Toyota’s electric MR2 successor could feature a manual gearbox
The show-stopping FT-Se concept is a four-wheel-drive electric performance machine designed to put driving feel and engagement back in the driving seat.
Toyota really missed a trick by not choosing Top Gun theme, Highway to the Danger Zone, as the accompanying track for their new concept. Not just because the new FT-Se’s low-slung, angular design and steering ‘yoke’ both scream F-22 fighter jet, but also as it features a claimed agility which should pull some serious G-force in the bends.
Although it’s being touted by many as the next generation of MR2, there’s little about the FT-Se’s design which puts us in mind of its soft and approachable looking predecessor. And, in truth, Toyota hasn’t made any statements to corroborate such claims. Regardless of what they choose to call it though, the first all-electric car from the brand’s GR (Gazoo Racing) division promises to be very special indeed.
For starters, just like Mazda’s Iconic SP, FT-Se promises to make use of the latest battery technology. This means an extremely low centre of gravity will be possible, alongside greater range and the usual explosive EV power delivery.
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At the heart of the FT-Se project, is Toyota’s ambition to ensure its future EV line-up goes “beyond providing physical transportation tools.” Speaking at the car’s unveiling, Koji Sato, Toyota President and CEO, stated, “electric cars also offer their own flavour of driving fun and automotive seasoning. And they can deliver diverse experience value.” Adding: “We are making battery EVs like only a true carmaker can.”
Helping to execute this vision, Topgear.com recently discovered that FT-Se will feature a dual motor setup — creating a rear-wheel-biased four-wheel-drive system. The resultant cornering forces are said to be so extreme, Toyota has been forced to develop special knee pads to protect the occupants from sharp direction changes.
Outright speed is one thing, but most enthusiasts are more concerned about how a car feels and the interaction they have with the machine. As such, Toyota has alluded to a manual gear shift mode — potentially a conventional manual gearbox mated to the electric powertrain — designed to enhance driver involvement. For some, this will seem like a silly inclusion, serving as much practical purpose as an ashtray on a motorbike. For others, it’s a reassuring reminder that car manufacturers are going to great lengths to ensure that engaging cars don’t face extinction as we transition to carbon-neutral motoring.
Interestingly, Toyota will also use more recent technology to deliver on their enthusiast-oriented mandate. The FT-Se will be capable of utilising software updates to “grow with the driver”. And while we are yet to nail down exactly what this will entail, it could involve the car learning the owner’s driving style to optimise itself accordingly.
Of all the spectacular electric performance cars that have debuted at the 2023 Tokyo Motor show, Toyota’s FT-Se has intrigued us the most. As a tantalising combination of old meets new, we’re chomping at the bit to find out when the production car will hit showrooms — and, of course, which price bracket it will land in. Are manual ‘boxes about to take performance EVs up a gear? We’ll soon find out.
Hero image credit: Toyota