Ian Cartabiano, chief designer of the Toyota FT-4X and studio chief design at Toyota's Calty studio in California, confirmed to CarAdvice the concept crossover isn't far shy of being production ready.
Speaking to the media after the official unveiling of the FT-4X, Cartabiano said: "We always design [Calty's concepts] to be at the 75 per cent stage. We can make this thing."
The designer stated Toyota's "production engineering has really stepped up their game" and "if we can make C-HR, we can make this thing". He did caution the company will "wait and see what the reaction is".
He also noted: "We have a good record with concept cars. If the reaction is good, you never know what's going to happen. [Calty doesn't] make these fluffy concept cars that have no purpose to go anywhere. You know the record of Calty concept cars, FJ Cruiser, FT-X becoming the Tundra, FT-1, and C-HR."
One of the items that will receive particular attention, if the FT-4X is given the production green light, is the dual-action hatch, which can be lifted upwards, or, with the twist of a handle, can also be opened barn door-style.
Cartabiano nominated the hatch as his favourite feature of the concept vehicle, and took particular pride in showing off how its top hinge is mounted within the high-mount brake light.
"The hatch could be doable, but obviously we'd have to engineer a few issues out. We got it to work mechanically on this [concept]. At Toyota, if we want to make something, we can. We just need that push," he said.
Inspiration for the hatch apparently came from interviews with surfers in Marin county, California, who were sitting on the tailgates of their old 4Runners.
"My [introductory] line about the rear is the new front, that's not bullshit. We literally started with the rear ... and designed a totally usable, functional tailgate for this thing, and the rest falls into place," Cartabiano said.
With the FT-4X based on the C-HR's platform, Cartabiano was asked to compare his two children.
"Being the designer of the C-HR, I always imagined [it] as the city mouse, with the FT-4X as the country mouse. They're very similar, but this car has more interior volume, and more usable space. It's mission is different," he replied.
"The key to simple design is that it has look good dirty. I think this car is going to look kick-ass dirty. I don't think C-HR should ever get dirty. It's a philosophical difference. And although the dimensions are similar, [this one] has steeper ramp angles at either end. They have the same wheel size, but the tyres are a little bit beefier."
The designer also claims the FT-4X has enough usable space that you could camp inside it.
For those hoping for a successor to the FJ Cruiser, Cartabiano cautions: "This is not a Moab rock crawling car. We already have a wide stable of totally hardcore off-road vehicles, we don't need everything in our lineup to be hardcore. This can get you there, but are you going to be rock climbing in it? No. But can you access the trailhead to get you to base camp? Yeah.
In developing the FT-4X, the Calty team spoke to millennials for "a couple weeks", and they said that weren't interested in climbing Everest, but were more interested in visiting Joshua Tree, camping at Yosemite or checking out Death Valley. At that point, Cartabiano claims the design team changed its focus from "hardcore to casual core".
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