Geneva 2013: Toyota FT-86 Open Concept
Toyota’s GT86 (aka Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, etc.) was one of the most anticipated cars of 2012. With its lightweight, rear wheel drive chassi, near-perfect balance, and sporty good looks, it heralded the possible return of a long-dormant segment of affordable rear wheel drive sport coupes. Don’t think that Mazda, purveyor of the excellent MX-5 (nee Miata) wasn’t raising an eyebrow when it first heard about the Toyota FT-86 coupe; previously, it practically had a lock on fun-to-drive, efficient two doors (albeit ones with soft tops).
With Toyota’s display of the FT-86 open concept in Geneva, consider it another shot across Mazda’s bow. The current Miata, though it’s showing its age in some ways, still is probably a bit more fun-to-drive, and a bit better balanced than the FR-S/BRZ twins, will probably be losing one of its trump cards when Toyota’s sports car sheds its top in a couple of years.
Though Toyota wasn’t talking production at this stage – heck, the GT86 only debuted about a year ago, and adding a convertible is something that typically happens a few model years down the road, when it’s necessary to re-kindle interest in the aging model.
But just looking at the FT-86 Open’s detailing, and you can see that this is a car that has been designed as a convertible from the start. Toyota helpfully points out in the FT-86 Open Concept’s press release that the GT86 already has frameless doors, which makes a convertible much easier to undertake. There’s even room for both the electrically-folding softtop and a small back seat. Though journalists in Geneva were not permitted to try the concept on for size, it is quite likely that the rear seat is compromised versus the one found in the coupe, if only because there’s only so much room between the seat, trunk, and exterior sheetmetal to squeeze in a folding top and its hardware. Even if the rear seat is not capable of being occupied by humans, it still could make a convenient in-car storage spot for the likes of duffel bags and briefcases. Heck, during the winter, I rarely drive while wearing a coat, so the back seat would make an ideal coat-holding spot for me.
One thing unlikely to change dramatically is the engine. The car’s 2.0 liter boxer four produces 200 horsepower (100 horsepower per liter) and is likely to continue with similar specs for the next few model years. There are rumors that Subaru is developing a turbocharged BRZ (BRZ STI? BRZ Turbo?), but there are conflicting rumors that say the WRZ/STI turbo four won’t fit under the BRZ’s low hoodline. Having forced induction (or really any way to amp up the BRZ/GT86/FR-S) horsepower quotient by about 40-50 percent would really, really make this car come alive, so we’ll have to see what the future holds.
In the meantime, Toyota said that it showed this concept to gauge public reaction for a possible production cabriolet in the future. I’d imagine that there is probably a healthy “yes” resonating from the rafters in Geneva, with the exception of the silence coming from the Mazda booth.