Since the dawn of time, man has labored to stuff tremendous power into subcompact hatchbacks. The MG Metro 6R4, Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, Renault R5 Turbo, and Beck's Ford Festiva Shogun were all originally born as no-nonsense commuter cars, but were later transformed into nonsensical sports cars. The Toyota Yaris Hybrid R concept, which debuts at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, adheres to this age-old tradition, save for one caveat: it's a hybrid-electric vehicle.
The wild, muscle-bound hatchback you see here is the handicraft of Toyota Motorsport GmbH. Based in Germany, TMG is Toyota's former F1 development wing that now preoccupies itself prepping hybrid Le Mans prototypes, tuning Yaris hatchbacks for WRC rallying, storming up Pikes Peak with an electric race car, and playing with Nurburgring-friendly variants of the Lexus LS sedan. Who better to transform the European Yaris Hybrid into a fire-breathing hybrid hot hatch?
Although TMG could have played around with the Yaris Hybrid's existing hybrid hardware, it instead opted to craft an all-new powertrain synergy -- one Toyota claims borrows some technology from TMG's hallowed TS030 LMP racer.
That technology doesn't include the combustion engine. While the TS030 makes use of a 3.4-liter V-8, the Yaris Hybrid R instead uses a turbocharged, 1.6-liter I-4 that TMG is homologating for use in a future Yaris WRC rally car. In normal tune, the engine -- known within Toyota as the "Global Racing Engine" -- produces close to 300 hp. But, add three electric motors to the mix, and the car's net output jumps to 420 hp.
Unlike the rear-drive TS030, the Yaris Hybrid R is configured as a through-the-road, all-wheel-drive hybrid. Although one electric motor, sandwiched between the engine and a six-speed sequential manual transmission, could feasibly drive the front wheels, it primarily functions as a generator, recapturing energy normally lost during braking and sending it to a supercapacitor -- a trick pulled from the TS030. However, the pair of 60-hp motors installed at the rear of the car do provide tractive force, and transform the front-wheel-drive Yaris into an all-wheel-drive machine. Better yet, by assigning one motor to each wheel, torque can be vectored to the outside wheel in a corner, improving the car's turn-in. Sound familiar? The 2015 Acura NSX promises the same, albeit applied to its front wheels.
Stuffing this sort of sophisticated, powerful machinery into the shell of a Yaris could make for the ultimate sleeper, but since the Yaris Hybrid R's first priority is to draw visitors to Toyota's display, it's received a number of exterior revisions. The front fascia bears a cross-shaped accent shaped like Lexus' spindle grille, which is surrounded by three large air intakes. The center opening is enveloped by a blue accent, which both extends down to the front splitter and wraps around the sides of the car, forming an accent stripe. Large, 10-spoke aluminum wheels are painted black and trimmed with silver accents, and large openings in the rear bumper fascia are also highlighted with a familiar blue hue.
Toyota hasn't released any performance or economy claims to date, but it might grow more talkative during its Frankfurt press conference. Even so, don't expect any bit of the Yaris Hybrid R -- other than its homologated four-banger, of course -- to become reality any time soon.