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BMW, Toyota to build sports car

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One day there will be a Toyota fuel-cell behind that kidney grille, and BMW Diesels in European Toyotas.

Friday's meeting between Toyota president Akio Toyoda and Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the BMW Board of Management, to sign a memorandum of understanding for 'long-term strategic collaboration' was a bit of a ho-hum until Toyoda let slip that the joint venture would include the development of a 'sustainable sports car'.

“Toyota is strong in environment-friendly hybrids and fuel cells,” he said. “BMW's strength is in developing sports cars - think of the exciting cars we could build together.”

We can't help feeling that would no longer be a Toyota. It would be a real one.

Just the thought of, say, a slightly stretched 86 chassis with a 225kW BMW three-litre straight six in place of the standard 147kW Subaru two-litre flat four is enough to make any petrolhead's eyes light up.

What's more likely to happen, however, is a Toyota Supra replacement on a 6 Series platform (which has actually been mooted by a BMW staffer in an interview with Autonews) with a two-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and a tweaked-by-Toyota, plug-in version of BMW's ActiveHybrid system.

But even that would be short-term.

BMW and Toyota both insist they will not build a Bavariota, with badging the only difference between the German and Japanese versions.

So the 'sustainable sports car' we would expect to see would be a two-seater on a lightweight aluminium and composite chassis, not unlike that of BMW's i3 and i8, with suspension by BMW and a decent-sized electric motor of at least 120kW on each axle and a T-shaped plug-in lithium-ion battery pack between and behind the seats.

Behind that, in a mid-mounted position, would be either a very lean-burning, ethanol-powered BMW 1.8-litre turbo driving a generator or, in the longer term, a Toyota fuel-cell, extending the car's battery range.

DISTINCTIVE BODY PANELS

The BMW would be a straight two-seater, whereas Toyota would probably try to make theirs a 2+2; each version would have its own distinctive body panels - probably mostly colour-impregnated plastic like a Smart - and it's unlikely they would be interchangeable.

But in either case, we are looking at a 300+kW, all-wheel drive, mid-engined berlinetta that could conceivably weigh less than 1650kg, handle like a kart and go like a scalded cat, using less than three litres per 100km and emitting less than 60g/km of CO2.

Now that's what we would call a sustainable sports car.

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