Easily one of the wildest concept cars at the North American International Auto Show, the Toyota FT-1 bridges Toyota's sporty past with what the company promises will be a daring and aggressive future. The "spiritual pace car for a changing, evolving Toyota" previews what Toyota hopes is its most exciting generation of vehicles ever. Put simply, the FT-1 is the Future of Toyota, example Number 1.
The FT-1 looks like a wild concept piece created solely for a dramatic overnight spike in company buzz. The type of concept car that disappears a couple months after its debut without a modicum of impact on production. However, straight from Toyota, the FT-1 is a more substantial concept car, a first look at its design future. It's a future that reflects Akio Toyoda's directive for high-energy, emotional vehicles that make drivers scream out "I want this!" A move away from safe, survey-approved car designs and toward riskier, more impactful vehicles.
"Beyond its obvious five-alarm visual impact, FT-1 is symbolic of a new chapter for Toyota Global Design," explains Calty Design Research president Kevin Hunter. "This provocative concept truly captures the passion, excitement, and energy of the Toyota we are evolving into and embodies elements of the emotion and performance that Toyota will imprint upon future production designs."
The concept previews the future but draws heavily on the past, pulling inspiration from sports cars like the 2000GT, Celica and Supra. The radical styling is also based heavily on the not-so-radical strategy of "Function-Sculpting." Elements like the beaky, Enzo-lite front-end and raised wing may seem rooted in visual impact, but they're actually more about functionality. The various carves and cuts are built to "manage dirty air" and deliver cooling to the mechanicals behind the cavernous body. The retractable rear wing deploys and tilts forward at high speeds, cranking up downforce.
Inside, the functional sculpting takes on a lightweight form. Toyota saves on weight and materials by using just enough padding in the areas most likely to come into contact with the driver and passenger.
The driver-centric "slingshot" cabin is as sporty as the exterior, designed to be the place where serious driving business gets done. A jet-inspired, color heads-up display shoots information straight ahead, keeping the driver informed but fully focused on the road ahead. Steering wheel-mounted controls prevent the hands from being distracted from the primary duty of keeping the car planted squarely on the road or track.
Toyota didn't design the FT-1 with a specific engine in mind, but it's clear about the car being a rear-wheel drive powered by an internal combustion engine. The concept includes a glass-paneled hood designed to give onlookers a glimpse at the powerplant below.
Some media reports suggest that the FT-1 design may preview more than just general design language, possibly showing a rough look at an eventual Supra successor. Toyota remains mum on that prospect, but it will offer sports car enthusiasts the chance to track-test the FT-1 concept car ... by way of a driving simulator in the Gran Turismo 6 video game. Akio Toyoda was one of the first to try the simulation, and he beat his best real-life Lexus LFA lap time on the Fuji Speedway. GT6 owners can now download the concept car themselves.