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Toyota FT-86: The Affordable Driver's Car?

Toyota FT-86 II Concept
I have written previously about Why I Idolise Rear-Wheel-Drive, and it seems that Toyota (and strangely enough its development partner Subaru) agrees that a true driver's car should be driven by the rear wheels. Shown in its latest concept form at this year's Geneva Motor Show, the FT-86 might just be the perfect affordable sports car. The latest concept is reportedly quite close to the production model, and is a refreshing return to reality from the boy racer version that I was lucky enough to view in the flesh at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney last October. I have followed the FT-86 since its first concept form, but it was only when Toyota's European division released production specifications this week that the reality of this car hit me: here is a real-sports car for the masses, a refreshing addition to a global new car fleet dominated by bland-mobiles and econoboxes. The production version of the FT-86 will sport a 2.0 litre naturally aspirated boxer engine of Subaru origin, that will utilise Toyota's D4-S technology, which combines both direct injection and port inject. Both manual and automatic transmissions will be offerred, each with six cogs, although in my book no matter how 'sporty' Toyota claims the auto box will be, only the six-speed manual is really worth a mention. Power outputs have not been confirmed, although a healthy increase on the 110kw of Subaru's current iteration of its 2.0 boxer is likely. I would like to see at least 150kw coupled to a relatively lean weight, but we will have to wait a little longer for those details to surface.

The appeal of the FT-86 is not simply that it is a rear-drive sports car - there are plenty of these available if you have enough cash. What is more exciting is the likelihood of a true sports car with a low price-point, and the prospect of a car that acknowledges you can have a lot of fun on a good chassis without a excess of power, and the associated build and running costs of a high-output engine.

In my mind two big questions remain about the FT-86. Firstly can Toyota, manufacturer of some of the best selling bland-mobiles on the planet and better know for 'green' than 'sporty', build a driver's car worth driving? I think Toyota has its intentions right in the development of the FT-86, and the collaboration with Subaru should only benefit the car's dynamics. Secondly, will it actually be affordable? Speculations on US pricing have dwelled in the US$20,000-US$25,000 range. If these are accurate, I would suspect that Australian pricing would likely fall in the $30,000-$40,000 range, despite the Aussie dollar continuing to trade above parity with the USD. A starting price closer to $30,000 would be great value, and could compete with with cars like the Mini Cooper for child-free car buyers looking for an involving drive. Where this car could fall down however, is prestige. Will fashion-conscious car buyers really buy a car with a Toyota badge? I hope that if the FT-86 is as good as it should be that the answer is yes.

There is one other question I have too: when can we see the Subaru version?


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