What's This Button On The Shifter? It Might Be Toyota's Way To #SaveTheManuals
Step away from the hideous concept and you see that this is a plain ol' Toyota 86/BRZ/FR-S that's been hacked away by fast, furious, and environmentally conscious Toyota engineers. Sporting a targa top, the awkward looking rear-wheel drive sports car, that everyone loves to hate on for its lackluster engine and fun handling, has received the hybrid treatment. The concept will be officially unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show 2017 from October 25 through November 5 at Tokyo Big Sight.
The car is called the GR HV Sports Car. GR stands for "Gazoo Racing," Toyota's racing division, while HV stands for "Hybrid Vehicle." Toyota claims the design of the GR HV is reminiscent of Gazoo Racing's TS050 Hybrid LMP1 Endurance Racer that competed in the World Endurance Championship (WEC). That race car houses a 986 horsepower twin-turbo 2.4 liter V-6 and 8 MegaJoule hybrid system. Anyone that looks at the two and sees similarities might be under the influence of something very potent.
It's hard to spot the similarities because it's what's inside that matters. The GR HV uses the THS-R (Toyota Hybrid System-Racing), which is hybrid technology found in the TS050 hybrid race car. There are no details of that system for the GR HV just yet, other than there's going to be batteries packed in the middle with some sort of internal combustion engine located in the front.
What's even wilder than the hideous front LED light cluster and the modern-esque slanted teardrop taillight design, is the strange looking shifter knob with a hidden button underneath the H-pattern. The first thing that came to my mind is "YES! I can pretend I'm a fighter pilot and flip up on that red H-pattern cover!" But this button represents something a lot more. The GR HV is actually an automatic car, but with the push of a button it can be driven manually.
Mechanically speaking, it's hard to understand how a car can switch from an automatic driving mode to a standard manual transmission style of driving. Will there be a clutch involved? (The picture below suggests, maybe...) Is there a normal shift-fork that physically shifts idler gears into and out of the driving gears? Will all of this manual style of shifting be just some sort of sick placebo effect while all the electrons and computer whizzbang magic do all of the shifting? We don't yet know until we see it in person.
The silver lining is this: Manual cars are and have always been dying. They make up for such a small percentage of sales that it's increasingly difficult for manufacturers to keep offering them. It's also quickly becoming ancient technology as dual-clutch transmissions (and newer automatic transmissions) are the norm for high performance cars, as they take out the errors and imprecision of manual shifting, while being able to shift at much faster speeds.
However, manual cars are fun, and you can't and shouldn't kill fun things. We're not sure how in the automotive hell this automatic-manual system is going to work, but if it means that the manual is going to be kept around for a little bit longer, we're all in.