The Toyota Yaris is a perfectly fine car. It’s an appliance, pure and simple, designed for shlepping groceries and toiling away a commute. It’s not exactly exciting, but that’s nothing 420 horsepower couldn’t fix.
Born from the bored minds of Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG), the Toyota Yaris Hybrid R concept is proof that given enough time, money, and caffeine, even the most moribund machines can turn into something special.
Special, in this case, involves making a puny 1.6-liter four cylinder engine churn out 300 HP thanks to a massive turbocharger, beefed up internals, and direct injection. That prodigious grunt is pushed to the front wheels through a six-speed sequential transmission, which has a 60 HP electric motor sandwiched between it and the engine — hence the “hybrid” moniker. But Toyota’s engineers didn’t stop there. Each rear wheel has another 60 HP motor, making the Yaris all-wheel-drive, with power supplied — not from a nickel metal hydride battery like other hybrids — but a super capacitor similar to the one used on Toyota’s Le Mans racing TS030 race car.
The system works like this: Stomp on the throttle and all 420 horses come galloping out of the gates, with the electric motor mounted in the middle acting as a form of traction control, dolling out power to the rear wheels as your right foot commands. When you brake, that same motor acts as a generator to shove energy back into the super capacitor. The advantage of the super capacitor is that it can discharge energy quicker, boosting performance, while storing it more efficiently between mashes of the gas. The downside is that extra 120 HP being fed to the rear wheels only comes in five second bursts in “track” mode.
And Toyota is actually serious about putting it on the track. The automaker teamed up with Polyphony Digital — the team behind the Gran Turismo gaming franchise — to develop an Engine Control Unit (ECU) that can be tapped into using a smartphone to record lap times, GPS data, steering angle, gear changes, speed, and acceleration. All of that data can be fed back into the game, so you can compare your real life track antics with your virtual hot laps. And while the Yaris Hybrid R doesn’t have a snowball’s chance at production, you can get the CAN-Gateway ECU system on the automaker’s superb GT86 coupe (Scion FR-S in the States).
All photos courtesy of Toyota.