THERE is no place for free hugs or touchy-feely nice guys in the world of SUVs in the USA. This is the country that invented road rage, so SUV styling needs to be ultra-macho; bluff, brutal, borderline military-spec. It needs to say: “Tough dude coming through; outta my way.”
And that’s just the women.
On this level, Toyota’s FT-AC concept appears a sure-fire hit. Its front-end nails that brief, while the rest of the surfacing and details balance this slightly with a rugged, high-country adventure vibe.
It’s the product of Toyota’s Calty design studio in Southern California, and according to Jack Hollis, vice-president and general manager of Toyota’s North American division, it’s sure as hell “not just a concept for concept’s sake”.
Says Jack: “First up we want feedback from media and potential customers as to what features they like; what they thinks works, how they could see it fitting into their lives. I’m an outdoor adventure kinda guy; I love a vehicle I can throw my mountain bike in and head anywhere a little remote. This intended to hit that spot.”
It would be built on Toyota’s TNGA platform that currently sits under the Prius hybrid hatch and CH-R compact SUV. Other cars to adopt the new hybrid and battery power-friendly platform include the now fully imported Toyota Camry. In terms of engines, think petrol V6 and a turbo-petrol four.
No interior has been developed for the concept, but based on the ultra-macho exterior, expect rubberised storage spaces, cup-holders designed for Big Gulp consumers, and possibly a horn function that can be switched to make the sound of a gatling gun.
The exterior features an integrated roof rack system that looks, at first glance, like an extension of the turret, but actually neatly (and aerodynamically) conceals eye hooks and mounting points for bikes or a luggage pod. The rows of LEDs mounted in the forward-facing section of this can be illuminated separately to light up nocturnal park-up party times.
The black guards are also intriguing, as they actually sit around 15mm proud of the body, which is only evident when viewing the car from front- or rear-on. Why exactly? We’re not sure, but they are a break from convention.
The question is where a production version would sit. Plenty of speculation centres around a RAV4 replacement, but we think it’s way more off-road ready, and Toyota’s own material talks of “a versatile torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system with variable terrain-response settings, as well as four-wheel lock functionality.” Wheels asked Hollis if it could it fill the space left vacant by the the now defunct FJ Cruiser. “That was really a heritage-type vehicle, so I wouldn’t want to try and place this concept into that space.”
Yes, but could it fill a similar slot? “In terms of function, and lifestyle needs of a customer, sure, I could see it filling that role,” he answered.
But if you really want to understand the target audience for the FT-AC, just take close look at the those cameras mounted in the exterior mirrors. They can detach so they can turn around and point at you-know-who. Teamed with the Wi-Fi hotspot, they allow you to stream your journey live, or capture footage for instant editing. And just because it’s pitch black outside doesn’t mean your vital social media updates need to stop. They also have an infra-red function for middle-of-the-night party times, all making the FT-AC a rolling selfie machine for the Instagram generation. Of course … was this ever in doubt?