IT’S the News
that coupé fans have been desperate to hear – the Celica is back! Toyota has resurrected its most famous sports car, in the shape of this head-turning new machine – and it’s set to blow the Volkswagen Scirocco away.
Called the FT-86, it will make its world debut at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month. And although Toyota is calling it a concept, you can expect to see the new model in UK dealers next year.
As well as the Scirocco, the Celica will go up against other reborn coupés such as Vauxhall’s Calibra and Ford’s Focus-based Capri replacement. So buyers will have the widest range of affordable two-doors for more than a decade.
A big selling point will set the Toyota apart from its rivals, though – it’s rear-wheel-drive.The FT-86 is named after the Corolla AE-86 – a rear-driven coupé that achieved cult status among the Japanese ‘drifting’ community. It’s the result of a Toyota and Subaru joint venture.
Although official details are scarce ahead of the car’s unveiling in Tokyo, one insider revealed that the new Celica gets a 2.0-litre flat-four cylinder boxer engine from the Subaru Impreza, mated to a chassis from the Legacy. This has been modified so that power is sent only to the rear wheels, as opposed to all four.
On top sits a striking body that clearly takes design cues from the FT-HS hybrid sports concept seen at 2007’s Detroit show. It’s an amazing shape that injects the sharp, edgy feel that’s been missing from the Toyota brand since the MR2, Celica and Supra disappeared from the line-up several years ago.
At the front, there’s a huge air intake, flanked by slim LED headlights and bold, flared wheelarches. Together with the prominent raised nose – which takes themes from recent Formula One race cars – the front end really stands out. At the back there’s a raked window which flows down to meet a subtle boot spoiler.
All the surfaces are smooth and taut, and the minimal front and rear overhangs help to provide a compact shape. As a result, the FT-86 looks purposeful and athletic. The drama continues inside. Digital instruments in blue and red are placed within an oval pod, surrounded by angular air vents.
It’s a simple but effective design, set off by sporty touches such as a flat-bottomed steering wheel, figure-hugging seats and a stubby gearlever.
Under the bonnet, the normally aspirated engine incorporates an all-new cylinder head with revised camshafts, pistons and valves. The unit produces 200bhp – more than the last-generation Celica, which delivered 189bhp from its 1.8-litre engine. In the new car, the powerplant is mated to a specially built six-speed manual gearbox developed by Japanese transmission expert Aishin – the firm behind the advanced automated manual set-up in Toyota luxury brand Lexus’s LF-A supercar. As a result, the FT-86 should cover 0-60mph in less than seven seconds and hit 140mph.
Engineers have worked hard to ensure the motor meets the latest emissions regulations, and although it’s unlikely to be frugal – the Impreza’s boxer is infamously thirsty – the FT-86 should return around 35mpg.
Yet while the Subaru Legacy donates its chassis, not much of the basic architecture will be retained in the new model. The springs, dampers, brakes and steering will all be uprated, to ensure the FT-86 is every inch the rear-driven sports car. The production version is set to cost at least £22,000 when it arrives.