Wednesday, January 12, 2011

After tasting the delights very different from the LF-A competition and two variants rather vivacious iQ, Toyota has always helped in its day Doki Waku inside the Fuji Speedway to take the wheel of a single prototype, Hybrid Sports Concept. This car has surprised everyone during his appearance at the Tokyo show just last year, but it has a long history. 

RM-S catalog disappeared in the summer of 2007 (when we had the chance to drive the final edition of the car). Latest incarnation of the lineage MR and rare mid-engine car at a reasonable price, it has had an honorable career but discreet, not meeting the success it deserves beyond a core fan connoisseurs. Toyota did not then see fit to replace it, but in the months that followed, fans spyshots remember, a MR-S draped in black on the wheelbase has been modified to run on the Nürburgring . Bits of information known as a hybrid engine, without elaborating, before the prototype can not be obliterated, Toyota has relegated the sport at the bottom of the list of priorities. The development had not stopped so far, Hiromu Naruse by his pet project and thus it resurfaced in 2010, having earned his stripes concept. The purpose of this exercise is to explore the possibility of a genuinely sporty car using the hybrid system HRT 2. Early MR-S laboratory has received for that engine of the Lexus RX400h, a whole 3.3 liter V6 and electric motor modified to provide a little more than 400 horses that pass through the ground wheel drive. The gearbox is a CVT with an experimental manual mode with paddle wheel. And Meister Naruse forces, the running gear and steering are adjusted to the small pile after thousands of miles on various test sites. 

The hybrid sport is a difficult concept to consider because it must satisfy two different audiences with two conflicting goals: economic and minimal environmental impact on one side, power, pleasure and pleasure driving on the other. The challenge is important, however: the final acceptance of hybrid technology will not only win the hearts of enthusiasts. The mixed reception reserved for the Honda CR-Z shows that ideal balance is not easy to find. Is this very special MR-S is the right answer? Toyota offered us to check by ourselves, and obviously we did not pray. Encamped on wide tracks and lowered the little MR-S impresses more than it attracted. Not really beautiful, with its large front bumper and diffuser equally massive, it attracts and promises as can a race car. The interior is typically designed for the show, with a console painted carbon made to shine the spotlight shows, but the cockpit is fully functional (except the paddle to look very fragile, Toyota man implored us also do not touch). Nevermind, the CVT automatic mode was sufficient for the proposed route: track pitch, not to tempt fate, but a rather long route via the service roads around the circuit, deserted, offered a playground while very interesting. The start is typical of a Toyota hybrid the ignition has no detectable consequence except for the illumination of the dashboard, but it starts to move when pressing accelerator. Immediately we understood that it is not in a Prius. Even a few km / h and without noise, the car, laid down on its wide track, retransmits the slightest changes in the coating and the steering is extremely direct. The more voluntary support on the right pedal at the start of the first long straight wakes the V6 and the car accelerates, accelerates, accelerating ... The CVT works like it should always be done by changing the thrust continues faithfully torque V6 / electric motor speed increasing, without delay, without the effect of throwing too typical of my experiences with this type of box. 

It works! Despite Toyota's claimed 4.5 sec from 0 to 100 km / h, however, did not experience the wildness of a GT-R supercar, Porsche Turbo or, in another genre, Caterham, because of therefore a weight (1270kg) and a less typical motor sport. The feelings are there, but when the road turns that the car is fully appreciated at best. Direction, precise, vivid, is sublime, the perfect cushioning and the car is very balanced, even if a little heavy for its size. We understand that Toyota wants to share experience. However, it is relative. This validates the concept car hybrid sports is undeniable. But it is difficult to see how it could be justified by the status report of cars like Porsche Cayman, Lotus Evora and others cut a central engine, even with better fuel economy. This would work on weight, engine and especially the price. The structure Gazoo Racing cars and experimental is not necessarily equipped to do a large scale, but has enough independence to continue to explore. A new version of the car will be presented this weekend at the Tokyo Auto Salon, more and more close to validation. For completeness, note that after the iQ and the Hybrid Sports Concept, Toyota has also made available to journalists invited a group of atypical products sold outside of Japan: FJ Cruiser, Scion xD, Hilux, Aygo (a discovery!) ... which we will on occasion. Still boring, Toyota, after this experience? We must first acknowledge the initiative itself, a sign that the manufacturer is aware of the problem and willing to address them. In terms of cars tested, it shows that the approach used with Gazoo Racing, a commando-like structure not having to obey the same rules as the rest of the huge industrial and bureaucratic machine that is the world's leading manufacturer, can lead to interesting results. It remains to be seen whether these cars, and more generally the spirit that led to their design, can diffuse into the rest of the company. Naruse wanted, Toyoda wishes. Hopefully the rest of the mastodon Nagoya now there will be significant.

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