09 November 2012 - 00:00
Faster Toyota GT86 to get KERS?
The Toyota GT86 will get a more powerful version. Just like someone on every web forum out there says should happen. But it's not what you're thinking. The car's chief engineer Tetsuya Tada (pictured right) told us: "I think 300bhp [220kW] with a turbo and 200g/km of CO2 would be tasteless in this day and age. And a turbo would mean the loss of the GT86's uniqueness." That's pretty definite then.
"We're looking for a surprise," Tada says. "Something unique. For example, a hybrid motor." Yes, he knows your face will fall. But he's not talking about the usual Toyota hybrid system (THS), found on the Prius and other hatchbacks. "The THS is good in town, but not for sporty driving or high-speed motorways." Quite.
"So we're looking at a next-generation hybrid. More like the TS030 Le Mans Prototype. We're looking into that possibility."
This is good. Tetsuya always said the GT86 wouldn't be a proper sports car without a high-revving engine. That's why he developed a special (and expensive) version of Toyota's direct-injection system that could handle high rpm. You can imagine his distaste for the low-revving Atkinson cycle engines of the THS hybrids. Never mind their CVTs and their heavy NiMH batteries.
The TS030 racer has a KERS system, recovering energy during braking and storing it in supercapacitors to give an extra kick of torque down the next straight. So it still has a high-revving petrol engine and a six-speed gearbox and rear-wheel drive. And it beat the Audi R18 e-Tron at the end of this season.
Eventually we nudge Tada further. Has he got a GT86 prototype running using KERS hybrid? "Yes."
So has the prototype got supercapacitors, or batteries? Finally, as his PR minder shows signs of actual medical seizure, he stops answering questions directly. "Toyota wants to make things accessible. The capacitor is appropriate technology, but it's not as lightweight as you might think, and it's expensive." So that's a no… or a maybe? "Well it might get better. The rate of improvement in the electronics industry is very fast compared with the car industry."
It's clear things are moving fast. Back in the summer Tada told TopGear.com the hybrid wasn't ready for sports-car primetime. But now, with his distaste for big heavy engines or laggy low-rev turbos, the idea of the instant electric response of KERS is more appealing to him.
It's equally clear that this development is not exactly just around the corner. But Tada-san spent five whole years working on the GT86 to get it to his satisfaction. If we have to wait for his next chapter, well it's probably going to be worth it.