2007 Detroit Auto Show: Toyota FT-HS, the 21st Century Sports Car
Toyota Tests Viability of New-Generation Sports Car
The concept developed for Toyota‘s 2007 North American International Auto Show stand had both Supra and green-car enthusiasts drooling. Since Toyota dropped the Supra in 1997, rumors and dreams of its revival have repeatedly resurfaced. Supra enthusiasts reacted like Chevrolet Camaro fans; there weren’t enough of them buying the product to keep it around, but they still keep looking for a successor. It is not surprising that Toyota’s 2007 North American International Auto Show star concept, the FT-HS, was most often called a Supra successor.
Though many of those enthusiast dreams for a new Supra were dreams, ten years later the possibility remains for Toyota to again tackle the sports car segment. Is this truly a Supra successor? No. A production FT-HS would be in response to the market of today and where the company sees it going tomorrow. Toyota’s image might benefit from a halo car, to go along with the image of bulletproof reliability. And if Toyota does go for it, a hybrid powertrain is a good bet.
FT-HS Offers Innovative Roof, Exaggerated Styling
The FT-HS is a California dream, developed by Toyota’s California-based Calty design studio and Advanced Product Strategy Group. It expresses brand design strategy elements that Toyota calls Vibrant Clarity and the J-Factor. J-Factor is the acceptance of Japanese-inspired design and Vibrant Clarity is Toyota’s expression of design language. The feel of this concept will find its way into Toyota’s product range, with or without the FT-HS.
In describing the FT-HS, Toyota talks of combining perfect imbalance, freeform geometrics, and integrated component architecture to create a minimalist style that is and looks lightweight. The fascias were sculpted for the least amount of mass around functional components. Fluid surfaces and hard-edge aero corners are mixed for smoother airflow and reduced turbulence. A scooped-out center section of the carbon fiber Kevlar roof reduces drag.
The roof solution is clever (the roof panel and back window fold and pivot to cover the second row of seats, making it a two-seater with an open roof) and the profile is sharp. But the front and rear fascia depths are exaggerated and emphasized by the narrow headlights and taillights. Understanding the design philosophy doesn’t make that nose any more attractive.
In package and performance, FT-HS checks the right boxes. A two-plus-two, front-engine, rear-drive entry is the most common and usable sports car configuration. Giving it a hybrid powertrain is in keeping with the image of an environmentally conscious company. The concept’s 3.5L V6 is a version of the engine launched in several Toyota and Lexus vehicles for 2007MY, but used with the hybrid system delivers about 400HP.
Could a Hybrid Sports Car Have Legs?
Toyota’s FT-HS explores one direction for a twenty-first-century “affordable exotic.” They see a generation of sports car buyers unsatisfied with only going fast, but also concerned about fuel efficiency and emissions, and this idea may be in lockstep with the fabled Gen Y buyers. Toyota has the ability to create a high-horsepower hybrid solution, proven with the 340HP Lexus GS 450h. Honda tried a performance-oriented route with their Accord hybrid, but mid-size sedan buyers responded to the fuel-efficient bias of the Toyota Camry and Prius hybrids.
Hybrid powertrains are a viable addition to the sports car mix. Toyota is established in consumer minds as “the” hybrid company, so it is sensible that Toyota makes strides with this solution. To say hybrids don’t have a place in sports cars is short sighted and dismissive of advances in technology.