Yes, that’s right, Toyota are going for the front page headlines at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show with their latest hybrid model, called the Hybrid-R. And while the word hybrid may well conjure feelings of feeble acceleration and big battery lardiness, it seems that this R-badged petrol / electric / loony could well be more than just a little bit wicked. It’s a concept of course, but what with Toyota’s (probably) class-leading experience in hybrid tech – and some powertrain parts from their Le Mans prototype racecar – anything appears to be potentially possible.
The Hybrid-R will be revealed in full on the Toyota stand on September 10, at Frankfurt, and while it could all be just an annoying PR stunt, there’s nothing particularly wrong with taking their current and recently released Yaris supermini – on which we’re pretty sure the Hybrid-R is based – and giving it a serious shot in the arm, to the tune of 400bhp.
They have the hybrid experience in road cars, and will draw some serious shove from the addition of powertrain parts and tech from the Le Mans car – that came second after the awesome Audis at the famous race this year – and mix with that what Toyota are calling a high performance petrol engine, and you’ve got a rather rapid, four-wheel drive supermini.
We say rapid because with electric motors and a petrol engine doing the pulling, you get the early and incredible torque of the motors first – potentially driving the rear wheel, as two motors are confirmed – with the petrol engine taking over as the road speeds rise.
The small and nimble – compared to a big ol’ supercar, at least – new Yaris will get quite a chunk of extra heft, what with those batteries and motors and all, but this is where the racy Le Mans tech could bring a really high output electric system that’s been dieted for speed. Then again, wouldn’t a supermini with a Le Mans car powertrain be about as cheap as gold-plated chips!
The end result, once all the PR powwow has died down, could well be a much hotter Yaris that uses the next step in Toyota’s constantly advancing hybrid technology, with a relatively lightweight motors and battery combo and a pretty perky petrol motor, with hopefully still four-wheel drive.
Toyota, or at least their tuning partners, have built hot small cars before – like the Yaris Turbo pictured below, but they’ve never gone mainstream. But, with the Hybrid-R bringing a low-CO2 solution to serious supermini speed, we’ve suddenly got a green-leaning pocket-rocket that might actually get the nod from the Toyota board, as well as the punters at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
With the next generation of hypercars getting battery back-up surely the next generation of hot hatches could very well follow suit, and with Toyota’s knowledge of all things electro-juicy it’s probably those guys more than anyone else who could make the Hybrid-R work. Is it time for an all-tech, all-business, 400bhp Toyota supermini? You don’t have to answer that!
By Dan Anslow