The Toyota X Prologue Teases A New Era Long Overdue

Illustration for article titled The Toyota X Prologue Teases A New Era Long Overdue
Image: Toyota

We’ll get our first look at Toyota’s future a week from now. That’s when the automaker plans to pull the covers off what is probably a preview of its first fully electric vehicle — a concept dubbed the X Prologue. A teaser image of the vehicle was shared today, and you can gaze upon it above. (I’ve brightened it for visibility.)

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Normally, I don’t really bat an eye at teasers like this, especially when we’ll get to see the full thing in short order. And that full thing might not even be a working prototype, but rather a design study. This feels different, though, precisely because it’s Toyota. The company that has pooh-poohed EVs before. The very company that gave us the first popular hybrid, and then let everyone else (but mostly Tesla) slice up and take the Prius’s goodwill for themselves.

So this is an important moment. Not only because it’ll be a peek at Toyota’s first volume EV, but also because it could herald a design shift for the brand — one I personally think is long overdue.

Toyota’s current range isn’t all that dated, to be fair. The Sienna is brand new, the Highlander and Venza were recently rejuvenated and the Mirai is sort of pretty. But much of its range still looks old, like the Camry with its weird winged grille design that no other Toyota really has. Or how about the Tacoma and Tundra, which have now inherited the mantle of “most ancient pickups” after the Nissan Frontier’s glow-up.

A sketch of Toyota’s battery-electric SUV, teased in December.
A sketch of Toyota’s battery-electric SUV, teased in December.
Illustration: Toyota

The X Prologue could be the first sign of things changing. And in this front quarter view, we can already see that none of the hallmarks of current Toyota design — like the oversize grilles and frivolous creases — appear to be present. I see some of the new Honda Fit (no, not our ugly old Fit that’s been discontinued) in the way the headlights meet the nose. And the new Fit sure is one cute little hatchback. I’m making myself sad right now just thinking about it.

I suppose Toyota had no choice but to drop some of those tired motifs, especially given that conventional grilles serve no purpose on EVs. Whatever the cause, I’m hopeful that the X Prologue will signal a positive new direction when we get to see all of it. Supposedly, it will be a compact model — Toyota calls it “a ‘small’ preview of what’s next” in its press blip. But at least one of the two Toyota EVs we’ll likely get in the U.S. beginning next year will probably be a larger crossover. Look for that to be built on the e-TNGA platform co-developed with Subaru we’ve heard so much about but have yet to see in the flesh.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

DISCUSSION

cimjr
Ermahgerd!

I have to wonder, is Toyota an idiot for taking this long to finally get in on EVs, or are they genius for waiting until we were on the path towards mass adoption?

A lot the engineering needed for a successful EV can be poached from their hybrid and hydrogen vehicle knowhow, and the economies of scale for battery production are much lower than they were when it was only Tesla in the space.