2007 Toyota FT-HS Concept

Toyota insiders recognize that, to go up against established sports cars, their entry needs a compelling differentiating quality. "We want to do something original," says Hunter. "We asked ourselves, 'What can we do that no one else can do?' The answer was a hybrid." The FT-HS is a hybrid sports car--the name stands for Future Toyota Hybrid Sports. Its powertrain marries a 3.5-liter V-6 with a new-generation hybrid system to provide a combined output of some 400 hp driving the rear wheels. The transmission would be an evolution of Toyota's current planetary CVT with discrete ratios selected via paddles.

It's rumored that the upcoming Lexus LF-A sports car also could offer a hybrid powertrain (in conjunction with a conventional V-8 or V-10), but the FT-HS doesn't share the platform of the Lexus. Size-wise, the two-plus-two is almost an exact overlay of the Nissan 350Z, a car that would be an obvious competitor, although, if you take the Supra's price at the time of its departure ($40,000) as a ballpark starting figure, the Toyota would be considerably more expensive.

The FT-HS would be dramatically cheaper than its performance targets, however, which include the Porsche 911, the Ferrari F430, and the Chevy Corvette. At this early stage, Toyota is sharing only one performance target: 0 to 60 mph in four seconds. This while providing fuel economy in the mid-20s. Toyota concept planner Chiharu Tamura says the company aims to provide both on-road and on-track ability in the FT-HS. The latter comes in part from a more potent regenerative braking system, which would capture more braking energy than Toyota's current hybrid system and would make that energy available for propulsion more quickly.

Despite the obvious weight penalty of a hybrid's battery pack, the hybrid performance concept has more credibility than perhaps even Calty realizes: FIA president Max Mosley continues to discuss fitting regenerative braking and energy storage devices to Formula 1 cars by the end of the decade.

As with the powertrain, the goal of the design was to be unique. Again, Toyota took inspiration from its hybrids, namely the iconic Prius's peaked-roof profile. That triangular theme repeats itself throughout the FT-HS's dramatically creased exterior and into its cabin as well. The FT-HS further advertises its hybrid powertrain with its peek-a-boo hood, which features a hole through which one sees the engine cover with its Hybrid Synergy Drive logo. Calty's Erwin Lui likens it to the shaker hood scoops of an earlier era. Another styling element that relates to the hybrid system are the flying buttress C-pillars, which are similar to those of the Ferrari 599GTB. Here, they direct cooling air to the car's rear-mounted battery pack.

Like every other concept car, the FT-HS incorporates a number of gee-whiz features. The most obvious is the roof. A large, opaque panel slides rearward, like Porsche's 911 Targa, but it then pivots down to allow visibility to the rear. The two-plus-two becomes a two-place sports car when the roof is open.

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