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Shanghai show: Toyota reruns FT-86 II coupe concept

Tasty Toyota: Sleek FT-86 II concept is believed to be close to next year's reality.

More details and images of Toyota’s hotly anticipated FT-86 coupe emerge from China

Toyota logo19 Apr 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

PERHAPS it was too close to last week’s announcement it would continue at 50 per cent production in Japan until at least June 3, while other Japanese car-makers ramped up production in the wake of the island nation’s devastating natural disaster.

Maybe it was because of the parts supply crisis that has also crippled overseas production, leading to unmeasurable global stock and financial losses that will dramatically impact the world’s biggest car-maker for not one but two financial years.

Or was it simply keeping its powder dry for the following day’s New York motor show opening, where the Lexus LF-Gh concept would make its global debut? Either way, in stark contrast with its key American and Japanese rivals, a day after revealing it had commenced radiation testing of its export vehicles and components, Toyota had absolutely nothing new to reveal on opening day of the 14th Shanghai show.

Yes, Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda fronted in Shanghai to highlight the importance of the world’s largest vehicle market to the company that bears his name, but last month’s new Zelas, China’s upcoming E’z and the G’s Reiz concept had all been seen before.

Along with hosting 50 mostly production models on the largest (4900 square-metre) Toyota and Lexus exhibit ever seen in China, the Japanese giant did, however, roll out the sexy new FT-86 II coupe concept that made its world premiere at Geneva last month.

To celebrate, it also released a fresh image of the latest FT-86 show car – this time on a white background that shows off the muscular and aggressive new production-ready Toyota sports coupe’s perfect proportions even better than before.

They’re adjectives were haven’t used to describe any Toyota model for a long time – if ever - so the occasion is reason enough to revisit what could become one of the most important models it has ever built.

As we’ve reported, the handsome FT-86 II concept that emerged at Geneva – and now again in Shanghai and, tomorrow, New York – is a total reskin of the original FT-86 concept and the more masculine FT-86 G concept subsequently unveiled, including in Australia.

8 center imageLeft, from top: 2011 Toyota FT-86 II concept, 2009 FT-86 concept, 2010 FT-86G concept, 2011 Subaru Boxer Sports Car Architecture. Thankfully, it is also understood to closely resemble the final production version, which will become the first rear-drive Toyota coupe since the long-gone MR2 – and the first affordable Toyota coupe since the Celica - when it is released in Australia in the second half of next year with a targeted starting price in the low-$30,000s.

As has also been well documented, the low-slung brainchild of Mr Toyoda, the great grandson of Toyota’s founder, will be powered by a direct-injection version of the latest 2.0-litre flat four from Subaru, Toyota’s joint-venture partner in the ground-breaking project that will also spawn a Subaru version.

Now, however, Autocar guru Steve Cropley has unearthed some more interesting tit-bits about both 2+2 coupes, which will enter production in an as-yet unspecified Japanese factory in the second quarter of 2012.

The respected UK publication’s Australian editor says Subaru’s version of the FT-86 is codenamed 086a and will be powered by the same engine and manual transmission combination, wrapped in a unique coupe bodyshell, and expects the FT-86 to be available in Britain in two equipment grades.

Australia’s similar, albeit smaller, right-hand drive market could expect the same, but it’s doubtful the one-make race series the FT-86 is expected to initiate in Japan will be replicated here.

Autocar says the FT-86 - which will be a spiritual successor to the lightweight rear-drive Corolla AE86 coupé of the mid-1980s (hence its concept name) rather than the exclusive 1960s Toyota 2000GT, and therefore won’t be badged as a Celica - will be available with a range of performance-oriented options, as previewed by the G concept.

Perhaps most interestingly, however, Autocar says the FT-86 will be around 200kg lighter than the front-drive Volkswagen Scirocco it is aimed at in Europe, while possessing a centre of gravity – thanks to Subaru’s trademark boxer engine – even lower than that of a Porsche Boxster, which is powered by a mid-mounted flat six.

“… the two models are part of a co-operative deal that began with Toyota being allowed to use surplus Subaru manufacturing capacity in the US, and has blossomed into an agreement to create ‘several cars’ together,” reports Mr Cropley.

“The arrangement allows hard-pressed Subaru to benefit from its giant partner’s market expertise and vast economies of scale, while Toyota gets the use of Subaru’s low and compact flat-four engine and its better track record at making cars keen drivers understand and desire.” Here’s hoping he – and Toyota and Subaru – has got it right.

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