Toyota’s been more conservative than most about pushing toward an all-electric range of cars, but that appears to be changing. The company unveiled a barrage of EV design studies on Tuesday, some of which even wore Lexus badges. There were crossovers and retro-inspired SUVs, as well as kei cars and conventional sedans. But two particular concepts within the group caught my eye specifically: the Toyota Sports EV and Lexus Electrified Sport.
If you’re above a certain age, it’s impossible to see the yellow Sports EV, with its sloping hood, haunches at all four corners and nonexistent overhangs, and not think “MR2.” And I think Toyota knows that. Rumors have come and gone over the past decade that the company’s pondered the idea of a midengine sports car situated between the GR 86 and Supra, but such a vehicle has never amounted to more than that: rumors.
Perhaps electrification has spurred Toyota to finally make the products it should have been making all along, which is not at all unusual among the old guard of established automakers. Now that they need everyone’s goodwill to get people onboard with EVs, they’re suddenly desperate for the enthusiasm.
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Putting inspiration aside, the bigger question is how Toyota plans to make something like this. Will it stack the batteries in a brick behind the cabin to evoke the driving dynamics of a classic midengine sports car, like Lotus is going to for its Elise successor? There’s absolutely no way to know for sure, because Toyota didn’t concentrate on the Sports EV or really any individual concept in its presentation. We have no specs and no details; just exterior models.
There’s a little more to tell about the Lexus Electrified, which carries bits of LF-A and FT-1 in its shape and light signature. Of that car, Lexus global brand chief Koji Sato says:
The endless pursuit of the Lexus Driving Signature will move to the next stage through development of the new Sports Battery EV.
With bold proportions and low ride height essential to a sports car, it will showcase the unique driving performance of a Lexus and become a model that symbolizes the future of the brand.
Acceleration time will be in the low 2 second range, cruising range over 700km (435mi), and with the possible use of solid-state batteries in mind, we will aim to create a truly high performance Battery EV.
Given that Sato is acknowledging this car directly, I’m inclined to think it’ll eventually be available to the public. That’s not to say it will look at all like this — don’t forget how dramatically different the Toyota FT-86 looked from the production 86 that eventually came. Still, his tone provides the impression that Lexus will eventually make something tangible of this concept.
Toyota plans to roll out 30 EV models by 2030 across both its global brands, according to CEO Akio Toyoda. There were 16 on stage in Tuesday’s presentation, including models we’ve already seen, like the bZ4X, and a nameless pickup that sort of looks like the new Tundra but might actually be a Tacoma.
I don’t think Toyota, conservative as ever, is making this up as it goes along. The company clearly has the money and resources to achieve its goals and build damn near whatever it likes. But it’s easy to make CG renders and clay models and — intentionally or not — forecast a future that never comes true.
Looking at that field of stationary Toyotas and Lexuses, I can’t help but recall Lotus’ six-concept showing at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, none of which ever wound up in drivable form, let alone a showroom. Lotus, especially at its Dany Bahar-owned nadir, assuredly did not have the money and resources to build damn near whatever it liked, but it was able to pretend. Anyone can pretend.
I say this because I want to look forward to seeing these sports cars on the road, especially the Sports EV. In it, I see some of the Honda Sports Vision Gran Turismo, along with the roofline of the Alfa 4C. Visually, it has all the makings of the proper MR2 follow-up so many have been waiting for, for so long. I’d hope Toyota wouldn’t dare dangle that carrot in front of us without intending to make it real. You wouldn’t toy with us like that Toyota, would you?