TOYOTA'S take on a small city SUV infused with LandCruiser genes perfectly encapsulates a new design trend for the brand: designing cars from the inside out.
The head of design at Toyota’s Calty studios in California says the interior of a car, such as the FT-4X concept unveiled at New York last week, is more important than ever.
“We are starting inside out a lot because that’s where the driver and passengers spend most of their time,” says Hunter of the radical SUV that’s based on the underpinnings of the Toyota C-HR.
“We like to call it a holistic user experience; what are the features, what are the benefits, what are the tactile things … people get pleasure in having physical things to move and adjust, rather than just a flat tablet screen.”
Like many concept cars the FT-4X has a radical interior that’s unlikely to make it into production should the car get the internal sign-off from Toyota executives.
A sleeping bag that doubles as an arm rest, built-in water bottles and a GoPro camera built in to the exterior mirror are some of the things that prove the GT-4X is not your average Toyota.
But it’s the tailgate that is one of the cleverest parts of the FT-4X.
As well as being able to open horizontally or vertically the upright tailgate has twin storage containers that can be used for warming gear (such as gloves or socks) or cooling food and drinks.
Lead designer Ian Cartabiano says the tailgate was a pivotal piece of the FT-4X design process.
“Rear is the new front … we started with the rear-is-the-new-front and really design a totally usable, functional and amazing tailgate for this thing and the rest just falls in to place,” says Cartabiano, who confirmed the FT-4X was designed with mainstream production in mind.
“We want to keep it a real size that you can envisage it becoming production.”
Cartabiano was also instrumental in creating a capable off-roader but one that wasn’t as hard core as a LandCruiser or FJ Cruiser (designers referred to the design brief as “casual core” rather than hardcore”) but that was authentic and respected.
He said it was designed to appeal to a new market of predominantly younger buyers who appreciated authenticity and ability but didn’t want the compromises or size of a large 4WD.
“When we talked more in-depth with the millennials … it was really about ‘I don’t need to climb Everest, I want to go to Joshua Tree for a weekend or I want to go to Yosemite and camp, or I want to go to with my friends out to Death Valley’.
“So that was the type of adventure that we were thinking about with this car, so we went from hardcore to casual core.”