It’s hard to imagine that at one point Toyota had fun performance cars. The question CarNewsCafe asks is whether Akio Toyoda can save the brand from mind-numbing, mass-consumer bland cars?
When Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota and part of the original family who owns the brand, came back, he was on a mission to revitalize the carmaker. True, Toyota had won the race to the number one car manufacturer slot — but at what price? It is on top of the hill, but a hollow and desolate hill, it turned out to be. In the frenetic race to be number one, competing with GM, both companies brought us bland, unappetizing mass produced cars. Who remembers the Supra, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution of the nineties? Who can look at the Toyota 2000GT and not fall in love with this sixties sexy icon? What happened Toyota? The only car we can praise today is the Prius, a quaint car that does the job, neither well, nor badly.
Akio Takes Charge. A year ago, Akio Toyoda seemed to be willing to let Lexus breath on its own again. He felt Toyota using Lexus as a luxury outlet for Toyota was not the best thing to do for the “luxury” brand. Truly in the process, Lexus lost its appeal. We would even argue that the last “good” Lexus was the i300 platform. After that, the rest was Toyota trying to compete with Mercedes with big, pretentious styling, but not particularly good handling. Lexus is back and their hybrids will only get better. Is it Toyota’s turn to come back and wow us? According to the latest round of news and teasers, Toyota is embracing the success of its hybrid by finally giving us a highly supped up hybrid Yaris. This begs the question, what is left after mild hybrids? Performance hybrid, of course. The writing is all over the wall.
Toyota Hybrid-R Yaris. A lot of words strung together to say Toyota has finally heard you over the past 7 seven years of begging for electric performance. Going as far as to disavow lithium batteries, Toyota now wants to wow you and change its perceived image of good cars with no wow-factor. The Hybrid-R concept is the answer and it will be produced. Maybe Toyoda can make Toyota more palatable again.
Technically Speaking. The Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R feels like a test platform for the rebirth of the Supra. In yet another round of speculative 500HP hybrid talk, the Supra is pegged as the next performance hybrid for Toyota. In the meantime, the Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R concept seems loosely based off the Toyota’s TS030 Hybrid race car. It will use a 1.6L engine mated to two electric motors, dubbed the ‘Global Race Engine’. This little Yaris will be an all-wheel drive, hair on fire, hatchback. The Hybrid-R system uses an intelligent regenerative braking system with supercapacitors. Supercapacitors, or ultracapacitors have the unique advantage to recharge quickly, as well as discharge quickly. They are ideal for storing a lot of energy in a small amount of time. This system is similar to Mazda’s i-Loop system.
According to Digitaltrends: “…Akio Toyoda is reportedly pushing the (Supra) project as part of his ongoing effort to get more exciting cars into the hands of customers. Toyota’s new chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, has also expressed interest in a flagship sports car for the brand, one that could slot above the GT86 (aka the Scion FR-S) in the lineup.” That is good news for green performance lovers and deservedly so.
Now follow us if you will into the next few years where we will extrapolate the most likely scenario for some of your favorite cars. The writing is all over the wall. Every manufacturer discreetly hints that the electric motor is the way to go. We foresee a very near future where the Nissan GT-R will sport an electric motor, so will the Corvette. We already mentioned how the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will have to go that route when we test drove the Pikes Peak Safety Vehicle. How can you make these fun cars any better? With an electric motor, of course. Ferrari gets it, so does McLaren.
This leaves Toyota with the only solution possible, the rebirth of its flagship Supra. Will the new Yaris Hybrid-R recapture Toyota’s loss soul? You bet. Will the Supra be Toyota’s next green performance car? Why don’t you ask them.