What class of car will the Toyota FT-1 be and what engine will it have?
Despite rumors on the internet that the Toyota has a firm drivetrain picked out for the FT-1 Vision concept, Toyota has not yet said. The basic car is a coupe and rear drive. This we know. The rest is conjecture and unconfirmed rumor. However, we can pick apart some of the things that Toyota has said about the car to find some clues. The engine compartment has a fake engine cover in the photos, but just its size and layout also provides a clue.
What Toyota Has Said About the FT-1
In an early press release Toyota said the car is “heavily influenced by Toyota's long sports car tradition that includes vehicles such as 2000GT, Celica, Supra and most recently, FT-86 (Scion F-RS).” So if this is the inspiration, all evidence points to the FT-1 not being an Acura NSX or Nissan GT-R competitor. That would be a relief. About 14 crazy-rich people a decade buy those cars, and I am never going to be one of them. I have, however, owned a Supra and would consider one again. So I hope that the inspiration does predict the future.
In a later release Toyota made the inspiration of the designer more clear with this direct quote of Alex Shen, Calty’s Studio Chief Designer. Alex said, “Our team was heavily influenced by Toyota’s sports car past, especially Celica and Supra, and we sought to capture some of that history. It is an aggressive, track-focused sports car concept with a presence that has been amplified for shock and awe.”
This actually muddies the waters. Neither the Celica nor the Supra, nor the Celica Supra for that matter, were really track-focused cars. They were grand touring cars, and some of the best ever built, certainly in the top few for their generations. If the new FT-1 is to be “track-focused” it may not be a true GT, but harder-edged.
Past Engines, Current Engines, Actual Engines
The Celica always had a four cylinder engine. For a time, it was turbocharged, but those few cars sold terribly in the US market. The Supra was always an in-line 6-cylinder engine. Some were turbocharged, and those became legends. Compare a last-gen Supra to a BMW 435i; Rear-drive coupe with 2+2 seating, in-line turbo 3-liter six, 300HP (320 for the Supra). Why is everyone so impressed by the BMW? Toyota sold that car literally 20 years ago.
Currently, the F-RS as Toyota types it sometimes, has a boxer four-cylinder engine. It is the one let-down in the whole car. No torque. Don’t expect that blunder again. Toyota/Lexus also have a splendid 3.5-liter V6 that generates about 306 horsepower in cars like the IS 350 and coming RC 350. That would be a good engine for a car this size. However, that engine has been around a long time, and we suspect Toyota would prefer to move forward with smaller displacement, turbocharged engines.
The New NX 200t has a gem of a 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. We drove it a few weeks back, and it was wonderfully smooth, powerful and compact. Toyota could already have built a hotter version of that engine with about 250 horsepower and 275 ft-lb of torque. That would move the smallish FT-1 down the road with authority and not threaten the dominance of the coming RC F.
That leads up to the elephant in the room. Toyota has a kick-butt and take-names V8 with about 420 HP ready to go in the RC F. I will drive that car and engine in 2 weeks on a racetrack in NY. I say no way would Toyota drop that into the FT-1. Why compete with your own premium division?
Our Expert Panel Makes their Picks
Tim Esterdahl of TEC Creative Services, truck expert and occasional TN contributor, says it will be the NX engine. He says that the V8 is too much for the car. I can't argue his logic.
Aaron Turpen, founder of CarNewsCafe, Nissan expert and GT-R fan, says the easiest path for Toyota “…would be to take the engine out of the outgoing IS-F. That's a big V8 that would be perfect in this car. Other speculation would revolve around V6s in Toyota's stables and honestly, they have nothing to compete with the GT-R's bad boy right now.“ Aaron points out that there is a donor engine available for the prototype since an auto writer wrecked the press fleet IS F recently (not one of our team). Actually, there are two donors because I also witnessed another IS F be crashed by an auto writer on a racetrack.
Patrick Rall, Editor at Torque News, argued with Aaron about the possibility of a V8 (we all argue pretty much for the sake of it). Patrick says it could be a V8, but “…wouldn’t be surprised to see a big, boosted V6 similar to what the GTR uses...just not as potent.”
Author's Guess About Toyota FT-1 Engine
My guess is that Toyota needs this car to cost less than $50k. That is where the RC 350 will be priced. To come in under that price point, Toyota needs to either use one of its already built engines, or source it from another place where the engine has decent volume. My brain tells me it is the 2-liter turbo from the NX, but modified to produce about 250 HP. However, my heart says no. That long engine cover, starting so far back in the engine bay, makes me think back to the Supra. My heart says it will be an in-line six cylinder engine with a twin scroll turbo. I hope that it is an original design from Toyota, but I would not be shocked if the engine had some connection to BMW. I would however be heartbroken.
Toyota FT-1 stuns in graphite