FT-86 II Concept makes world debut at Geneva Motor Show

Andross Moonah - CAP staff
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In the midst of shockingly expensive supercars and luxury vehicles at the Geneva Motor Show, Toyota unveiled the latest rendition of a return to its past, the FT-86 II concept. Once it takes shape as a production model in 2012, it will be the first rear-wheel drive sports coupe from Toyota in over a decade.

Best known for practical but somewhat dreary transportation, Toyota actually has a rich history of building exciting cars for the motoring enthusiast. Such cars include the shapely 2000GT, widely considered Japan's first supercar the car performed quite well in various racing series. The Celica followed suit as a successful rally car racer, and the MR2 was praised for being an affordable mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car. Mind you, that sort of powertrain layout was, and still is reserved for exotic supercars from established marques like Ferrari, McLaren, and Lamborghini. Yet there it was in an affordable little Toyota.

The iconic Supra was also a resounding success amongst automotive enthusiasts, and of course there was the inspiration for Toyota's return to form, the AE86 Corolla of the 1980s. It was light, responsive, relatively affordable, and best of all it had what many consider the ideal performance car layout of being front-engined with rear-wheel drive. Those characteristics made the AE86 Corolla a fabled legend, and the car became even more famous as the star of the popular Japanese cartoon show about drifting, Initial D.

One of the earliest signs of Toyota's intention to build a new sports coupe was the FT-HS of 2007. Launched at the North American International Auto Show, the FT-HS was a hybrid-powered sports coupe that was thought to indicate the return of the Toyota Supra. Two years later at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, the FT-86 concept debuted with heavy styling influence from the FT-HS and attitudes changed. Where the name FT-HS meant Future Toyota Hybrid Sport, FT-86 translated to Future Toyota 86. In other words, the FT-86 concept of 2009 was a tribute to Toyota's AE86 Corolla.

Like the AE86, it too was small, relatively light, and most importantly it was front engined with power going to the rear wheels. Where the FT-HS used a hybrid power setup, the FT-86 had in fact been outfitted with a Subaru boxer engine and was even mated to a modified Subaru chassis! Yes, Subaru was onboard with Toyota as a co-developer of the new concept car and both Japanese automakers will release their own production versions of the concept car in due time.

The FT-86 II concept looks almost exactly the same as the 2009 FT-86 concept; the styling modifications are more evolutionary than revolutionary. Like the FT-86, the FT-86 II maintains a front engine rear-drive layout, a six-speed manual transmission, and a 2.0-litre Subaru boxer engine. The FT-86 II also preserves the earlier concept's cab rearward profile with a low, hunkered down stance. The car looks muscular, sporty, and aggressive, and that's more that can be said for a number of the current sport compact cars on sale today.

Notable changes in regard to the 2009 FT-86 concept include new split spoke wheels, a deck lid spoiler, exhaust vents on the front fenders, "smoked" taillights and what appear to be LED fog lamps on the front apron of the car. Toyota states that the FT-86 II's powertrain and driving position are placed as far back and as low as possible in order to achieve optimal balance, stability, and dynamic agility. This was done in order to deliver "…lively, accessible performance, highly engaging, readily-exploitable dynamic abilities and maximum driving pleasure."

Even before the official 2009 announcement by Toyota and Fuji Heavy Industries (owner of Subaru) to jointly develop a new compact rear-wheel drive sports coupe, the anticipation for the car has skyrocketed. Is it possible that Toyota is finally ready to appease motoring enthusiasts with other sporty cars in addition to the production version of the FT-86 II? Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda had this to say:

"When the Toyota 2000 GT was built, I was eleven years old – and I loved it. I said: 'I want to drive something like this when I grow up.' My dream came true when I drove a 2000GT in a vintage car rally. That was a really great experience.

"I want young people to feel those same desires when they see a new Toyota sports car. I want to transfer the thrill of the race track to our vehicles, and make driving fun and exciting for our customers."

Due for sale in Europe next year, Canadian deliveries of the car will likely take place in 2012 as well. If the car is a success, it could make for a performance car revival at Toyota, and not a moment too soon.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Toyota, 2011, FT-86 Concept, FT-86 II Concept,

Organizations: Toyota

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