Has Toyota banned the beige? Speed Matters


I can't remember why but not that long ago I was browsing the home pages of Toyota customer sites in various global markets. By the time I landed on the American one and was greeted with a sea of tedious looking silver saloons, SUVs, minivans and hybrids I'd just about lost the will to live.


Toyota seemed to me the embodiment of white goods motoring and the antithesis of all that folk like us love about cars. Which was a shame, because over the years there HAVE been interesting Toyotas, be they Celicas, Supras, MR2s or some of the quirkier 'underground' hot hatches like the Yaris and Corolla T-Sports. And where would Lotus be without Toyota's engines? Those four-cylinder screamers in cars like the S2 Elise and Exige were mega and the Evora's V6 has proven itself capable of great things. Hell, looking further back the AE86 even 'invented' drift culture.

Yet all those achievements seemed swamped in a sea of beige.

Thankfully someone in Toyota City seemed to realise. Was that Akio Toyoda, boss since 2005 and part-time N24 racer? That he did the latter under a nom de guerre is pretty cool, likewise the fact Lexus was permitted to create a vehicle as astonishing as the LFA and go chasing BMW M and Mercedes-AMG with a V8 super saloon. I don't know if he deserves personal credit. But his enthusiasm for competition has led to a generation of staff getting a taste for racing before being reabsorbed into the corporate machine.


"Every year we have taken promising young engineers and mechanics from our various R&D divisions and put them in our team for the Nurburgring 24 Hours," explains Shigeki Tomoyama, marketing director for the brilliantly named Toyota Gazoo Racing. "At the end of the year, they return to their original divisions with the experience and knowledge they have gained throughout the development of that year's race car and from the race itself, sharing what they have learned with their colleagues with the ultimate aim of building better production cars."

How is that manifested? With cars like the mad looking C-HR crossover, which I drove recently and unexpectedly rather liked. Because, yes, even cars like this have some motorsport inspired engineers involved in their development. And get raced at the VLN. Embedding guys like that within programmes for 'everyday' products seems to be reaping rewards.


Obviously, I'm fully onboard the GT86 fanboy express too, not least for meeting with development boss Tetsuya Tada shortly before it went on sale in the UK. The picture he painted of a small number of enthusiast engineers battling from within against the lowest common denominator, design-by-committee corporate culture was compelling. True? No idea. But we all like a good yarn and I bought it wholesale. I will own one at some point.

The confused sense of 'ownership' between Toyota and Subaru over the car (I think we all know who was really wearing the trousers in that relationship) doesn't seem to have put them off collaborating on future sports cars either, the pending Supra/BMW Z5 project looking promising. I am deeply sceptical of the whole Prius-driven hybrid thing while admitting a grudging respect for the way it has dominated the recent automotive landscape. Thankfully beyond Toyota maintains a rich seam of eccentricity, expressed by cars like the Lexus GS F with its naturally aspirated V8 and passive suspension in a market obsessed with turbocharged downsizing and driver configurable modes. And, yes, I know they've since bowed to market pressure and added adaptive dampers. But the point was made.


The really good news is that this renewed sense of adventure and boldness now extends to the mainstream range. The new Yaris actually looks pretty cool. And the GRMN version is really promising, daft name and all.

As a wounded VW Group retreats into a phase of cookie-cutter conservatism I'm really enjoying Toyota's rebirth as a builder of cool, quirky and interesting cars. And I'd include the CH-R among them. Just perhaps not the hybrid version.

Dan

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (21) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Ekona 11 Jul 2017

    Quirky is one thing, hideously ugly is another. GT86 aside, Toyota and especially Lexus appear to be heading straight down the latter route.

  • saaby93 11 Jul 2017

    Tarting something up with tarty bits?
    What does that make?

  • Stig 11 Jul 2017

    saaby93 said:
    Tarting something up with tarty bits?
    What does that make?
    S-Line, MSport?

  • saaby93 11 Jul 2017

    Stig said:
    saaby93 said:
    Tarting something up with tarty bits?
    What does that make?
    S-Line, MSport?
    And this car is immediately recognisable as a



  • Europa1 11 Jul 2017

    Ekona said:
    Quirky is one thing, hideously ugly is another. GT86 aside, Toyota and especially Lexus appear to be heading straight down the latter route.
    Yep, the current Lexus headlight/grille arrangement reminds me of the sort of scrunched up, mischievous face emoticon.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment