OYAMA, Japan -- Toyota President Akio Toyoda unveiled his company's new 200-horsepower rear-wheel-drive sporty car before thousands of fans at a Formula One race track on Sunday in his bid to spice up a brand better known for bland but utilitarian offerings such as the Corolla and Camry.
The car, to be called the Toyota 86 in Japan, the Toyota GT 86 in Europe and Scion FR-S in the United States, has been in the works for five years and received close scrutiny from Toyoda, who is banking on the car as an affordable halo model to burnish the company's performance credentials.
The 86, which has a top speed of 230 kilometers (142 miles) an hour and will hit showrooms in the spring. It accelerates from standstill to 100 kph in six seconds. But raw speed is not the goal, says chief engineer Tetsuya Tada. The model's true mission is multifold:
- Achieve a low price point that can lure recent college graduates.
- Strive for fun-to-drive handling with a low center of gravity.
- Strip out fancy electronic control systems and turbochargers.
- Deliver a ride that can be easily customized and tuned by car buffs.
Toyota hasn't disclosed a price or fuel economy estimates. But the company has said it is targeting a sticker around 2 million yen ($26,000). Tada said the goal is to price the car in a range that would be affordable to recent college graduates.
"A lot of cars these days are controlled by computer chips, and that leads to a sense of the car driving you, instead of you driving the car," Tada said after the 86's introduction today at the Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway outside Tokyo near the base of snow-capped Mount Fuji.
"We decided to use as few computer controls as possible. We wanted to go back to basics."
The 86 was jointly developed with Subaru, which debuts its version -- the BRZ -- at this week's Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota did the styling, while Subaru provided the four-cylinder horizontally opposed boxer engine. Subaru will build both versions at its factory in Gumma, Japan.
Toyoda -- clad in a red-and-black racing suit -- introduced the car himself by flooring a bright vermillion 86 down the straightaway at the Fuji Speedway, where some 20,000 car buffs gathered to witness the debut and participate in the annual Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival.
The car's name in Japan -- 86 -- is a nod to the popular AE86 line of Corolla-based sports cars that Toyota rolled out in the 1980s. Toyota evoked its sporty roots at the tuner festival with a parade of vintage sports cars that included Toyota fan club members driving their original 86s, 2000 GTs, Sport 800s from the 1960s and a sampling of souped up Supras.
The 86 first appeared as a candy-apple red FT-86 concept at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. In Japan, the production version drops the "FT," nomenclature for concepts that means "Future Toyota." In Europe, the car will be sold as the Toyota GT 86.