, 10 May 2010 18:27:16 +0000

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.

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Toyota Backs Off FT-86 Price Point, Youth Appeal Goals Wed, 21 Apr 2010 21:17:52 +0000

Already a good year into its hype-cycle, Toyota’s much-discussed FT-86 sports coupe is apparently losing some of the focus that made it an instant (theoretical) hit with enthusiasts. According to Autocar, Toyota has given up on its price point goal of $20,000 for a base model in the Japanese market, bumping MSRP targets to $23k for a base model and $26k for loaded examples. No word on how this will affect US-market prices, which Toyota has never disclosed goals for. And if this were the only news coming out of FT-86-land, we might have ignored it altogether. Sadly though, the price shift reflects larger trends within the FT-86′s development, none of which are wildly promising from the perspective of the enthusiasts that this car was allegedly being built for.

According to Autocar:

[The FT-86's] R&D team is now more focused on minimizing fuel consumption and producing the cleanest engine possible; the Subaru boxer engine planned for the car is not considered to be that clean or fuel-efficient… The car is also likely to be marketed to older buyers than originally planned, too. The head of Toyota’s newly created sports vehicle department, Tetsuya Tada, told Autocar that his team had increased the target age group by 10 years, from the 30s to 40s, after market research revealed that fewer younger buyers would opt for the sleek coupé than first thought.

So much for Toyota’s pledge to get serious about selling cars with enthusiast-oriented “splendid flavor.” Though it’s too early to say definitively that the FT-86 has traipsed down the primrose path of play-it-safe planning, this is not a good sign for those hoping the FT-86 would be the first iconic budget-enthusiast car to hit the American market in ages.

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Toyota Launching “G” Sporty Sub-Brand Mon, 01 Feb 2010 16:21:54 +0000
Oh how quickly things change! Just weeks ago, if you’d asked the average well-informed consumer what Toyota needed to change with its strategy, you’d have been treated to a treatise on how Toyota’s quest for quality and mass-market appeal had reduced its brand to signifying snooze-inducing appliances. Indeed, Toyota’s new CEO has emphasized enthusiasm as an area for improvement, waxing eloquent about the “splendid flavor” of the sporty vehicles Toyota doesn’t offer. Accordingly, Toyota is launching a sporting sub-brand àlá BMW’s “M” or Volkswagen’s new “R” line of high-performance vehicles according to Inside Line. Thanks to Toyota’s descent into recall hell however, boosting the brand’s sporty credentials is suddenly of highly debatable utility.

The brand, which will be called “G’s,” is based on collaboration between Toyota’s Gazoo racing team, Toyota Racing Development and Modelista, Toyota’s entry-level street tuner. The “G’s”-branded vehicles will be the top level of street-tuned Toyotas, providing more power than Modelista vehicles at a higher price point. The first indications of this effort were “G-Sport” tuned Prius, Mark X and FT-86 (aka Toyobaru) concepts shown at the Tokyo Auto Salon. In addition, several Gazoo-developed concepts appeared at the same time, showing off such wacky, nevergonnahappen concepts as a mid-engined, Highlander Hybrid-powered MR2 V6 and hotted-up Aygo and iQ models.

In the post-recall environment, regaining a tarnished quality crown will be Toyota’s top priority, but how and where it introduces more “splendid flavor” to its lineup bears watching as well. Introducing a greater performance emphasis to its lifeless Scion brand makes far more sense in the US market than trying to accustom Americans to a new sub-brand from an OEM that hasn’t sold a legitimately sporty car in years. At the same time, it looks like Scion will not be getting the FT-86 “Toyobaru” RWD coupe that is the poster boy for Toyota’s newfound sporty pretensions, so Toyota will probably introduce a sub-brand for high-po and tuner variants of the budget sports coupe.That would give Toyota two major aspirations (repairing its quality image and building a sporty image) while leaving Scion without a purpose, proving just how quickly GM-style branding conundrums can come into play.

Meanwhile, rumors that the 392 hp hybrid V6-powered MR2 could head for production highlight just how far Toyota might be willing to go to bust its appliance reputation… and show Honda how the hybrid sportscar should be done. And how good the result might be. A 300 hp+ mid-engined sportscar based on an existing platform and hybrid drivetrain (offered alongside the FT-86) would do a lot more to revive Toyota’s sporting profile than an in-house tuner brand. That is, if any of this enthusiasm enhancement actually happens once the corporate aftershocks of Toyota’s quality crash shake out.

g-ft-86 g-markx g-prius grmn-aygo grmn-iq The brand of the rising sun? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 27
Scion: The Brand With No Purpose Fri, 15 Jan 2010 21:03:29 +0000 Americans are obligated by our constitution to love weight gain and poor visibility

“Scion is pretty much a North American brand, so that is why it is very natural to think more development, more design work, should be done in North America,” Yoshi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America tells Automotive News [sub]. In other words, fans of Scion’s first generation of JDM confections who railed against second-gen bloat are probably out of luck. Sure, model four in the Scion lineup will be the iQ minicar, which is small and weird enough to have been a member of the Scion invasion team, but after that? It’s all bloat and bigger blind spots from here on out. It’s what America wants.

Apparently the Scion tC, the only Scion product entirely designed and developed in the US, will be replaced this year. As if confirming the continued Americanization of Scion, the Camry-engined coupe is still outselling the only remaining Scion still reminiscent of the first generation, the xD. We’ve been told that the Fuse concept shown above is the basis for the new tC. Did we say something about bloat and blind spots earlier?

The decision to replace the tC this year has another implication: it means the FT-86 RWD coupe currently being developed by Toyota and Subaru almost certainly won’t be sold as a Scion (as it won’t arrive this year). And if a $25k RWD manual-transmission coupe doesn’t fit in you alleged youth brand, why the hell do you have a youth brand in the first place? Mr Inaba?

We will figure out what we need. We need to focus on more products based on the customer’s needs, what the customer wants… The important thing is to try and appeal to a younger segment. The role of Scion is to grow them into Toyota or Lexus so that has not changed…. We have to be tuned to the needs of younger customers. Connectivity is a very important issue [and] our products should take car of their interests and their needs.

That, or maybe pickups. Who knows what kids really want? Which is why I don’t think it’s too hyperbolic to say that this is highly reminiscent of the terminal brand cluelessness that defined GM for the last several decades. Toyota’s battle with “big company disease” obviously isn’t over, and it probably won’t be until it gives up on the Scion experiment.

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Quote Of The Day: Toyoda and The Splendid Flavor Wed, 18 Nov 2009 23:07:54 +0000 Hai! (

Cars are not a mere means of mobility. They respond to the driver’s will; they turn, speed up, slow down. Naturally, there’s a need for excitement…Of course, eco-friendly cars are a prerequisite for the future, but there must be more than that.  Morizo cannot afford to lose. I will tackle the challenge of creating a car with even more splendid flavor than the Scirocco.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda blogging at his company’s Japanese marketing website, as reported by Automotive News [sub]. Toyoda’s Scirocco killer? That has to be the FT-86 “Toyobaru” coupe. Interestingly, Inside Line reports that the Subaru version will have about 250 hp, AWD and will cost about $30k. In contrast, the $25k Toyota will be smaller, RWD and only 200 hp. Smaller, lighter and RWD? Sounds like Toyota beat Subaru to the splendid flavor. [Hat Tip: Cammy Corrigan]

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