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First look: Rear-drive 'Toyobaru' two-door takes a bow

Imprezive: All-new compact Toyota coupe will come with rear-drive, boxer power and a sub-$50K pricetag.

Toyota reveals the first images of its born-again Celica - the Subaru-based FT-86

6 Oct 2009

THIS is Toyota’s mythical ‘Toyobaru’ coupe, so-called because it shares its underpinnings with Subaru’s Impreza in an unprecedented deal between the two Japanese makers to co-develop two compact sportscars - one for each brand.

Officially revealed for the first time ahead of its global debut at the Tokyo motor show on October 21, the catchily-named FT-86 concept car takes more than a few styling cues from the FT-HS show car that appeared at the 2008 Melbourne motor show.

Codenamed 086A and also nicknamed the ‘Subota’, the joint-venture vehicle’s imminent emergence at Tokyo appears to disprove a report earlier this year that Toyota and Subaru had abandoned the project, which was formally announced in April 2008 before receiving immediate, albeit tacit, public backing from new Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda.

The FT-86 is expected to morph into Toyota’s first sports coupe since the Celica and its first rear-drive passenger car since the MR2, both of which disappeared from Australian showrooms in 2006, by late 2011.

For now, Toyota describes the Lexus-like FT-86 simply as a compact four-seater sports vehicle, confirming only that it is powered by a 2.0-litre boxer engine that drives the rear wheels.

Revealed on the same day Toyota issued the first pictures of its all-new Prado three-door SUV, which will also appear at Tokyo before joining the new five-door Prado wagon on sale here for the first time in November, the FT-86 measures 4160mm long overall, 1760mm wide, 1260mm high and rides on a 2570mm wheelbase – which is 55mm shorter than the current Impreza’s.

Subaru’s version of the car is yet to appear, despite the fact it is expected to emerge in final showroom trim in Japan by the end of 2010, but it too could emerge at Tokyo in two weeks. Both cars will be built at Subaru’s Gunma factory.

Subaru, 16.5 per cent of which is owned by Toyota, previewed what appeared to be its headline act for the 41st Tokyo show a week ago, in the company’s first petrol-electric model – a gullwinged people-mover concept dubbed the Hybrid Tourer.

Toyota has committed to offering hybrid drive in every model by 2020 so, if they are still around then, both the front-engined compact Toyota and Subaru coupes could also become available with a variation of the Hybrid Tourer's petrol-electric boxer drivetrain.

By the time it enters production, Toyota’s first affordable sportscar in five years (and its first flat-four) could be powered by Subaru’s next-generation boxer engine.

8 center imageLeft: FT-86's sleek side profile, wacky seats and zip-up dash, plus the iQ-based FT-EV II (bottom).While the naturally-aspirated entry-level coupe should be priced below $50,000, a turbocharged 2.5-litre boxer four from the WRX or STi could eventually power a range-topping performance version, which could become a spiritual successor for the Celica GT-4 that may even form the basis of an eventual return to world rallying from Toyota.

A convertible version of the born-again Celica has also been rumoured, which could represent Toyota’s (and perhaps Subaru’s) first real rival for Mazda’s enduring MX-5.

It remains to be seen how much of the FT-86’s sleek but otherwise conventional two-door body, which has similar overall proportions to the production Lexus LF-A supercar that will also make its world premiere at Tokyo, carry over to production.

While its swept-back headlights, aggressively air-dammed front bumper, tail-light and bootlid-integrated rear wing and twin outboard exhausts aren’t quite as adventurous as the FT-86’s interior, however, much of the vehicle looks virtually production-ready.

Clearly pictured inside is a six-speed manual gearshifter, alongside more fanciful features like wafer-thin sports seats with single central hinges, a leather-clad dashboard that can be unzipped (or not) to operate the dominant central sound system and a cockpit-style instrument panel with large central LCD display, upper and lower air-vents and outboard climate and trip controls.

According to Toyota, the FT-86 “embodies the joy of driving and the pleasure of ownership - the fundamental appeal of motor vehicles.

“Compact design gives driver greater control, while body's lightness and low centre of gravity allow racecar-like handling.

“Both power and environmental performance provided by 2.0-litre boxer engine and light body.

“Flash Red body colour contains hint of blue interior expresses modern feel with minimal coverage of the highly refined structural components evoking enthusiasm for cruising,” says TMC.

The FT-86 is one of three concepts Toyota will show at Tokyo alongside its TF109 Formula One racecar, with the Prius plug-in hybrid concept re-emerging after its Frankfurt show premiere last month and the FT-EV II (future Toyota electric vehicle two) set to make its global debut.

Based on the new MkII Prius, the plug-in concept is the first Toyota to employ a lithium-ion battery, which takes three hours to fully recharge at 110 volts and 100 minutes at 200 volts. It is claimed to run on electric power alone for 20km, returns average CO2 emissions of 42g/km on the JC08 Japanese test cycle and could enter production in 2012.

Finally, Toyota says the four-seater FT-EV II mini-car concept, which follows the 2009 Detroit show's original FT-EV and is even smaller than the iQ upon which it is based, effectively making it an iQ EV, is a compact EV designed for short distances.

Featuring a pair of electrically sliding doors to facilitate ingress and egress in tight spaces, there are also joystick-operated brake, accelerator and steering wheel functions to increase leg and arm room, which sounds handy at the vehicle’s claimed top speed of more than 100km/h.

Toyota says the FT-EV II can travel more than 90km on a fully charged battery. It measures 2730mm long, 1680mm wide and 1490mm high, and sits on a 1900mm wheelbase.

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