About those mysterious Toyota SF-R specs

Wink, wink

Wink, wink

At the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota will debut its S-FR Concept, a compact sports-coupe. When published a few days ago, the news did not necessarily set the world on fire. Today, the SF-R is all over the Internet, all because supposedly detailed specifications were “leaked.”

The specs are all lifted from the just recently created sfrforums.com. The forum’s domain was registered (anonymously, via Godaddy’s Domains by Proxy) in June, right after it became known that Toyota had trademarked S-FR. The fledgling forum hasn’t obtained the specs “from a Japanese document” as Leftlanenews says. The technical data was copypasted from yet another blog. This one in Japan. To do that requires at least some knowledge, namely how to use Google translate.

So much the webs. Here is what we really know.

The car, or at least slides of it, were shown at a heavily embargoed press-pre-briefing on September 28 at the Tokyo HQ of Toyota. The briefing was mostly targeted at Japanese media, the Dailykanban was one of the few non-Japanese observers. At the briefing, not much beyond what you already know was said. Size of a Toyota Vitz. 6 speed manual. Sporty and spartan. The engine was expressly kept secret. The embargo lifted on October 8.

On the very October 8, detailed specifications appeared in an obscure Japanese car blog, car.kurumagt.com. Usually, these mentions can be safely ignored. This one warrants more scrutiny.

Car.kuruma.com is a very bland and decidedly unsensational publication that basically lists new car announcements. It has done so for just a few months, since July of this year, to be exact. The site is registered in the name of Xserver Inc., an IT company in Osaka, Japan. It is a quick & dirty, straight out-of-the-box WordPress site, with less than 5 minutes devoted to its setup.

The strange thing about the S-FR report in car.kuruma.com is that it is completely hype-free, without the usual “OMG! Our spies obtained a highly secret document.” The site lists the specs matter-of-factly, as if they were copied from a press-release, which they definitely were not.

The specs also don’t carry the usual signs of runaway blogger fantasy. The engine, they say, is Toyota’s new high-compression 2NR-FKE, which made its debut in the new JDM Corolla, and in the new Sienta minivan, both usually not the objects of wet blogger dreams. What raises the suspicion level a notch is the mention of the price, 1.5 million yen, translating to $12,500 USD. Usually, the price is kept secret until the day the car goes on sale. The SF-R definitely doesn’t carry the signs of an imminent release. After the Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota will put it on display at car shows around the world, and if there is enough interest, they will decide to build the car. Meaning within 3 to 5 years.

JP prices usually are quoted with all taxes. If the pricing should hold water, and given Toyota’s pricing strategies, a possible entry model of the car could be made available in the U.S. for $9,995.

Today, I talked to a few contacts at Toyota, and I have a few. They all said with a straight face that they never heard of any detailed specs of the car. Toyota PR is not allowed to lie. If they would know, the standard answer would be “we do not comment on future models,” but all I heard was a very honest “Bertel, sumimasen, we just don’t know.”

As mentioned before, exciting and affordable cars targeted at the hearts and pocketbooks of young(er) buyers are of strategic importance to all automakers, especially those in Europe and Japan. This car is worth keeping an eye on, even if the final specs will be different from what we just read.

There is an update: Read this.