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Toyota 1963-2017: Toyota's aussie concepts

By Byron Mathioudakis, 30 Sep 2017 Features

Toyota 1963 2017 Toyotas aussie concepts

Toyota's local talent shone brightly, but burned all too briefly

THE NEW millennium was a hive of activity at Toyota’s Altona HQ, with no fewer than three concept vehicles designed and engineered to show off the substantial Aussie talent within.

First cab off the rank was the 2003 Toyota X-Runner Concept. Nobody will argue that it’s the sexiest Avalon ever, this monocoque-bodied coupe utility employed a longer wheelbase than the standard sedan, and featured a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 driving all four wheels via an AWD system nicked from the Lexus RX.

The rear suspension was also modified over the donor sedan to incorporate the torsion beam from a Tarago AWD. While the production potential for such a workhorse/weekend plaything was obvious, the 2004 Sportivo Coupe Concept that followed was truly motor-show flight-of-fancy, albeit a world-class one in terms of design and execution.

What it previewed precisely remains a mystery, but this gullwing (or, rather, dihedral-doored) Toyota boasted a carbonfibre body by ex-Ford designer (BA Falcon XR series) Nick Hogios, who had also won a young designer gong involving this magazine. Created in just 30 weeks at a reported cost of only about $1 million, the SCC was also completely driveable, courtesy of its contemporary Camry platform, RAV4 running gear and 180kW 2.4 four-pot turbo powertrain.

The third concept, happily, did eventually hit showrooms, though unfortunately sales never met expectations. The 2006 Aurion Sports Concept was meant to show the world that the Camry-in-drag could out-sprint the Commodore SS and Falcon XR8 it was aimed at.

The slammed ride height, huge wheels, integrated body kit, fat exhausts and special paint job looked professional enough, while under the bonnet a 3.5-litre supercharged V6 delivered 241kW and 400Nm to the front wheels via a six-speed auto.

Modifications were made to the chassis to better cope with the huge leap in performance over the regular Toyota Aurion.

Thus the TRD Aurion that eventuated became the fastest and most powerful vehicle the Japanese company ever built in Australia, and was priced around the $60,000 mark.

Too bad its lousy timing – just as buyers were abandoning large cars in the wake of rocketing fuel prices – saw the feistiest Camry offshoot extinguished so soon.

Production ceased in early 2009. Around the same time, Toyota’s Australian team also developed a TRD Hilux, motivated by a 225kW/453Nm 4.0-litre supercharged V6.

It too was dropped, at the same time as the TRD Aurion.