Toyota GT86 convertible could debut in Geneva next March, possibly with hybrid power
Since the Toyota GT86, the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ made their public debuts, prospective sports car buyers who want the open air freedom of convertible driving have been pleading for a drop top version of these Japanese rear wheel drive coupes. Early on, rumors suggested that the first Toyobaru sports car would be from Subaru but according to insiders who spoke with Autocar, the Toyota GT86 will be the first drop top model to arrive when it debuts in March at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. Far more surprisingly, Autocar suggests that the Toyota GT86 Convertible could pack a hybrid drivetrain that will help maintain the same level of performance as the GT86 Coupe without compromising the excellent fuel economy measures.
The main “problem” with a convertible version of the Toyota GT86 and the American-sold Scion FR-S is that the hardtop model is a very delicately engineered sports car. Removing the roof requires reinforcements in other areas and reduces chassis rigidity while also weighing more than a hardtop model due to the aforementioned reinforcements and the convertible top workings. The added weight and reduced rigidity that naturally comes with transforming a hardtop to a convertible could have serious effects on the handling of the Toyota GT86 and the Scion FR-S but on top of that – the added weight could have a big impact on how well the naturally aspired 2.0L engine gets these sports cars moving.
The challenge for the Toyota engineers in building the drop top GT86 and FR-S will be to maintain the structural rigidity of the car as to not hurt the beautiful handling of these two lightweight sports cars while not adding too much weight. It is expected that the Toyota GT86 Convertible will use a soft folding cloth top rather than the trendy and aerodynamic hard convertible top. This will keep the weight of the convertible roofline down which allows Toyota to use that weight in other areas to reinforce the topless car. Rumors indicate that the weight increases between the hardtop and convertible versions of the Toyota GT86 will be very minimal.
One of the key concerns from those who are skeptical of the 2013 Scion FR-S and Toyota GT86 is that the 197 horsepower 4-cylinder engine doesn’t pack enough punch to compete in the global sports car market. While this is a valid concern, having driven the Scion FR-S I can safely say that this is one amazing car in terms of handling and while it isn’t going to be a dragstrip monster in factory stock form – it is an incredibly exciting car to drive. However, adding weight to the FR-S could hurt the handling capabilities while having a more profound impact on acceleration. Rumors are suggesting that the Scion FR-S will still be powered by the standard 2.0L engine with 197 horsepower but the promise of little weight change between the hardtop and convertible should ensure that the ‘vert performs just as well as the coupe. However, Toyota has indicated that they are working on a higher performance version of the 2.L Boxer engine found in all of the Toyobaru sports cars that could introduce hybrid power to the Japanese GT86.
Autocar indicates that the hybrid drivetrain that could arrive in the Toyota GT86 Convertible will pack somewhere in the area of 250 horsepower – more than enough to help make up for any added weight. This hybrid drivetrain is rumored to make use of a super capacitor similar to the one used in Toyota’s winning World Endurance Championship race car. Should the Toyota GT86 arrive with a high performance hybrid drivetrain with 250 horsepower and meet a positive reception with buyers, it will be hard to imagine that Toyota will not share that drivetrain with the American Scion FR-S Convertible. Provided that the GT86 Hybrid drivetrain pack 250 horsepower in the convertible with minimal weight increases – these hybrid models could provide better performance measures than the original coupes. In any case, I fully expect that the Scion FR-S Convertible will be just as much fun to drive as the coupe with the added fun of open air cruising.