Toyota has adopted sort of a pioneering role as it comes to putting environmentally friendly cars on the market. It already offers a choice of hybrid petrol-electric powered cars and is seriously investigating the next step: fuel-cell powered electric cars.
This Fine-S concept was first shown to the public at the Detroit Motor Show in 2003. It's a very futuristic looking fuel-cell powered car which seeks to prove that this technology can also be used for dynamic high-performance cars. Toyota did not unveil much about its technology other than its a hybrid system (the electricity generated by processing hydrogen in the fuel-cell both charges batteries and drives electric motors) and that it can be fitted in a wide variety of vehicles, from passenger cars to commercial vehicles.
The Fine-S is a 4-seater coupe with dramatic low lines to stress its aerodynamic performance-car like design. It measures 4.41 x 1.87 x 1.25 metres (length x width x height) and has a large 3 metre wheelbase with short front and rear overhangs. The fast looks of the Fine-S are matched by its handling as the car has a low center of gravity because the drive train with fuel-cell is incorporated into the floor section and features an individual wheel torque control system.
To prove that Toyota is not only developing fuel-cell cars but is actually ready for putting them on the road the Japanese company leased a number of fuel-cell powered vehicles based on its Highlander-model to a few organizations in Japan and the US around the time the Fine-S was introduced.
The Fine-S is a typical futuristic dream car with no real reflection on what production cars will look like. Like the Peugeot Quark it's there to show that fuel-cell technology can be fitted in an other type of vehicle than a van or a big SUV and to attract attention. And as such it doesn't do a bad job.
With the big 4-wheel drive Touareg model Volkswagen has put a very successful SUV on the road. To elaborate on that Volkswagen is trying out new variations on the Touareg theme, like the Concept T. This wild looking concept was presented at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show.
It's meant to combine the characteristics of an off-roader and a sports car and the result is something looking like a big dune buggy. Of course the original buggies were conversions of the famous Volkswagen Beetle so in a way the dune buggy is part of Volkswagen's heritage.
There are a number of striking features on the exterior, like the big almost free standing 19" wheels, the separate light units in front and rear, the forward opening wing doors and the removable roof sections. The Concept T is basically a 2-seater of which the front roof section, above the passengers compartment, can be removed in two halves in Targa fashion. But also the rear section of the roof can be removed, together with the rear window, to turn it into a completely open car with sort of a roll-over bar in the middle and a shallow platform in the rear showing a spare wheel. However, the rear section is flexible and the shallow platform with spare wheel can be replaced by a row of seats.
Remarkably the Concept T looks bigger than it is, because at 4.08 x 1.96 x 1.45 metres (length x width x height) it's shorter than the far more nimble looking Subaru B9 Scrambler concept for instance. Its bulky appearance is mainly the result of its large ground clearance exaggerated by the black bottom part of the car.
The Concept T is powered by a relatively traditional 3.2 litre V6 petrol engine producing 241 hp. It has permanent all-wheel drive by Volkswagen's 4Motion system and an automatic transmission with manual Tiptronic shift option. Acceleration from 0-100 kph is done in under 7 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 230 kph.
The interior features an head-up display projecting information like speed and engine temperature on the windshield behind the steering wheel. It also features a simple but sporty black trim, ergonomic aluminum flex shell seats and a wireless and portable communication unit which controls car functions like airconditioning but also acts as a telephone, MP3 player and navigation system.
The Concept T is a playful and creative study reviving the style of the dune buggy but probably is not very realistic, though in its completely open guise it does look quite appealing.