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The Toyota FT-Se sports car is an MR2 in all but name

Toyota has even quoted target Nürburgring lap times for its two-seat electric sports car, so surely it'll be coming to showrooms soon?

Published: 29 Mar 2024

Future Toyota - Sports Electric. What the Japanese company lacks in creative naming strategies, it more than makes up for with descriptive power, a literal list of Things This Car Is. And yet, looking at a small, sporting Toyota with mid-engined proportions, all we can think is electric MR2. Interest is piqued. There is, however, a bit of backstory. The FT-Se was launched alongside the FT-3e SUV and the LF-ZC saloon, a genial bow blast of next generation product to showcase the possibilities of Toyota’s ultra new prismatic batteries, gigacasting (where multiple bits of car are made together) and general optimism. But there’s more reality here than might meet the eye, and meet the eye it does: the FT-Se is no wallflower.

In fact, if you were to describe this car over the phone, it’d sound like a bit of a mess. It appears to be created entirely of angles, forms and voids battling for your attention. But once you’re stood next to it, it hangs together handsomely. A big, wide angular mouth with LED fangs slanted down either side, the front intakes necessary for a car that will be hammered on a track, apparently. There are razor sharp creases along the sides, cooling vanes/pods that pop out from the sides like aero saddlebags – again for hot lap cooling – and a fascinating rear wheelarch that appears to be chopped flat on the top like a turret, before flowing into a small ducktail bracketed by the shark’s fin tops of the rear lights. It’s got a mini LMP car vibe, and is all the better for it.

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Photography: John Wycherley 

8 minutes 17 seconds

Is it an MR2? Well, it’s a small, sporty Toyota with a defined mid-engined look, although there’ll be motors front and rear for all-wheel drive. But Toyota is very much interested in making the FT-Se a car for the driver. There’s a defined rear bias for fun times on track, and although no official figures have been released, Toyota’s been talking about roughly 365bhp, 3.0secs 0–62mph times and a 155mph top speed, as well as target times for the Nürburgring. These are not usually things associated with complete vapourware.

Speaking to Hideaki Iida – project manager on Toyota’s GR design group, who incidentally was part of the team that designed the slick new Prius – there’s the feeling that the FT-Se has had more than a cursory relationship with an actual wind tunnel and the realities of production. And, as we’ve been finding with the people responsible for the new wave of Japanese design optimism, an absolute gem, full of enthusiasm not just for design, but the whole ecosystem of driving – from the style to the engineering to the feelings and experiences of motion.

Is it an MR2? Well, it’s a small, sporty Toyota with a defined mid-engined look

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That translates quite clearly into the interior. It might look a bit 2040, but it’s focused and clever, with a low base to the windscreen and elbow height windowline that keeps visibility high. There’s lots of space and the tiered, slim profiles of the dash make it feel genuinely roomy. Again, the FT-Se might be roughly the same size as something like a GR Supra, but it feels much larger on the inside, while looking visually more compact on the outside. You’d have to park one next to the other to get the full idea, but the angular half-size supercar feeling is there.

You also sight yourself over the creases in the front wings, orienting and aiming through those two pillars. And that mesh that looks like a vacuum packed fishing net? It’s a 3D printed, squishy but structured material. It pads your knees so you could brace yourself when going fast on track, but also allows air to circulate. Though one suspects it’d be an absolute fluff trap/cleaning nightmare in real life, it’s a fun thought.

 

So what does the FT-Se actually mean for us? Well, Toyota’s already admitted that there will be a GR-branded electric sports car on the way, and the casual mention of real world performance targets suggest that it might not be as fanciful as the little golden two-seater looks. Toyota’s next-gen prismatic batteries are genuinely exciting, and there’ll be the AI-infused operating system called ‘Arene’ (also in the LESC) that learns with, optimises and upgrades the car to the owner’s preferences. There’s a lot to unpack, but it seems that after a slow electric start, Toyota is really picking up the pace. And among all the chatter of SUVs and new power sources, the nuggets about an interesting, driver focused sports car haven’t been lost. This might not be called MR2, but the concept feels like it’s carrying the Midship Runabout torch.

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