Is Toyota working on a manual transmission hybrid powertrain for a Prius Sport Coupe?

Although, to date, Toyota has only confirmed Prius Alpha/v/+, Plug-In and upcoming Prius c additions to the growing Prius family, rumors have been reported over the past couple of years of a Sport Coupe Prius as a later derivative, and the fanciful rendering above (from Japan’s Holiday Auto) certainly bears a Lexus LFA-meets-7th-generation Toyota Celica mashup feel to it. To date, these rumors have been met by this author with a “meh” and a shrug, writing off the very notion of a Prius Sport Coupe as a secretary’s chick car for Southern California tree huggers.

Although Lexus certainly proved that even front-wheel-drive hybrid chassis could be made into somewhat entertaining handlers with the CT and even HS models, a CVT (continuously variable) transmission often emerges as the weak link in the fun-to-drive chain. After all, attempts to add to the CT 200h’s enthusiast cred via a “manual” mode and paddle shifters for the CVT ended up with disappointed engineers deeming it not worthy for export, relegating it to a Japanese Domestic Market option with hopes for future improvement. In a recent report by Japan-based Australian journalist Peter Lyon which appeared in both a recent print edition of Evo magazine and on Motor Trend‘s website, however, Lyon paints a picture of a far more enthusiast-friendly Prius Sport Coupe. A passage from the article states that

One of the highlights of this coupe will be the option of a manual transmission that Toyota is developing for hybrids at the Higashi-Fuji proving ground near Mt. Fuji. That manual gearbox will be bolted to the company’s next-generation hybrid system with plug-in capability, a system that will be completely new and not inherited from the Prius.

While this reflexively brings on cheers and hurrahs from the row-your-own, Save the Manuals! crowd, this author nevertheless is somewhat skeptical. After all, Honda’s CR-Z hybrid 2-seater, available with a manual transmission, has met with both tepid reviews and sales. Granted, Toyota’s Hybrid System Drive is miles ahead of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist in terms of both refinement and fuel economy, and a manual Toyota HSD powertrain sounds intriguing, but still…

Regardless of transmission, one would imagine a Prius Sport Coupe as a front-wheel-drive derivative of Toyota’s MC platform architecture, just like the Prius 5-door hatchbacks, Toyota Avensis, Lexus HS… and the Scion tC coupe. With the upcoming Scion FR-S rear-wheel-drive sports coupe coming in less than a year, there is serious potential for cannibalization with tC, and updating the front-wheel-drive tC as a Toyota-badged hybrid sounds like a logical solution to this issue. Yet, Lyon suggests this is not the case. Instead,

Our spies tell us that the sports coupe will employ a rear-drive platform and will incorporate the plug-in hybrid unit with lightweight Li-ion batteries that generate significantly more power than the current Prius

Thus, he suggests that a Prius Sport Coupe would, instead, be one more possible FT-86 derivative. Again, this is something we would love to see, yet can’t help but feel skeptical about.

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One thought on “Is Toyota working on a manual transmission hybrid powertrain for a Prius Sport Coupe?

  1. In a recent entry on Automotive News‘ blogs, Richard Johnson reports this exhange with
    Satoshi Ogiso, one of the original five-member development team that worked on the 1st-generation Toyota Prius:

    “Toyota officials say there are no plans for Prius-branded vehicles beyond the four they have now. But can the brand reach a million sales, doubling its current volume, with the current four-car lineup?

    ‘It’s a very good question,’ says Ogiso. ‘Maybe it’s not possible. For this target we should expand by one or two models — or something.’

    Would a Prius sports car be among them?

    ‘That is another big theme for the Prius brand management. It is one good item. We don’t have any results for that study…but some possibility exists.’ “

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