Detroit 2012: The Toyota NS4 Hybrid Concept Seeks a Healthy Relationship

It’s no secret that we all have relationships with our cars: sometimes they’re good, other times we’d consider a vehicular divorce. Toyota is hoping for the former with its newest concept car, the NS4, which it says looks to the future of fun-to-drive economical cars and seeks to foster “emotional and rational relationships.”

One relationship that ended before it started: while it is a hybrid, the NS4 is not a future version of the iconic Prius. Toyota Motor Sales America President Jim Lentz told reporters Tuesday that the car is envisioned as a completely separate car from the Prius family.

NS4 stands for New Sedan Four-door, and the car takes a sloping-roofline-cabin-forward shape that will look somewhat familiar to fans of the Audi A7. The front-end is dominated by angular LED running lights and a hood bulge that extends down the front end, cutting the lower front aperture in half. The effect is something between an Audi Q5 and a late 2000’s Mercedes-Benz SLK, but with even more visual drama. That drama is a bit more subdued elsewhere on the car: strong shoulders feature buttons to open the doors, and the trunk lid has been creased to give a mild rear spoiler effect. In what might seem like a nod to the Aston Martin Rapide, all four doors open out and slightly up to clear large curbs.

Inside, the car features an advanced infotainment system. The system, which uses a large multi-touch screen, brings together information and controls in one place and promises to reduce driver distractions by learning a driver’s favorite functions and helping to expedite their execution.

The NS4 also employs an arsenal of active safety features, including one we haven’t seen before: millimeter wave radar. The MMW might be most commonly known as the technology behind airport scanners, but it goes to work in the NS4 as the active radar for the car’s forward collision warning system. The radar scans the road ahead for pedestrians, obstacles, and other cars, and can automatically apply the brakes and pretense the seatbelts if a crash is imminent. In addition, the car’s headlights are active: they go a step beyond automatic high beams on/off and channel the light as to prevent glare while keeping near-high-beam illumination.

With all the talk of the NS4’s information and entertainment, as well as its safety technologies and relationship-fostering features, it may be easy to gloss over the most important feature: the NS4 will be powered by some sort of plug-in hybrid system. Toyota didn’t announce any specific details, but expect a more powerful and more efficient version of the current Prius Plug-In’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. For reference, that car makes a total of 134 horsepower by combining a 1.8-liter inline-four-cylinder engine with an 80-horsepower electric motor.

The NS4 may not have production plans, but it allegedly foreshadows the look of a production car that will hit the streets in 2015. Rumors suggest the styling of the NS4 could appear on the next-generation Camry with the technology from this concept spreading across the Toyota range.

For more on the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our Detroit Show homepage.

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