Can Toyota’s 'Jesus car' change the company's vanilla reputation?
It’s been five years in the making. But finally (finally!), Toyota President Akio Toyoda unveiled his company's new back-to-basics sports car this week ahead of its official debut at the Tokyo auto show, a vehicle that’s being built not to bloat sales, but to gain respect for the troubled Japanese automaker.
Can this new car be the automaker’s saviour?
To be sold as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ in North America next year, the Nomex-clad prez drove the foreign-market Toyota GT 86 around the Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway outside Tokyo.
The “86” honours the AE86 line of Corolla-based rear-drive sports from the 1980s, and hints at the purpose of the car, that is, to offer an affordable (est. under $30k price) “halo model” to let the public know that the giant automaker—better known for offering vanilla-like Corollas and Camrys—is capable of creating cars with more soul than a refridgerator.
On paper, president Toyoda’s team seems to have nailed the “back-to-basics” promise.
With its rear wheels powered by a naturally aspirated 197 hp 2.0-litre flat-four from Subaru, the 2+2 Toyota/Scion/Subaru is being hailed for its extremely low centre of gravity and feathery 1,207 kg, curb eight—almost 300 kg lighter than a comparable Hyundai Genesis 2.0T.
From the supplied video, I like the lean looks of the GT 86. It reminds me of the original 1969 Datsun 240Z, or even the first Mazda RX-7. It’s certainly unlike any other car in Toyota’s lineup, save for the unattainable Lexus LF-A supercar.
But what do you think?
If the Toyota/Scion/Subaru drives as well as Toyota is promising, does this change your impression the automaker cares more about product than profit?
Or does Toyota need to do more than just a low-volume niche car to change your mind?