Toyota to Show Production Versions of Subaru Joint-Venture Sports Car and Lexus LF-A in Tokyo
By Chris Haak
Bucking a trend that has the Tokyo auto show itself shortening its overall length by four days due to the poor global auto market, that Toyota will cheer things up a bit with sports cars at two extremes of the market. At one end is the Toyota-Subaru joint venture sports car, which some have speculated will resurrect the Celica name,and will reside on the Subaru Impreza platform and feature a four cylinder boxer engine with a Toyota-designed head that allows it to produce 220 horsepower without any forced induction. At the other end of the spectrum for Toyota in Tokyo is the company’s performance flagship, the Lexus LF-A 600+ horsepower supercar that spent countless hours in light disguise lapping the Nurburgring circuit last year and earlier.
The Lexus LF-A should prove to be a formidable competitor to European exotics like the Ferrari F430. I’m still not completely sold on the car’s shape (based on photos of disguised prototypes, the two LF-A concepts displayed in Detroit over the past few years), but at least Lexus has finally grown up from its derivative styling. It’s fair to say that Lexus isn’t really swiping styling cues from Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche in the LF-A’s design. In spite of an obvious desire to spend some time behind the wheel of a Lexus LF-A, both times I saw the concepts in Detroit, I never paid them much mind, and instead took a few obligatory photos and moved on to something that actually had an engine under its hood like the rip-snorting IS-F sedan.
If in fact the Celica name is resurrected for the new sporty coupe that Toyota is co-developing with Subaru (remember, Toyota owns a stake in Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, so it’s probably more like Toyota buying a sporty platform from Subaru and putting a Toyota body on top of it rather than co-developing the car), it’s one that carries almost four decades of history on its shoulders. The Celica was, for the most part, a well-regarded sporty coupe, and its demise a few years ago surely didn’t help in Toyota’s quest to lower the median age of its buyers. A 200- horsepower, high-revving four cylinder on a small rear wheel drive platform would seemingly be a solid competitor to inexpensive rear-drivers like the new Hyundai Genesis coupe, and even the base Chevrolet Camaro. The rear wheel drive/four cylinder combination, aside from the Genesis and extraordinariliy impractical Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky, would be a pretty unique pairing in the marketplace, and depending on factors like styling, pricing, and of course the driving experience, Toyota might be able to steal some sales from more traditional front wheel drive pocket rockets like the Volkswagen GTI, Honda Civic Si, and Chevrolet Cobalt SS/Turbocharged.
Toyota doesn’t have a reputation as a company that’s a friend of the driving enthusiast, but seeing potential glimmers of hope at both ends of the performance spectrum – but both sporty choices – certainly brightens my day a bit as there is such a drumbeat of bad news throughout the industry these days.
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