Toyota and Subaru are collaborating on a shared four-cylinder sports car that will be sold in two versions, beginning near the end of 2011. Largely engineered by Subaru, the cars will get a rear-drive platform consisting of a steel structure with aluminum body panels. A small, 2.0-liter flat-four engine made by Subaru will sit low behind the front-axle line. Toyota previewed its FT86 concept at last year’s Tokyo auto show; Subaru has yet to show its cards.
Neither automaker has released official names, but it is rumored that Toyota may revive “Celica,” which has been on hiatus since 2003. “FT” means “future Toyota,” and the “86” serves as a reminder of the rear-drive AE86 Corolla of the 1980s that has achieved cult status among drifters. Designed at Toyota’s European studio in the south of France, the FT86 concept’s shape is expected to enter production unchanged.
Toyota’s boss, part-time racer Akio Toyoda, recognizes that the brand lacks emotional appeal and doesn’t offer gobs of driving pleasure, so the company hopes the new car will inject some fun into the lineup. For Subaru, the new vehicle brings a dedicated rear-drive sports car to the company’s stable of all-wheel-drive hatchbacks, wagons, and sedans. But Subaru has built its reputation and much of its sales success on extolling the virtues of all-wheel drive, so how the sports car will change Subaru’s heading remains to be seen.