Article and photos by Jacob Black

Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept
Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept. Click image to enlarge

Sometimes you don’t need to speak about cars in hyperbole. Sometimes the car is the hyperbole. That’s probably why the press kit from Toyota was so nonchalant. “The front wheels are driven by a 300-hp, turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder engine,” it says simply.

Wait, what? 300 hp?

Oh! They must mean system output, right?  Nope. “At the rear, each wheel is individually powered by a 60 hp electric motor… The hybrid powertrain system develops a total system output of 420 hp.”

Weight specifications weren’t published but with a standard Yaris Hybrid weighing in at 1,150 kg, you can imagine this one is in the ballpark of 1,400 kg after the two extra electric motors are added.

Wait, what? Two extra?

Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R ConceptToyota Yaris Hybrid-R ConceptToyota Yaris Hybrid-R ConceptToyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept
Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept. Click image to enlarge

The two electric motors powering the rear wheels are straight from a standard production Yaris, and there is a third between the engine and the six-speed sequential gearbox. That last motor either powers the other two directly, or recharges the super-capacitor depending on what you’re doing. Why a super-capacitor? It’s lighter than a conventional lithium-ion battery pack, takes less time to charge and it has a higher power density. The downside is a much, much shorter drain rate, but in a track-focused car that’s not such a bad thing. As it is, the full 120 hp available from the electric motors is only on tap for five or so seconds. So you can squirt out of a corner under full power, and then under braking the third motor will recharge the super-capacitor. Perfect!

Toyota says the three hybrid motors work like an advanced form of traction control, and provide torque vectoring during cornering. That means the system will apply more or less torque to each of the wheels to keep you tracking true and providing maximum acceleration. And anytime the front wheels are overwhelmed by the 300 horses (read: always), the third motor redirects excess torque to the rear motors. Clever, eh?

The 1.6L engine is built to the FIA Global Race Engine specifications – the same regulations used to govern 1.6L World Rally Championship engines and World Touring Car Championship power plants.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R ConceptToyota Yaris Hybrid-R ConceptToyota Yaris Hybrid-R ConceptToyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept
Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept. Click image to enlarge

Inside the Yaris Hybrid-R is like a trip into a Fast and Furious wonderland. Electric blue suede peppers the interior, but it’s the racer-style shift lever that dominates the space. Rising up out of the floor like Excalibur, the lever ends with an electric blue grip embroidered with the “R” logo. It is high and directly next to the driver’s hand, making for quick shifts. It also changes in the correct direction – forward for down, back for up. The rest of the dash – electric blue aside – is pretty stock Yaris, but the seats are deeply scalloped race seats with a four-point harness.

The sport pedals are lifted straight out of the Scion FR-S. The steering wheel is wrapped in Alcantra and includes the usual steering wheel–mounted controls. I can’t tell you if they work because my request to turn them on was met with laughter. There is a button to select Road or Track mode, and another to trigger “Boost”.

In Road mode the two electric motors only produce 40 hp and the turbo boost is reduced in the engine. Fuel injection and ignition is altered to improve fuel economy. In Track mode the engine produces all of its 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, the electric motors will produce all 120 hp for up to five seconds at a time, before the super-capacitor is drained and requires recharging.

The stock 4.5-seat set up is retained and there is no roll cage or bracing back there – the chassis appears stock.

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