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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Toyota Sports Cars: "Moving Backward"
Recently, Toyota has been in the press for both good reasons and bad.  First, there was the "our-drivers-don't-know-cars-or-care-about-driving-and-"unintentionally"-hit-the-gas" scandal which everyone and their mother had theories about.  Then, there was the release of the Lexus LFA which every enthusiast has had theories about...for 10 years.

Now, these two events only really apply to very specific types of people.  The unintended acceleration debacle played out in the cars of those who could care less about driving and treat their cars like appliances.  Lexus' LFA supercar, which costs $375,000, may interest a few passionate drivers among us but let's face it.  It is for the absurdly rich... and we, enthusiasts, probably already have our hearts set on other supercars that aren't from companies like Lexus.

So, where is the Toyota for the everyday enthusiast? Where are the cars that can herald the arrival of technology from F1, WRC, or JGTC?  When will we see names like Supra, Celica, or MR2 again?
Well, it would seem that Toyota is willing to start a new relationship with the petrol head demographic and wants to get back to basics with its FT-86.  If the name looks oddly familiar, it is no coincidence.  It supposed to bring back memories of the Corolla Sprinter Trueno, AE86, or Hachi-Roku, which was the performance version of a mid-80s Corolla with amazing flickability.  It's the hero car in the animated series Initial D.

At first glance, this seems like a great idea.  Let's make a low-cost, affordable sports car for first time buyers.  Then build more expensive sports cars for the customer to aspire to own.  This will build brand confidence and loyalty. Sounds like a great plan!

And it would be a great plan until the numbers are considered.  Autoblog has just reported that the mid-level coupe will be priced around $28,500.  There will be two engines that have outputs of 170hp or 230hp.  Other sources cite the car being 163 inches long and being a 2+2.

When the original concept of this car was released it garnered rave reviews due to its aesthetics and the projected price point of $20,000.  Since then, many reports have come out saying that the car just isn't feasible at that price and today we hear that a mid-level car will cost $28,500.  To assuage enthusiast fears, Toyota has said a smaller sports car will be released later to fill the $20,000 price point.
It's at this point that it seems Toyota has lost any kind of connection with its non-toaster driving consumer.  Hyundai, a much smaller company than Toyota, has found a way to make the Genesis Coupe.  It sports a 2.0 liter turbo four that makes more power than the mill in the FT-86.  Oh yeah, it's priced from $22,000.  At the other end of the spectrum, the Hyundai is available with a 300hp V6 which in my estimation is 70 more horsepower than the option in the Toyota.  The top of the line Genesis Coupe is listed at $32,000 which means the median would be $27,000.  All this was made possible by the corporate sharing of chassis and engines.
You could be saying right now "but Danny the FT-86 is a smaller car than the Genesis." You're right it is about 19 inches shorter which should make it lighter and more sporty.  Going in that direction, the FT-86 runs against the Miata which is only down 6 inches and 3 horsepower to the Toyota.  It would seem that the FT-86 is going to be underpowered and less agile than what most of the category has to offer already.  Remember that smaller Toyota for $20,000?  How much smaller can it get when the FT-86 is only 6 inches bigger than a Miata?  Not to mention there's already the stigma attached to the Miata as being a "chic car".

Toyota has recently shown that is can react to changing situations in a timely manner when it needs to.  At this point in the company's history, it needs to prove that it truly cares about its customers and its reputation as a complete car company.  This attempt at a sports car for the masses seems to miss the point.  Hopefully, they can prove me wrong by the time it hits the showroom floor.


  1. A few things I want to say here.

    Number one, the ft-86 is beginning to look like a Japanese Pontiac Solstice and by that I mean "all show and no go." The Solstice was a fantastic design exercise but when compared to the Miata, there was a lot left to be desired in terms of handling and performance.

    Number two, any sports car with an output of 170 horsepower does not deserve a $28k price tag. The awd rally inspired Subaru Impreza WRX as a general comparison? 265horsepower, $27k starting price.

    Lastly, if Toyota dares to only offer the ft86 in automatic or sequential gearboxes... you guys can help me finish the sentence.

  2. I forgot to mention that the dynamics of the car may be atrocious. Consider that only the Miata has neutral handling and the other two rwd 2+2 (the Genesis coupe and 1 series) understeer like pigs so new rwd drivers won't shunt themselves over a cliff. Add in Toyota lawyers and we have a car that will only go straight.

  3. Hi there, i am a big fan of Toyota model cars this post is informative for me. The price $375,000 is good for this model.

  4. oh yes, finally someone calling Toyota out... they have been making toasters for a while now and i have been dying for them to release something more "interesting". They better not lose focus.

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