Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Toyota FT86 and the EVORA.

Not too long ago I was  Face-booking and I saw an article from the TopGear Facebook page showing the the Toyota FT86 and making interesting parallelisms with the Lotus Evora. On the Comments page, we could read all sorts of comments from the exceptionally bright ones passing to the nonsense ones all the way to those stupid comments made in strange foreign languages that no one except the commenter understands (somebody should explain the basics of communication to these people... either that or just plainly explain that commenting on an article means that other should read and comment back eventually).
The most interesting comment came from a girl (and this proves that girls are not just knowledgeable on Louis Vuiton matters). Megan stated that the comparison between the FT86 and the EVORA was a nonsense as the EVORA was a Lotus and, being so, supercar territory.

I loved the comment. Essentially because the Girl was enlightened enough to understand a Lotus and get the point of the Article... although in the wrong discourse direction, but still she got the basic question while most blokes just commented trash like "My twingo beats'em all" or "Toyota Prius forevaaaa".

As I replied to Megan(that's her name), the article parallelize the two cars on purpose... making a lot of sense.
Historically LOTUS has patterned with other big manufacturers. They not only sell consulting services (helping some of those mass-produced-cost-oriented-dull cars we see around handle decently), they also accept outsourced production of small quantity models and they buy mass produced engines for their own cars:
-Todays Elise and Exige use Toyota Engines.
-The now ended production Opel Speedster and Speedster turbo were, in fact a lotus chassis with different body panels and Opel engine... produced by lotus in a parallel production line with the Elise.
-The first Elise, Exige and R340 all used Rover K series Engines.
-The Lotus Elan V2 had ISUZU engines
-...prior to that you can immediately remember the Lotus-Omega
-...and if you want earlier examples; just google on the brilliant little Lotus-Cortina.
It's not just a today's trend; in Lotus, joint-venturing and cross engineering, is Business as Usual.

Back to the new Toyota and the article comparing it to the EVORA; the lotus-toyota joint venture MAKES perfect sense.
I'm not trying to speculate about what I don't know for sure. I'm, however, betting in a lot of LOTUS DNA made on to this Toyota chassis.
Let's just think about this:
-The older Toyota AE86 excelled and it's competitive even by today standards. Replacing it will be quite a venture.
-Toyota has no RWD, 4 seater, front engined chassis in production. Making one from scratch would up-price the project.
-Toyota no longer has a true sports car. They killed the Supra and transfered it's flagship all the way to the brilliant Lexus LFA; They killed the Cellica 4wd Rally-like; They killed the brilliant Little MR2... Today's toyotas are in fact dull cars. I'm not going into details on just how stupidly Toyota and Honda are evolving; you can read about this on my other articles on this very same blog;_ but fact is that Toyota is loosing edge on building good cars.
-They have nothing to support their new "reborn AE86" in their part's supply chain... it would have to be a 90% new parts car.
-They have channeled all their R&D towards electrics and hybrids; BUT they still have a good thing going on with LOTUS.

And this takes us to the relationship behind Lotus and Toyota... and this car, the FT86.

LOTUS is building chassis and using Toyota Engines. One could resume the "relationship" to a simple CustomerLOTUS-SupplierTOYOTA case. However, things are deeper that they look. The LOTUS assembly line is 100% JustInTime manufacturing. This shows pure Toyota Quality Assurance and Control implementation all the way to LOTUS core.

Let's try to understand the FT86 project from Toyota's point of view (and I will remind you all again that this is the way I interpret things and that, at this time, I have no official data to support this).
LOTUS build the EVORA to be a RWD, 4 seater. The extra weight made them shift from the 4cyclinder Toyota engine to a V6 and allow more torque to maintain agility.
Toyota has the exact same need... The AE86 was a 4 seater and the FT86 is so, the AE86 was a RWD car and the FT86 is so, things get messy however when you try to fit the "the AE86 was front engined" on this equation.
The Evora chassis, is an MR chassis. This puts the engine between the rear seats and the rear axle, leaning-it towards the rear axle so that under power it will squeeze the rear wheels to the ground and improve tire grip.
So if the FT86 chassis is indeed inspired on the EVORA chassis, that phrase "the AE86 was front engined" is already a problem, considering the weight increase of today's passive security systems and room for 4 souls, that the 4 cylinder engine is not an option. And placing a V6 under the bonnet is for sure beyond original chassis design, meaning more changes and R&D... leading us back to the original Toyota-only-builds-hybrids-and-has-no-R&D-budget-for-cars problem.

This is where the Subaru boxer sourced engine comes in to solve the issue. The Subaru engine is a 4 cylinder, but since it's a boxer unit (a V engine with 180degree) it will both be compact and the center of gravity will be extremely low. I would imagine that the Lotus EVORA chassis, with a rear installed gearbox + differential, and a front mounted 4cylinder boxer would work almost right out of the box. Either Turbocharged (witch I disagree) of just big bored, shorted stroked, it would be very compact and efficient in almost every dynamic way.

So all the sudden, a TOYOTA with a LOTUS chassis and a SUBARU engine made sense. Is it pure TOYOTA Rev happy madness as the original AE86? NO, but it will surely be very very interesting and fun.

I'm not saying this IS the reason. I'm just posting a way to explain it and, to me, makes perfect sense. If you read my very first posts on this blog, you'll even find an almost "genetic" linkage to this. I've been saying for years that the Japanese manufacturers are now building crap hybrids and stop building real cars. I posted these subjects about Honda and Toyota mainly, and also posted that of the great Rising Sun giants, only a few prevalents building good interesting cars... on this short list you can clearly read SUBARU... and guess what, now that they can only build hybrid crap, Toyota are raising their hand and asking for some help with a true sports engine... funny how the world goes arround.

Don't get me wrong...I know toyota builds excellent engines. The ae86, the celica gt4, the supra, the MR2 had excellent engines. But the 4 cylinder engines from today's toyota are not good enough to take on competition. They are no as good as, for instance, a 4cilinder (former)Honda engine... and the V engines, well the best one they have came from yamaha by no chance.
The 1.8vvti is good for a lightweight LOTUS, but the prototype racing K20a LOTUS will just outperform it easily.
The 4seater FT86 would be too heavy for a 4pot 1.8vvti... and fitting a honda sourced K20A inside the FT86 would be a way to pull-it, but the damn treehuggers just found a way to kill-it with the bullshit emission regulations, and the hole car would see it's mass center shifted higher that the subaru engine allows.

Also, If toyota uses the subaru design, but builds the engine in-house them selfs, it will endure a lot more than the subaru's own built, rendering it tunning capacity with Toyota reliability... something that IT AE86 important heritage.
My ONLY issue is the turbo part. It's not clear in the article if it's going to be NA or Turbo.. I'm hopping for NA cause a turbo should always be AWD and a AE86 successor SHOULD be RWD.

Again on the engine vs chassis matter, having a boxer engine will allow it to seat closer to the firewall, clearing more space under bonet and allowing more generous wheel arches to increase lock angle...something excellent in the AE86 and very important in a drift natured car.

The damn treehuggers still make a mess out of the car world, but this mess here look very interesting indeed, in the same way that the Frankenstein monster was an extremely interesting fiction story. Wedder or not this is fiction... later research will tell ;)


Later research is indicating that the Chassis it self is Toyota-Subaru engineered. So I would trust it to have the same underpinnings an impreza has, but at least this does look good (so far).
Sadly this makes the entire article (like I was stating... before) just an engineer's wet dream, but still interesting to dream of.