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Toyota NS4 plug-in hybrid unveiled at 2012 Detroit show

Tue, 10 Jan 2012

The new Toyota NS4 was one of the surprises of the 2012 Detroit auto show. It's the Japanese car maker's vision of what a new family car will look like in 2015. That's not so far off, and nor does this show car seem too other-worldly.

Toyota is, however, at great pains to say the NS4 plug-in hybrid is quite distinct from the Prius family.

Designers have been talking for some time of developing a new stylistic language for the company's electrified cars; the NS4 seems to provide many of those answers.

Toyota NS4: in detail

The NS4 seems tantalisingly achievable. It's a five-door liftback with a very short front overhang and an aero-friendly, sleek fastback style. The headlamps are wedgily styled to shape the face of the NS4 and combine with gaping Lambo-spec air intakes in the front spoiler to make this quite unlike any other hybrid we've seen before.

Check out also the headlamps motif at night time; this is hardly a bland Toyota hybrid. The rear lamps too are pencil-thin and positioned high-up to help create a rear spoiler for superior drag resistance and stability.

NS4: not just about hybrid

Toyota says the NS4 also premieres the company's latest safety and connectivity solutions.

That's why the dashboard controls are more akin to a smartphone than a car centre console. It's a touchscreen which operates the multimedia systems, climate control, battery-charge system and sat-nav. Toyota claims it learns a driver's preferences to simplify choice and present their most likely alternatives in any given situation.

We haven't yet been able to sit in the Toyota NS4 to test out those claims. We'll try and sneak past the security guards on the Toyota stand at the NAIAS.

Those NS4 safety gizmos

This Toyota concept car is bristling with safety gadgets: adaptive headlamsp which automatically flick up to full beam wherever possible, and then trim the beam to avoid dazzling other road users.

Anyone worried about drivers becoming optional should look away now: the NS4 also uses radar and cameras to anticipate a crash, and will autonomously apply the brakes - and steering - of its own accord to avoid a collision.

Perhaps most interesting of all is a new type of glazing in all the car windows. They have a hydrophobic and anti-fog coating, to repel water from outside and mist inside. The glass also filters out UV rays to prevent harmful rays entering the cabin and keep the temperature inside at a comfortable level.

Jim Lentz, the US president and CEO of Toyota, said 'The continued success of our conventional hybrid vehicles laid strong groundwork for market acceptance of future advanced technologies. NS4 demonstrates Toyota’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the safety, efficiency, and convenience of future mobility for people everywhere.'

By Tim Pollard