Few upcoming new vehicles have been the basis of so many conflicting rumors and twists and turns and sheer flat-out speculation as the Toyota/Subaru joint-venture sports coupe that was previewed by the Toyota FT-86 concept. Most surprisingly, the latest round of rumors are centered on additional variants and derivatives of a single model that itself has been the subject of several rounds of cancellation and delay rumors. First came word of a second, smaller sub-FT-86 sports coupe with little or no Subaru input, and now comes seemingly preposterous talk of an FT-86-derived rear-wheel-drive sedan. At first glance, this one sets off all the B.S.-detector alarms to full-on red alert, especially given its appearance on the obscure CarsGuide.com.au website, but seeing that its author is the esteemed and generally credible Japan-based Australian journalist Peter Lyon, we should, perhaps, pay some attention. And, we must admit that the notion of a 4-door sedan sibling for the FT-86 is a very tantalizing one as a “son-of-Toyota Altezza” (and Lexus IS 200), the Toyota brand’s last unqualified sport sedan hit.
Yet, we should note that Lyon is hardly infallible, and his comment that this new Toyota RWD (or FR for the JDM-centric) sedan would use the Subaru Impreza’s six-speed manual transmission (or CVT) should be weighed against earlier talk that the transmission of choice for the “Toyobaru platform” would, instead, be the Aisin AZ6 six-speed manual shared by the Honda S2000, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Mazda RX-8…and the Toyota Altezza/Lexus IS200.
More than likely, Akio Toyoda shares just-retired General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz’s dream of a full line of small, affordable, sporty and fun-to-drive rear-wheel-drive vehicles in multiple body styles that make maximum efficient use of the deep parts bin of a large full-line carmaker. Lutz’s vision led to the clever (albeit heavy and not-all-that-space-efficient) Kappa platform that, sadly, only saw production as the Saturn Sky roadster and Pontiac Solstice coupe and convertible. Stretched Kappa variants were revealed as Chevrolet Nomad, Saturn Curve and Holden Torana TT36 concept cars that, unfortunately, went nowhere. Indeed, the “Kappa Nomad”, which received rave reviews from the automotive press and is a huge favorite of this author’s, was slated for production but was shot down by both tepid reaction from the general public that didn’t “get it” and dealers that didn’t want to deal with a niche product. As to the stillborn smaller-than-Commodore Holden sedan, it was also slated for a Pontiac offshoot as a cheaper BMW 3-Series/Lexus IS rival. Alas, none of this ever came to friution and, similarly, if Akio Toyoda indeed harbors Lutz-like dreams, his will also be an uphill battle with the passionless bureaucrats, pencil-pushers and bean counters.
Peter Lyon muses that “given that more power might be required down the line, Toyota will have the ability to bring the Subaru Outback’s 3.6 litre H6 engine into the equation.” Lyon, quite frankly, isn’t the only one thinking along those lines, as this author, back in July 2008 wrote about the notion of a Lexus SR 300, SR 360 and SR F line of 2-seat Audi TT / BMW Z4 / Mercedes SLK / Porsche Boxster-rivalling roadsters as yet another Toyobaru platform derivative.
Artist’s impression rendering from CarsGuide.com.au