Do we want to live in a world where a Prius can match the cornering prowess of A-list sports cars like Viper and Corvette? Well like it or not, Toyota has done it. This year at SEMA 2016, Toyota unveiled the Prius G, a concept car built to take the revised handling of the latest generation Prius to a whole new level.
Dan Gardner of Toyota and FWD racing renown told us, “There’s a GT car that’s racing in Japan that’s based off of a Prius. We thought: what if we created something from scratch and used that for inspiration, but made it a lot more real-world.”
It’s a tough barrier to entry for most enthusiasts to accept a Prius in any sort of performance capacity, but this may be the best foot Toyota could have put forward. It’s no secret that we don’t really pay attention to what Toyota is doing with the Prius, because, well, we’re not interested. But when we had a chat with Dan, we perked up a little.
“If you take a couple steps back and think about where the Prius started in 2000, it was a smaller car, not a whole lot of fun, handling has never been a part of hybrid performance, or a part of Prius … until this generation Prius came out,” Gardner explained.
“When this generation Prius came out, things like the rigidity of the entire body structure, lower center of gravity, and more advantageous suspension tuning were all actual objectives of the chief engineer and his team.”
With this new found emphasis on driver involvement and performance engineering, we started to sink comfortably into the power of suggestion and began to ponder possible acceptance of such a conflicted concept car.
“Because it had already gone in that direction, and we knew about this GT car, it made sense to say it’s not a disconnect to take what Prius is today and enhance the handling. The idea was that we have the Prius and the Prius V, and the Prius C; so what if we made a concept called the Prius G – what would it take to make a Prius pull one G?” Gardner persuaded.
The build-up to this goal was undertaken by Gordon Ting of Beyond Marketing and featured a shotgun approach of suspension, chassis stiffening, and aerodynamics. “Toyota looked at a few different options in terms of the build. Gordon and his team had some nice vision on what they were going to do. Gordon understands some of the motorsports engineering, and some direction was given to him,” Gardner complimented.
On the technical side of things, this Prius is completely gutted and race-prepped as you would see in any pure-bred road racer. The interior does not leave any hallmarks of the once depressing eco-box we previously thought of when we heard “Prius.”
Tein Street Flex coilovers are managed by an Active EDFC Pro Unit and contact is made with the ground through Rays Engineering TE-37SL wheels and Toyo R888R tires. “We came really close and hit .99G, that was before the suspension got fully tweaked and setup, it was really consistent. It is legitimately a one-G Prius at this point,” Gardner affirmed.
Exterior adornments come in the form of several composite additions; Kuhl Racing developed body kit (and exhaust), Evasive Motorsports Fender Flares and Craft Square GT Mirrors make for an aggressive appearance that sets off the wedge profile of the Toyota.
The powertrain is one area that remained intact for this project, barring an aftermarket exhaust. Seeing the production quality and followthrough of this concept, we asked Gardner when we could expect to see a ‘spec-Prius’ series coming to a racing promoter near you.
“I don’t think we want to speculate what will be in the future for that kind of stuff, it’s just a concept at the moment. It’s great to do cool concepts, but to your question, all I can tell you right now is the Prius you buy today, can out-handle some pretty unexpected cars,” he resistantly concluded.
If you leave your prejudices aside of whether you consider yourself a “greenie” or not, or whether it’s possible to make a Prius cool or not, you have something very intriguing. We think the Prius G looks fantastic, but how about some powerplant work next?