When Australia-based automotive publication, Motoring, first told us that a miniature version of the slow selling Scion FR-S would be coming out, it was a rather underwhelming development. American drivers don’t care that it would be priced around $20,000, had a 130-horsepower 1.5-liter engine, and weighed barely over a ton. Everyone is already griping over the lack of power in the full-size version, so what makes Toyota think an even punier version would boost U.S. sales?
But having a bonafide contender for the Mazda MX-5/Miata to fear on the track is a brilliant strategy, and Toyota is indeed onto something with both their price point and curb weight with this one. However, if they want to capture America’s attention, there’s going to have to be some serious performance to go with all that dieting. Look at what is happening right now with Subaru’s STI line, and Dodge’s Hellcat: Dealers can’t keep these vehicles in stock because they offer a fantastic performance bang for the buck, and until gas starts to tip the scale again, they’re going to keep selling faster than tacos on Tuesday.
What Toyota needs to do is find a sweet spot — a place it can still offer us a Miata challenger, but have a platform that can also fire-off rounds at larger adversaries, like Ford’s Focus ST, and Honda’s forthcoming Civic Type-R. It needs a wilder, more uncouth side as well, because for as good as the FR-S is with its sharp little gearbox, twitchy rear-end, and sporty TRD stance, it still doesn’t hit on all cylinders in the performance department. Toyota should to pilfer a turbocharged engine from the Lexus NX 200t line, beef-up the concept’s (code-named 69DZ) rear differential, and put a full-blown TRD spin on the thing. Then, once they have a 235-horsepower rear-wheel drive “mini roadster” rocketing around the Nürburgring, Toyota can look over its shoulder at us smugly and ask “You like what you see?”
There also needs to be a bit of beauty to go with all that brawn, and Toyota’s decision to let the car pay homage to classics like the 800 Series (which revolutionized Toyota’s sports car program back in the late 1960s) is a fantastic decision. We just hope that more than just a hint of the 800’s original styling cues will be reincarnated in the 69DZ, much like what we saw in the recently released Toyota GT86 Style Cb that you see here. So if America does indeed get its own version of this car, what can we expect to see?
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is the type of boss who gets behind the wheel of a race car, and he is hellbent on injecting some spark back into Toyota’s design department. Perhaps this is the reason why the outspoken CEO created an all-female design team in 2011 to bring some fresh thoughts to the table, thus leading to this retro-modded Cb, which will be a design springboard for the baby FR-S.
When design team project leader Megumi Nakano was first asked why her team of ladies redesigned the FR-S the way they did, she said they were searching for something that exalted an old school “style and chicness” and that in order to do so, they were “borrowing ideas from Toyota’s sports car past.” While there are a number of modern touches to this version, like the LED fender vents, there is a very neat retro feel too that is sure to strike a chord with lots of Americans. From the rounded headlights to the throwback dash pieces and gauge pods, this car is a fun deviation from the factory FR-S, and with more “period correct” add-ons the 69DZ could easily become a truly stylish roadster.
We see a lot of the infamous 2000GT in the Cb edition, with its softer nose, elongated oval grille, reshaped rear bumper, overstated exhaust outlets, and rounded bubble headlights. All of the leather and polished aluminum tones are a nice touch as well on the Cb, and if the 69DZ can incorporate this feel along with a leather stitched F-Sport-style dash and some matching old school matching bucket seats for a “limited package,” we are confident that certain enthusiasts won’t mind spending the extra dough.
Will we see any major deviations from what Toyota’s estrogen-powered design team has already brought forth? In short, no. “The finished product looks like a brother to the Cb,” says Motoring’s inside source. It also will reportedly have some seriously curvy rear hindquarters, as the 69DZ will feature flared wheel arches to balance-out a bulging bonnet. While we pray that this oddly-shaped hood is designed to clear a turbo (which it probably will not have), sources remain aloof, saying that this design detail was only utilized to accommodate the engine and a 90mm pedestrian impact absorption zone above the engine bay.
What is guaranteed is that Toyota will offer the 69DZ with the plucky six-speed manual found in the FR-S, and Motoring says that the person who will be responsible for fine-tuning the coupe’s handling is none other than former World Rally Championship superstar Tommi Makinen. Better known for his success with Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution, Makinen has been busy developing some pretty insane sports cars with Toyota recently. The Toyota baby FR-S is slated to go on sale in early 2018 for around the same starting price as a Corolla, and with a little luck it will help rejuvenate America’s interest in the Scion brand like never before. But that is only if it even comes here at all…