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Detroit show: New direction for Toyota hybrid

Plug-in future: The mid-sized Toyota NS4 hybrid sedan concept made its public debut at the Detroit motor show this week.

Non-Prius mid-size NS4 concept showcases Toyota’s plug-in hybrid future – and more

Toyota logo11 Jan 2012

By TERRY MARTIN

TOYOTA has signalled its intention to expand its dedicated-hybrid model range beyond the Prius stable with the world premiere of the medium-sized plug-in NS4 concept at the Detroit motor show this week.

Emerging in a heavily curved, five-door liftback body style, the NS4 is described as a dedicated plug-in hybrid “separate from the Prius family” and is billed as representing a new styling direction for the Toyota brand “aimed at creating an emotional connection with consumers”.

It features a next-generation version of the Japanese auto giant’s plug-in Hybrid Synergy Drive system that is currently in service in the Prius Plug-In – a model that is under consideration for sale in Australia.

Among the improvements listed are reductions in component size and weight, shorter charging times, improved overall fuel economy, better acceleration and a longer driving range.

However, specific details are still to be provided on how the NS4 improves over the plug-in version of the Prius, which, like other models in the expanding family, combines a 73kW/142Nm 1.8-litre petrol engine with a 60kW/207Nm electric motor.

8 center imageThe Prius Plug-In’s 5.2kWh lithium-ion battery enables an electric-only driving range of only around 20km. The major benefit is its European fuel efficiency target of just 2.2L/100km and ultra-low CO2 emissions of 49g/km – almost half that of the standard Prius.

This means Toyota’s bigger and presumably heavier NS4 should achieve even better results, providing of course that it takes the next step into production. “The NS4 was envisioned as a dedicated plug-in hybrid, separate and removed from the Prius family,” said Toyota Motor Sales USA president Jim Lentz.

“This all-new concept reflects a ‘greater than’ vision of mobility – as in ‘greater than the sum of its impressive level of features’.

“Beyond its advanced powertrain and next-generation safety systems, the central theme of this concept is on the human connection to the car.

“In other words, technology that considers both the emotional and rational relationships person-to-car and car-to-society, all wrapped in a high-style, hardtop-like body signalling Toyota’s new direction in design.”

The safety systems referred to include a next-generation pre-collision system (PCS) with lane departure, rear-end and pedestrian collision avoidance technologies based on ‘millimetre-wave radar’ and stereo cameras mounted on the front of the vehicle.

A new blind-spot monitor has also been developed, along with adaptive driving beam headlights that improve visibility without the glare associated with normal high-beam illumination.

An extra level of pedestrian protection is provided with a new pop-up bonnet structure, while four new glass technologies are integrated into the vehicle.

The NS4 also demonstrates Toyota’s latest work in vehicle connectivity, with the headline act a Human-Machine Interface (HMI) built around a touchscreen that has the look and feel of a smartphone.

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