Street-Legal Open-Wheel Hybrid Being Built By…Toyota?

toyota-open-wheel-hybrid

I have never hid my disdain for Toyota, a company that says nobody wants electric cars and that it’s ugly, overpriced hydrogen cars are the future. That doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge when the company does something really cool though, like the 400 horsepower Yaris Hybrid-R hybrid concept or FT-1 Supra successor. If a report from Australia’s Motoring magazine is true, then Toyota is cooking up a street-legal, open-wheel hybrid concept that could debut this fall.

Sounds sexy, right? If there’s any company that knows hybrids, it’s Toyota, and not just because they build the Prius. The Toyota TS040 Hybrid race cars took the win at the World Endurance Championship last year, and the 2016 Prius was reportedly sent back to the drawing board for a radical design. These are all indications that Toyota might finally be embracing its fun, enthusiast side once again.

The open-wheel concept, inspired by the famous Lotus Seven, would have staggered seating for three, a front-engine/rear-drive layout, and the exposed suspension bits that just scream “DRIVE ME!!!” Power is rumored to come from a 1.5 liter gas engine pair with a small electric motor producing around 100 horsepower through a gearless CVT transmission.

Toyota is targeting a weight of just 700 kg/1,543 lbs however, which is lighter than even the Mazda Miata, a direct competitor for the unnamed Toyota street racer, allowing drivers to make good use of that 100 horsepower. If reaction is positive enough, Toyota could bring it to market as early as 2018 for under $30,000. If that happens, it will likely replace the Toyota GT-86/Scion FR-S, with global sales targeting the next generation of automotive enthusiasts, many of whom have been turned away from Toyota by a lack of exciting products.

That all said, I’m not sure there’s enough of a market right now to justify such a radical vehicle. More likely than not, this concept will fall by the wayside like so many other promising Toyota concepts. There’s my bias showing again, but can you blame me? Racing in WEC is awesome, and Toyota has definitely trotted out some cool concepts…but unless those concepts start directly influencing actual production models, it’s all show and no go, and I was just never into that sort of thing.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.