Toyota will finally resurrect the Supra in 2018

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HYPEBEAST/DesignBoom (by T.S. Fox):

Originally released as a Celica offshoot with 2000GT roots back in 1978, the Supra grew to become one of Toyota’s most beloved vehicles before it was unceremoniously discontinued back in 2002. Thankfully, Toyota righted that wrong in 2014, taking to the Detroit Auto Show to showcase the FT-1 — a Calty Design Research-crafted spiritual successor of sorts to the old fastback coupe and one that fans hoped signaled a sign of things to come for the much loved front-engine, rear-wheel drive setup. Now it looks like those Supra hopes may become a reality: Toyota has confirmed that it’s resurrecting the car for a return in just a few short years.

Said to build upon the aforementioned FT-1, the brand new Supra will be positioned above the 86 in the manufacturer’s lineup and will likely be decidedly more complex, powerful and high-tech than the rebadged Scion FR-S. And if the FT-1′s design language is any indication, the new and improved Supra will come with an aggressive, track-inspired exterior marked by airflow management systems and aerodynamic curves; it may even employ the FT-1′s sleek retractable rear wing for added downforce.

Stay tuned for updates on the Supra’s welcome return and mark your calendars: the fan-favorite Toyota returns to the road in 2018.

Toyota’s Tonka-inspired 4Runner concept truck

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A Toyota 4Runner has received aftermarket modifications courtesy of Funrise Toy Corporation, manufacturer of Tonka toys.

Currently on display at SEMA, the playful concept is a life-sized re-creation of the famed children’s line of toys. The inspired concept is wrapped in Tonka decals, using colors signature to the company. Helping to ensure that the vehicle performs as menacingly as it looks is a heavily modified suspension that lifts it by 10 inches. Other features include 20-inch Ultra Motorsports Type 250 Colossus wheels, a reinforced undercarriage, a 4.0-liter V6 engine that puts out 270 HP and 278 lb-ft of torque, and Bulletproof Suspensions-built bumpers, side steps and ladders.

Visit the Toyota display booth at the 2015 SEMA show to see the 4Runner concept up close.

Toyota’s S-FR entry-level sportscar concept makes its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show

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Toyota has steadily built a reputation for producing reliable cars at an affordable price and judging by this early preview, its latest entry-level sportscar concept seems to be no exception. Set to premier at the end of the month at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, the S-FR is a lightweight model that provides an agile and responsive drive at a fairly low cost.
Equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, a simple interior outfitted with all the essentials, and a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, there was a rumor that a cheaper alternative to the GT86 was in the works and this new concept could very well be on the market by 2018.
Stay tuned for more updates on the Tokyo Motor Show.
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Lexus creates a fully drivable “origami inspired” cardboard car

To celebrate the skills of its craftspeople, Lexus has created a full-size, drivable cardboard replica of its IS sedan using 1,700 sheets of precision-cut cardboard. Each 10mm thick, the cardboard sheets had to be glued together by hand in sequence with a water-based wood glue, taking 10 minutes to set every time.

The project was carried out by LaserCut Works and Scales and Models using a digital 3D model of the sedan provided by Lexus, and took a total of three months to assemble. The cardboard replica was then mounted atop a steel and aluminum frame with an attached electric motor, thus allowing the car to be driven.

Seven cool things set to happen in Japan during 2015

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.

1. Opening of the new Shinkansen line

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Japan may have a reasonably priced overnight bus network and well-maintained highways, but there’s no denying that the quickest and most convenient way to get around the country is the Shinkansen. Currently, you can travel by bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano, but the new Hokuriku Line will allow travelers to extend their Shinkansen trips from Nagano all the way to coastal Kanazawa. So starting March 14, you’ll be able to zip on over to the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture in record time to enjoy its historic Kenrokuen Garden, delicious seafood, and, provided you’ve still got some yen left over, golden handicrafts.

2. First flight of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet

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If tertiary travel is too tedious for your rarified tastes, there’s also the maiden voyage of the MRJ coming up in 2015. Jointly developed by Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Fuji Heavy Industries (parent company of automaker Subaru), the MRJ is scheduled to take to the air for the first time this spring. Airlines won’t be receiving their own until 2017, but nonetheless, the upcoming test flight is a major step towards Japan’s first domestically produced airliner since the financial failure of Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing’s YS-11, which was discontinued over four decades ago.

3. Osaka’s Dotonbori Canal becomes a pool

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If you’ve spent much time looking at photos of Japanese cityscapes, odds are you’ve seen Dotonbori, Osaka’s neon-lit entertainment district that straddles the Dotonbori Canal. After years of revelers diving into the water after victories by the local Hanshin Tigers baseball team, someone decided they may as well make part of the canal into an outdoor pool, which is just what’s scheduled to happen to a one-kilometer (0.62-mile) section of it for four weeks in August of 2015.

4. The next, and possibly final, Evangelion movie

Creator Hideaki Anno has never been particularly decisive about putting a period on his masterwork, as evidenced by how Eva’s cash-strapped TV finale has already been followed by a half-dozen movies. Signs point to a late 2015 release for the fourth Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical feature, though, which has been billed as the culmination of 20 years’ worth of groundbreaking animation (those of you who can’t wait until the end of the year can whet your appetite with a teaser-style Eva short film right here).

5. So long, SIM locks!

Like topknots and the feudal system, SIM locks are set to become a thing of the past in Japan starting this May.

6. The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II

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2015 is also a good time to stop and take a moment to appreciate that Japan can get excited about developments in consumer electronics because it’s a country at peace, as it has been for the last 70 years.

7. Prince William visiting Japan

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Another thing that wouldn’t have been happening during open war between the U.K. and Japan, Prince William is scheduled to visit the country as part of a trip through Asia in late February.

A remarkably restored 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43

Originally started as a clone to the infamous Jeep construction during the Second World War, the Toyota Land Cruiser 4 x 4 went on to garner a reputation for being one of the industry’s toughest off-road vehicles. Having experienced many aesthetic and technological changes the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43 forms part of the company’s better known vintage series and has since gained notable footing in the realm of collectible automotive products over the last twenty plus years.

Restored by The FJ Company, the FJ43 features an extended wheelbase, 3878cc OHV inline 6-cylinder engine and a pale blue color palette fitting to the dated aesthetic of its predecessors. Completed with a contrasting full-leather interior, detachable canvas canopy and chrome fittings, the 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43 is scheduled to be auctioned on August 14 with an expected price tag of between $80,000 and $100,000 USD – more information can be found directly at the Bonhams auction site.

Toyota redesigning Prius plug-in hybrid to double car’s all-electric range

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RocketNews 24:

Toyota’s Prius is designed for one purpose, and it’s not to deliver the sort of exciting performance that will seduce you into taking a spirited drive through a moonlit mountain pass (that’s another car’s job). No, the Prius promise is that it will get you from Point A to Point B in the most energy-efficient way possible.

But while the standard hybrid Prius remains a popular choice for eco-conscious motorists, sales of its plug-in variant have been stagnant. Toyota is hoping to change that, though, with an updated Prius that can travel roughly twice as far under purely electric power than the current model.

If you’re the kind of person who’s more familiar with the handling differences between front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive than what separates one class of hybrid from another, a brief refresher on just what constitutes a plug-in hybrid may be in order. Unlike a standard hybrid vehicle, the batteries in a plug-in hybrid can be charged directly by plugging the car into a socket. By allowing the car to run in either a purely electric mode or with the electric motor and gas engine working together, plug-in hybrids seek to combine the flexibility of a normal hybrid with the efficiency and lower emissions of an all-electric vehicle.

Toyota released its first plug-in Prius, called the Prius PHV, in January of 2012. Hoping to build on the strong brand awareness and reputation of the normal hybrid Prius, the company was expecting a similarly warm response for the newer, ostensibly more advanced version of the car.

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But while the Prius PHV sought to offer the advantages of both a hybrid and all-electric mode, it couldn’t deliver on the latter for very long. From a full charge, the current Prius PHV can only run 26.4 kilometers (16.4 miles) in full-electric mode before its batteries are drained, meaning that unless you’re headed someplace fairly close, you’re going to need to burn a little gas to get there and back.

Car buyers haven’t seen that as much of an advantage, especially considering that prices for the Prius PHV start at 2,931,429 yen (US$24,634), more than 30 percent more than the ordinary Prius hybrid, which is priced from 2,232,000 yen. The end result is lackluster sales numbers, and three years and three months after its launch, Toyota has only found some 20,000 buyers for the Prius PHV, a mere fifth of what the company was hoping for in that time frame.

In contrast, rival Mitsubishi Motors has enjoyed great success with its Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV, which boasts a 60.2-kilometer all-electric range. Even with its much higher price (starting at 4,123,440 yen), Mitsubishi has been selling Outlander PHEVs at a brisk pace, moving 13,000 in 2015 alone.

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This sales gap has shown Toyota that it needs to step up its game, and the company has announced that the Prius PHV will be getting an update. Equipped with an increased quantity of batteries, and also thanks to weight-saving measures in other parts of the vehicle, Toyota is promising that the refreshed Prius PHV will be able to travel more than 50 kilometers in its all-electric mode, a distance roughly twice what the current model is capable of.

The new Prius PHV is expected to arrive at dealers in the fall of 2016. In the meantime, grab a map and start plotting out all the new places you’ll be able to go without needing a drop of gas.

Captured Japanese journalist Kenji Goto entered Syria to find fellow hostage

Mainichi Shimbun: 

Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is believed to be in the hands of the Islamic State group, told those close to him last year that he was entering Syria to search for Haruna Yukawa, who has also been taken hostage.

Goto’s contact with friends and Internet posts have provided traces of his path. Describing the tough situation in Syria amid conflict, the 47-year-old said there were no guarantees of remaining alive.

Akiko Sugiki, 46, a professor at Kobe Gakuin University who was acquainted with Goto, said he contacted her last year, just before he entered an area controlled by the Islamic State. “I’ll send a reply with more details between Nov. 3 and 5,” his message read. She assumes that he intended to leave Syria around that time.

Goto met Yukawa, 42, in Syria in April last year. When Yukawa was captured by the Islamic State group in August, Goto told the Mainichi that he had heard from local sources that Yukawa was alive.

On Oct. 2, Goto entered Syria to report on the situation there. He published four videos online, and conveyed his entry into the country from Turkey and the escape of refugees toward Turkey. On Oct. 3, he said in an online post, “I’m reporting in Syria,” and added, “I can see Islamic State tanks just over there.”

After temporarily returning to Japan, he headed back to Syria, leaving for Turkey around Oct. 22. In an email to high school teacher Kazumasa Ito, an acquaintance from Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, he wrote, “I’m going overseas for work. I’ll return on the morning of the 29th.” The teacher tried to contact him after that but received no reply.

An official from a rebel group at the Bab al-Salameh checkpoint on the border with Turkey said that Goto passed through the checkpoint into Syria. He obtained permission to enter after explaining that he was headed to the rebel-controlled areas of Mare’ and Tell Rifaat on the northern outskirts of Aleppo. It was reported that he entered the country on Oct. 24.

After arriving in Mare’ he videoed himself saying, “I think I’m going to enter an area controlled by the Islamic State. All responsibility is on me.” After entering a controlled area on Oct. 25, he vanished.

According to government officials, Goto phoned a Syrian acquaintance in Turkey around Nov. 1, saying that he had been betrayed by a guide, and had been detained by an armed group. Several days later, Goto’s family received an email from someone claiming to be from the Islamic State group, demanding about 2 billion yen in ransom.

 

Dr. Michio Kaku thinks Toyota has developed the perfect car

Dr. Michio Kaku talks about Toyota's fuel cell technology.

Dr. Michio Kaku talks about Toyota’s fuel cell technology.

Geek Wire:

Dr. Michio Kaku thinks Toyota has developed the perfect car. Kaku, a theoretical physicist and best-selling author, spoke at Toyota’s press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday and talked about the new Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle combines oxygen and hydrogen to create electricity.

The Mirai, priced at $57,000 and available commercially later this year in California, is unique in that it combines oxygen and hydrogen molecules to generate power and only emits water — no exhaust or fumes. The car has a range of 300 miles and goes from 0-to-60 MPH in nine seconds. Unlike electric batteries, hydrogen tanks can be refilled in three-to-five minutes.

Kaku laid out his vision for the “perfect car,” and offered four requirements — all of which described the Mirai:

  1. A fuel source based on an element that’s the most plentiful in the universe: hydrogen. “Contrast that to oil,” Kaku said. “Nations will kill to secure supplies of oil.”
  2. A car with as few moving parts as possible. “In a hydrogen fuel cell car, the engine has no moving parts, whatsoever,” Kaku said.
  3. A car that emits nothing but water. “The word ‘smog’ is going to disappear from the dictionary because we are going to be entering a new age,” Kaku said.
  4. A car that’s friendly to the consumer. “Usually hydrogen cars are priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars, way beyond the pocketbook of the average person,” Kaku said. “But this car, we’re talking about the neighborhood of $50,000. As mass production, competition, and economies of scale begin to kick in — and as governments begin to subsidize the creation of refueling stations — you’re going to see that cost drop even further.”
Photo via Toyota
Photo via Toyota

Kaku noted that Toyota engineers have assembled “critical mass” with the Mirai, given its range and acceleration abilities.

“They have all the various ingredients to create critical mass to create a hydrogen society,” he said.

Toyota on Monday also announced that it would make all of its 5,680 patents related to fuel cell technology available, royalty-free, to anyone in hopes of driving more innovation.

 

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Hugh Jackman stars, sings J-pop cover, and speaks Japanese in ads for Toyota

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RocketNews 24:

When you get to be as big a company as Toyota, you can afford to go out and get A-list talent for your commercials. Over the last few years, the automaker’s created a series of ads starring boy band SMAP’s Takuya Kimura and film icon Beat Takeshi.

In the commercials, collectively known as ReBORN, Kimura and Takeshi play historical figures Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, reincarnated in modern Japan. The latest installment even has a special guest star as Hugh Jackman, Wolverine himself, shows up to help spread the word about Toyota’s newest eco-friendly cars.

Jackman actually appears in two Toyota ads. In the more straightforward of the two, he drives along the coast in a hybrid Crown sedan, sings an English version of J-pop vocal group Greeeen’s “Kiseki,” and really doesn’t do a whole lot else.

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On the other hand, the actor’s work in the 18th ReBORN commercial is a little more surreal. Titled Ferry Chapter, and viewable here on Toyota’s website, it opens with the reborn samurai Nobunaga and Hideyoshi reminiscing on their experiences trading with European merchants in the 16th century.

In those days, we were overwhelmed by the technology and production of the rest of the world, and how they had things like guns and cakes,” recalls Hideyoshi.

 

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Nobunaga thinks Japan may have reached a turning point, though. “Japan can become a world leader in hydrogen technology,” he points out, before going on to talk about a new car from Toyota that produces only water as a byproduct of its operation.

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It’s called the Mirai,” Nobunaga explains, which is also the Japanese word for “future.” “The name’s a little on the nose,” he admits as footage is shown of the car, which Toyota expects to have ready for market next March.

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Japan, which has few natural resources, can develop a hydrogen society for the future of the planet,” Nobunaga declares. “Doesn’t that sound great?” he asks. Before his companion can answer, though, their conversation is interrupted by some very thickly accented Japanese coming from a very famous face.

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That’s the golden country, Jipangu, for you!” the sea captain exclaims, using the name for the country which Japan thinks used to be much more in vogue among non-Japanese speakers than it really was.

 

▼ In a way, it’s a little like how some Japanese people think native English speakers pepper their Japanese sentences with the word “me” all the time.

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Startled by the newcomer’s sudden appearance, Hideyoshi asks Nobunaga if the seafarer is an acquaintance of his. “Nope,” he responds, and as Jackman continues watching them while they climb into their Prius, Hideyoshi implores the other samurai,“Let’s get out of here, quick!”

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It’s an unusual, off-beat ending to the encounter, even by Japanese commercial standards. In the ad’s final moments, the samurai decide to head for a skyscraper in the distance. The camera doesn’t show us the next stop on Jackman’s voyage, but if we had to guess, our money would be on a repeat visit to the port of Tomonoura, the town where Wolverine fell in love.