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Tokyo show: Toyota Australia panting for S-FR

Just make it: Toyota fans can look forward to a baby brother for the 86 sports coupe, especially if Toyota Australia has its way.

Baby sports coupe a winner with Toyota in Australia, even before it is confirmed

Toyota logo29 Oct 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in TOKYO

TOYOTA Australia has its hand firmly in the air for the Japanese giant’s latest potential sports offering, the S-FR light coupe – provided it is built.

Of course, no one at the Tokyo motor show where the car was revealed yesterday is in any doubt that the lightweight rear-wheel-drive speedster with a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre engine will arrive in showrooms, especially as Toyota has already confirmed it is planning two more sportscars – one either side of the current Toyota 86 – to complete its three-car sports line-up.

Toyota Australia sales and marketing executive director Tony Cramb told GoAuto that he regarded the diminutive S-FR as a potential winner.

“I love it,” he said. “I think it is gorgeous.”

Mr Cramb said the Toyota 86 – the 2+2 coupe developed jointly with Subaru – had been a total success for Toyota Australia.

He said the company had sold more than 15,000 of the affordable sports coupes, making the Australian branch of Toyota the third biggest market for it.

“Toyota has been looking to expanding its fun-to-drive offerings, and the 86 has been just that,” he said.

“(Toyota president) Akio Toyoda has been looking for more of that,” he said.

“This (the S-FR) is a good sign.”

Mr Cramb said the “three in the set” of Toyota sports machines would allow Toyota to appeal to different audiences, with each model designed to appeal to a separate customer.

He said the S-FR – standing for Sports Front engine, Rear drive – was not a big, powerful car, but would deliver loads of driving fun.

“This is more about changing the company to one that produces cars that people want and love,” he said.

Mr Cramb said the S-FR had not been signed off for production, but that his company was already doing its homework to see how it would be positioned and who it would appeal to, should it roll off the production line.

The S-FR is said to weigh less than a tonne and stretch less than four metres long, giving it sprightly performance despite the lack of cubic inches under the bonnet.

The vehicle appears to be built on a unique platform, with the rear-wheel layout owing nothing to other Toyota products.

Of course, the 86 is on an architecture borrowed from Subaru, but there is no suggestion that the S-FR shares that platform, nor that Subaru will share the car.

The 1.5-litre engine produces about 97kW, and is mated exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission.

The power-to-weight ratio makes it a sort of coupe competitor to the new Mazda MX-5, although a drop-top is not on the cards – yet.

Many pundits suggest it will go on sale in 2017, and will be followed by a born-again Supra that, based on concepts from Toyota, will take on the Porsche 911.

Also on the Toyota stand at Tokyo is a new hydrogen fuel-cell concept, FCV Plus, that forms Toyota’s vision of the hydrogen future beyond Mirai – the world’s first production FCV.

Apart from S-FR, the Toyota show crowd pleaser was the fanciful but kooky Kikai – an inside-out buggy with an impressive array of metal bits on the outside, including suspension parts.

Never destined for production, it nevertheless gathered a huge crowd with big smiles.

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