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Toyota's FT-HS is the automotive industry's answer to low-fat chocolate -- all fun, not too much guilt

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Toyota has striven for a "minimalist" look for its FT-HS, which will be displayed for the first time in Australia at the Melbourne International Motor Show.

The company claims to have "removed mass around key functional components" to provide the concept (more here) with a literal hard-edged look.

Fitted with a 3.5-litre V6 in a hybrid unit driving to the rear wheels, the FT-HS is a car that potentially spells the end for the old maxim that hybrid cars have to be boring.

Inside the cabin, the steering wheel is a hubless rim, revolving around a semi-circular mount to allow a clear view of the instruments, which are arranged in a panoramic array.

With styling details such as the hidden A pillars, the FT-HS may provide styling inspiration for a future Supra model and other models in the Toyota range. Toyota claims that the car has drawn some styling cues from Toyota's motor sport ventures, including Formula One.

Functional elements of the car's styling include a scalloped roof (for improved aerodynamics and decent headroom) and large air intakes ahead of the rear wheels to duct cooling air to the battery pack.
The dramatic looking wheels measure 21 inches in diameter and are composed from carbonfibre. Sticking with the lightweight composite material theme, Toyota has also constructed the removable roof from Kevlar.

As a paradigm for a future Toyota corporate look, the FT-HS might be too focused for broader application on cars as far apart as the Yaris and Camry, for example.

On that subject, Nick Hogios, the man responsible for the styling of the Aurion and recently returned from secondment to Toyota in Japan, expressed some caution, but didn't explicitly pour cold water on the idea.

"Execution is everything", he said. "Each application would have its main challenges."

Much as the styling of the FT-HS appeals, the true significance of this car ultimately lies in its application of hybrid drivetrain technology for market segments other than the light and small car segments in which the Prius fuel miser competes.

In fact, Toyota in the US already offers a wide range of hybrid-power models, but we're yet to see them in Australia.

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Published : Monday, 25 February 2008

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