Rumors of a 500-hp supercar from Toyota have been floating about for the past year. One insider suggested the car wouldn't launch until Toyota's Formula 1 fortunes include some podium finishes. So, given last season's undistinguished F1 performances, the supercar may still be a way off. Nonetheless, Toyota crews were recently spied testing a prototype on the road.
From these images we can glean that the supercar will be Toyota's most outrageous project to date. Early reports suggested the car would be powered by a mid-engined, detuned version of the Formula 1 V-10. The latest intelligence indicates the engine will be mounted in front and will be a 4.5-liter V-10 jointly developed by Toyota and Yamaha. It won't be related to Toyota's F1 V-10.
The supercar's engine is expected to produce at least 480 horsepower, possibly even 500. One source hinted that the supercar may employ hybrid technology, which would boost fuel economy as well as torque, but we couldn't confirm that.
Problems can arise from such sleek, low-slung bodies, requiring some clever packaging solutions. Even experienced eyes have been stumped by spy photos that show insufficient front air intakes or cooling ducts necessary for a 500-hp engine. The absence of these items seems to indicate a rear-engine placement, but in fact, the engine is in front, and the radiators are in the rear fenders, just below the tacked-on taillights. Camouflage attempts to hide these ducts. These renderings show ducting up front, but we were told it will be for aerodynamics and brake cooling.
0501_supra_side.jpgJust as Toyota is developing a supercar to take on the likes of Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Ferrari, and even the upcoming 450-hp Nissan Skyline GT-R, internal dissension threatens the existence of this project. One faction is concerned that a company so rooted in hybrid powertrains and fuel economy will damage its image by producing a ridiculously high-powered two-seat vehicle. The opposing faction welcomes the supercar but is hotly debating whether to use a high-output version of the 5.0-liter V-8 from the upcoming redesigned Lexus LS sedan or build the V-10. Arguably, the V-10 would give the supercar a bit more prestige and distinction, but a V-8 would cost less, perform similarly, and likely swill less fuel.
So we know there is a V-10 lurking under the hood of the prototypes, but will that change before the $100,000-to-$120,000 car goes on sale as early as 2006? One thing is certain: If the Toyota Formula 1 effort snatches a couple of victories, Toyota will want to celebrate in a big way. What could be better than a supercar?