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Toyota Sports Hybrid Concept hits the ’Ring

Spicy hybrid: The second incarnation of the Toyota Sports Hybrid Concept has wild styling that better hides its MR2 origins than its predecessor did.

220kW MR2-based petrol-electric roadster makes public debut at Nurburgring 24hr

23 Jun 2011

TOYOTA Motor Corporation will take a further step towards extinguishing its boring image when the second incarnation of its all-wheel drive MR2 Roadster-based hybrid sportscar concept makes its public debut at the Nurburgring 24-hour race in Germany this weekend.

The GRMN Sports Hybrid Concept II has a mid-mounted 3.5-litre petrol V6 sending 183kW of power to the rear wheels, while an electric motor under the bonnet delivers drive to the front to bring the combined petrol-electric power to 220kW.

Weight is quoted as “1500kg or less” and engine capacity is said to be upped by 200cc compared with the 2010 original – which according to reports produced 197kW and could sprint to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds.

The car – developed by Toyota’s technical and tuning partner Gazoo – features updated styling that better hides its MR2 origins compared with the original version, which went on display at the 2010 Tokyo Salon.

8 center imageLeft: The Toyota Sports Hybrid concept. Below: the 2010 original MR2-based version.

The concept’s shark-like exterior resembles the result of a genetic experiment involving various TVRs, a Tesla Roadster and BMW’s Vision ConnectedDrive concept. The shaping of some panels suggests the use of composite materials.

Inside the cockpit it is easy to spot the car’s MR2 origins, although somehow the interior update has managed to make the modified MR2 interior look even more dated than that of the donor car.

Although unlikely to be a production proposition, the concept does represent a development path for future mid-engined sportscars from the Japanese giant.

Toyota, which launched the world’s first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid car with the Prius, claims to have “long conducted active research on applying hybrid technologies to racing and sports cars”.

It says the concept is “developed to embody the enjoyment of automobiles,” and “positioned as the next step in the evolution of these efforts,” hinting that one day such a car might join its line-up alongside the upcoming rear-drive FT-86 ‘Toyobaru’ coupe and Lexus LFA supercar.

Were this to happen at Toyota – which has expressed a desire to add “excitement” to its brand – it would be a welcome move away from middle-of-the-road cars that have sold in droves but rarely set the pulse racing.

In the 1980s and 90s products like the MR2, Celica GT-Four and Supra Turbo enhanced the brand’s appeal to youth and enthusiast markets.

GRMN stands for Gazoo Racing Meister of Nurburgring in honour of test driver Hiromu Naruse who died a year ago today when he crashed a prototype Lexus LFA into a BMW near the famous German circuit.

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