Detroit Auto Show: Toyota debuts the FT-1 Concept -- the next Supra?


Calling it a “spiritual pace car” for Toyota’s future and drawing on a robust history of sports cars, Toyota surprised many at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show on Monday by announcing the FT-1 Concept sports car.

Designed by Toyota’s California-based Calty Design Research arm, the FT-1 (“Future Toyota”) not only hints at what a future sports car from Toyota may look like, but teases design cues that may land on a wide range of vehicles from the automaker.

“The FT-1 is a dream project for a designer and car enthusiasts like myself,” Alex Shen, Calty’s chief designer, said in a statement ahead of the concept’s debut. “It is an aggressive, track-focused sports car concept with a presence that has been amplified for shock and awe.”


PHOTOS: Toyota’s FT-1 Concept

Sports cars are nothing new for Toyota, a point the automaker went out of its way to make clear during the presentation in Detroit. The brand’s performance history includes notable efforts such as the 2000GT, the MR2 and the Supra.

Yet there is a conspicuous sports-car-shaped hole in Toyota’s lineup since it discontinued the Supra in the U.S. in 1998. With Honda’s Acura arm resurrecting the NSX nameplate in hybrid form in 2015, and Nissan’s turbocharged GT-R tearing up the asphalt for decades, it’s clear Toyota doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to also play in this space.

Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion subbrand partially filled the sports-car void in 2012 with the compact FR-S (and its Subaru BRZ sister). But with a starting price of around $26,000 and 200 horsepower from a four-cylinder engine, that car leaves plenty of room for something more powerful.

PHOTOS: Highlights from the 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Enter the FT-1. Despite being a concept with no engine specifics announced, the car looks nearly ready for production. Its proportions are classic sports car: long hood, short overhangs, a deeply scalloped side vent ahead of the rear wheels. Yet 21st century bits are also included in the forward-thinking design, including a retractable rear spoiler that also tilts, and aggressive aerodynamics under the car.

The car was designed in-house at Toyota’s Newport Beach-based Calty studio. No stranger to conceiving Toyota’s sports cars, the Calty outfit was the birthplace of several notable Celica and Supra designs from Toyota’s past.

Just what might power this concept remains unknown. Whereas some automakers dump imaginary and exotic hybrid drivetrains into their far-reaching concept cars, Toyota was having none of that in the FT-1.

DETROIT AUTO SHOW: Big trucks, fast cars and more

No engine specifics of any kind were announced, but Toyota made it clear that the car would honor the traditional sports-car layout of front-engine, rear-wheel-drive with “a high-technology, high-performance internal combustion engine,” the automaker said.

Toyota is also acutely aware of a reputation for respectable yet not exactly thrilling vehicles, something it hopes to spend the next few years changing. The automaker acknowledged as much in announcing the FT-1, saying that the traditional (and slow) process of approving design was thrown out for this car.

“This new approach aims to produce cars that connect more deeply with customers, generating a more satisfying ownership experience.” Toyota said.