Driving Today

Toyota Tells the World It Is Reborn

The Tokyo Motor Show turns into a revival meeting for the Toyota faithful.

It’s rare to see a Japanese executive get emotional when making a presentation before an auto show throng, but Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda made a heartfelt speech promising a return to glory in the wake of the March 11 earthquake that shook his company both literally and figuratively. Following a rare spate of quality problems, the earthquake put the industrial giant on the defensive. Toyoda vowed that the Japanese people would quickly bounce back from the bad luck that plagued them in 2011.

Though this year has been anything but fun for Toyota, one concept it presented at the motor show was all about good times. Like many Japanese concept cars, its name requires a decoder ring -- and in this case its official title, Fun-Vii, indicates that it was designed for “fun,” while the “vii” is not the Roman numeral for seven but instead stands for “vehicle, interactive, internet.”

Looking somewhat like a vacuum cleaner nozzle, the Fun-Vii doesn’t take itself very seriously. Instead of sporting mundane paint, its exterior flanks are giant electronic displays that can show off whatever you’d like. If you can draw it on your Mac, you can put it up on your car. The interior continues the theme of interaction with electronic interfaces ready to connect.

Far more conventional is the Toyota 86 -- and that’s because it is virtually production ready. Representing an interesting collaboration between Toyota and Fuji Heavy Industries, the 86, along with two other closely related cousins, promises to be a blast to drive. The rear-drive, four-seat sports car is equipped with Subaru’s newest boxer engine using Toyota’s direct-injection technology. Considering it has 200 horsepower on tap, good front-rear weight distribution and a low, low center of gravity, we expect good things. The Subaru BRZ, which got its production debut in Tokyo, is virtually the same vehicle with different exterior sheet metal, and the Toyota 86 will morph into the Scion FR-S when it goes on sale in America next year.



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