Home » How The Toyota FT-Se Concept Keeps The Faith Alive

How The Toyota FT-Se Concept Keeps The Faith Alive

Toyota FT-Se Concept Topshot
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Change is brutal, unyielding, and inevitable. In little more than a decade, electric cars have gone from curiosities to inevitabilities — a rapid ascent to the new normalcy. While most everyday cars with indistinct cooking-grade engines would be quicker, quieter, less maintenance-intensive, and objectively better with electric power, the unexceptional nature of electric convenience and weight of current battery technology raises some questions about fun. Is the future of the mass-market performance car even enjoyable? At this year’s Japan Mobility Show, the world saw the Toyota FT-Se two-seat sports car concept, and it’s the sort of gesture that exudes a feeling of optimism — a signal the future of performance cars might not be so bad.

Toyota S Fr 011 S

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The Toyota FT-Se is worlds away from the memorable S-FR sports car concept Toyota unveiled back in 2015. Not only does it look far more aggressive than that little tennis ball, it’s bright orange and it’s got a wing and it has all the right mid-engined sports car proportions. It’s been 16 years since Toyota last made an MR2, and a new one feels well overdue. However, the FT-Se doesn’t feature a big part of the textbook sports car experience: An internal combustion engine.

Yes, this refinement of Toyota’s Sports EV concept is powered by electrons, meaning it would have a battery pack and at least one electric motor instead of a fizzy four-cylinder or sonorous six-cylinder engine. Likewise, it won’t have a manual transmission, although Toyota’s working on simulating the operation of a manual gearbox for the electric age. Will artificial interaction ever feel the same as the real thing? I have my doubts, but Toyota will proceed regardless.

Toyota FT-Se Concept Interior

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Speaking of contentious points, the FT-Se uses a yoke instead of a traditional steering wheel, and all physical cabin controls have been replaced by smartphone-sized touchscreens. While concept car cabins are often flights of fancy, this isn’t the future we wanted. However, I’m still excited by the Toyota FT-Se, because it goes against the grain of what a mass-market performance EV is right now.

Toyota FT-Se Concept Profile

The status quo for electric performance cars is to build a heavy sedan or crossover, then just throw as much tire and damper underneath it as necessary to satisfy numeric targets. The end result is a whole batch of cars that are obscenely quick and objectively capable but as much fun as an IRS audit. Great performance cars pair objective capability with fabulous sensations at sensible speeds, making every moment of driving an occasion. As much as marketing departments like to quote zero-to-60 mph times and skidpad grip, it’s balance, body motions, the way good steering builds weight as tire loads climb and provides feedback over the road, the rock-solid pedal feel and progressive bite of a good braking system, and all the human sensations that matter in the real world.

Toyota FT-Se Concept Drift

This is why cars like the Toyota FT-Se Concept, the Mazda Iconic SP Concept, or on a more realistic level, the incoming electric Porsche 718 are so intriguing. With compact footprints and sports car ideology, they focus on the experience rather than the numbers, and experiences are what make cars so special. Considering this is an evolution of an existing concept — and given what we know about Toyota’s stance on sports cars — a future electric sports car doesn’t seem out of the question. After all, current Toyota President Koji Sato told Autocar that “Our Master Driver [Akio Toyoda] was also president of the company at the same time as he had a steering wheel in his hand for [Toyota performance car subsidiary] Gazoo. Now he is only chairman maybe he will have a lot more time to develop cars for them?” If this FT-Se is a taste of things to come, the future’s probably going to be alright.

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(Photo credits: Toyota)

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AKA Rukh
AKA Rukh
8 months ago

It’s painful to look at. This, the Nissan GT-R concept, and numerous other designs prove that the one thing most of these new designs have in common is that their styling is so overwrought. Designers are just trying too hard. I don’t think it’s a super great-looking design, but the Honda Prelude concept is light years ahead of all of these stupid michael-bay-transformers-looking assaults on eyes.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
8 months ago

I think i like where they are going here,with a sort of fun to drive bev sports car,but why do all cars today have to be so over designed?
I would like to see something similar to the old mr2s where they are simpler and not all creases and edges.
I suspect the oems know that those who are truly into cars are apprehensive about the transfer to bev’s and then try to overcompensate with design.

Six
Six
8 months ago

If Toyota wants to keep the faith alive, they need to come out with a fully electric Prius already.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
8 months ago

I have no idea where this idea that EVs out today aren’t fun comes from. I’ve had a blast in everything from a Kona to a eGolf to a Model S to an EV6. I’d say I’ve driven a greater proportion of boring ICE cars than EVs.

Last edited 8 months ago by OnceInAMillenia
Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
8 months ago

I think it’s largely dependent on what you’re after. If your idea of fun is letting it rip in a straight line and massive, instant power then EVs are the best game in town for sure. But if you’re someone who values a feedback laden, throwing a car into corners type of experience then EVs have a way to go, largely due to how heavy they are in their current state. You’re just not going to be able to replicate a Miata type of driving experience with them, at least not yet.

It really just depends on what you like.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
8 months ago

Maybe we’re doing different corners, but an EV6 in the Smokey Mountains has been one of the most fun driving experiences in recent memory. It carved those roads flawlessly and I was regularly pulling away from any ICE vehicles behind me

Toecutter
Toecutter
8 months ago

Since this is a mid-motor car, why do we need a massive grille in the front? Even if it’s fake, the way it is shaped is likely adding a massive amount of drag. Why do we need an overly-aggressive, angular design that works against range, necessitating more battery weight, when we could have a smooth, rounded, wind-cheating front end like the Toyota FR-S, but without that massive grille? Why can’t this be sexy and slippery, like the Toyota 2000GT, which would work towards reducing the battery size?

Toecutter
Toecutter
8 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Meant F-SR.

Goof
Goof
8 months ago

I have to be honest, but I have to ignore it just looking at it.

People want stuff in the GR86 and Supra range, but just look at those body panels. There’s no way that would cost UNDER $70K. Add in a BEV powertrain — of which Toyota is implicitly saying to largely ignore any BEV they release before 2026 — and you’re getting further down the road towards things that will never exist.

It’s a concept. OK. Whatever. Let me know when a real car is coming.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
8 months ago
Reply to  Goof

Yeah this is weird. It is gorgeous, and I love it! However, it looks larger than an MR2, more in line with an Evora (also looks like a Japanese Lotus), which is not all that dissimilar in size to the Supra, so this is just meant as a MR competitor to the Supra? Likely with a higher price? So where is the business case for this? I get the desire to have the three sports cars within Toyota, but I think the gap they can still fill is more Celica focused, not this. This does look rather production ready on the outside, but yeah… I don’t see it happening.

Leonardo Bacigalupe
Leonardo Bacigalupe
8 months ago

I like it, though if it came to the market say, next year I’m pretty sure it would be a dog, Toyota’s ev game is stilk quite poor, an Ioniq 5n would wipe the floor with it

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
8 months ago

The front of that SFR up there looks like someone firmly held a MINI just above the front wheel arches and puuulled the grill away from them. I hope it looks better in person.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
8 months ago

Looks so much like an Evora from the side. I love it!!

MrLM002
MrLM002
8 months ago

STOP GETTING RID OF MECHANICAL DOOR HANDLES!

YOU CAN HAVE FLUSH MECHANICAL DOOR HANDLES, JUST LOOK AT THE SUBARU XT!

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
8 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Those look like the LC500 door handles.

Last edited 8 months ago by Fix It Again Tony
Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
8 months ago

The LC500 is a perfect car so that’s a good thing 🙂

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Or a C3 Corvette, for that matter. Flush handle + little spring loaded flap to close the gap where your fingers need to go = success. No electrons needed, and can be designed to still work when they’re iced over in the winter, when the battery is dead, etc. etc…

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
8 months ago

give me a slightly reworked S-FR over this any day

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson
8 months ago

Has some LFA vibes to me and I like it!

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