Toyota Will Build High-Performance FR-S, But Powertrain is a Mystery
It’s no secret that when the performance specs for the Toyota GT86 (Scion FR-S) and its Subaru BRZ cousin were finally released, many in the automotive press and potential customers were somewhat surprised that a more powerful version wasn’t available, but everyone knew that Toyota was hiding something up its sleeve for later. During the Geneva Motor Show press days last week, Autocar’s Matt Saunders spoke with Tetsuya Tada, the car’s chief engineer, about the future of the low-slung 2+2. As expected, Toyota is considering forced induction for a a hi-po GT86, but, taking a cue from new hybrid hypercars like the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari, an electric motor is also being considered to provide additional horsepower.
Using a hybrid powertrain for the top-of-the-line GT86 is certainly an interesting prospect, and it does have a few obvious advantages compared to a super- or turbocharger. As it is, the sports coupe enjoys a near-perfect weight distribution at 53/47 front/rear. It’s unlikely that Toyota would use an electric motor to power the front wheels, so the motors would probably be placed in the rear, making the car a bit more tail-happy than it already is (although better rubber would counteract this). A hybrid system would definitely be heavier than a super-or turbocharger, but Toyota has been developing hybrid systems for over 15 years now and knows how to make a fuel-efficient car. So the GT86 Hybrid could run on battery power for a few dozen miles in city driving, and then spend a little gas working the motor out in the countryside.
Given Toyota’s overall insistence on fuel efficiency, Toyota’s past experience in using turbochargers, and knowing the standard GT86’s position as a great handler rather than stoplight racer, a supercharger is extremely unlikely. A turbocharger would obviously be a less expensive option than a hybrid powertrain, but that doesn’t exactly coincide with Toyota’s recent “green” philosophy. A hybrid engine wouldn’t suffer from turbo lag, and unlike combustion engines, electric motors enjoy full power from 0RPM, which would give the GT86 great off-the-line performance. Or Toyota could surprise everyone and use both a turbocharger and electric motor working in tandem. It is unclear whether Toyota has access to such technology, but if it does, the GT86 would be the perfect place for that tech to debut!