Toyota to Show Production Versions of Subaru Joint-Venture Sports Car and Lexus LF-A in Tokyo

By Chris Haak


naias-2008-190Bucking 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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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Techshake's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. The only concern I have with this Toybaru Sillicar is the fact the the words ‘novel’ (with reference to the boxer engine) and ‘Toyota’ rarely go together successly or for any length of time. Anyone remember the MR2 for example?

    It’s a nice idea but Toyota execution sometimes turns out to be seppuku.

  2. I begin to play some namegames since there was once the “Saabaru”, a Saab 9-2X who was a rebadged Subaru Impreza. I taught of “Toybaru” or “Subyota”. I have a bad felling then some beancounters might decide then the next Subaru legacy might be a rebodied Toyota Camry.

  3. I disagree that the I4/RWD combination would be rare… Mazda’s been doing it for 20 years now… Miata/MX-5!
    These vehicles aren’t huge volume sellers. They handle well but aren’t – as the article said – very practical.
    The general buyer tends to prefer front-wheel drive for its packaging and convenience and driving dynamics: I know some drivers who are afraid of RWD cars because they feel, in inclement weather, they’re more likely to have adverse handling issues. An odd opinion, to me, but it’s one that’s held, nonetheless.
    I hope Toyota does better with this than their current, highly-disappointing offerings: the new Corolla isn’t really that new, the Matrix is a joke in that it’s been made more impractical by poor styling (look at the windows), the Camry is as boring as ever, the Highlander’s long in the tooth and overweight, the RAV4’s lost its small-size/sporty appeal, the FJ Cruiser is unique in its ugliness and poor visibility, and the Tundra, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser are too big and impractical for the general public.
    So, I suppose, Toyota could use all the help from Subaru it could get. Wierd, huh?

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