Toyota’s New York Auto Show car is a crossover for those who prefer to scroll rather than stroll in the great outdoors. The FT-4X Concept is designed to meet the imagined needs of city-bound millennials with a sense of spontaneous weekend adventure.
Toyota says that the bright orange and white SUV ‘lite’ is the first vehicle to capitalize on what it calls the ‘Casualcore’ lifestyle it imagines most successful American Generation Yers live.
“We focused on how a crossover vehicle can add fun and value to casual adventures both in and out of the city, thinking about how someone would use it, and what they would love to do with it,” said Kevin Hunter, President of Toyota’s Calty Design Research Inc. in Newport Beach, California, which undertook the project.
Toyota reasoned that while generations past would have jumped into a Jeep or Ford Bronco, packed it with equipment and headed out on extreme all-terrain adventures, today, thanks to the ubiquity of social media and digital technology, people want to grab casual, spur-of-the-moment adventure wherever they can.
Just getting to the mountain and having fun at its base is enough – without having to think about things like packing a change of clothes or water, or worrying if the car can actually drive up the side of a mountain.
This is why the FT-4X Concept’s interior door handles double as water bottles, and why the center console armrest for the driver is actually a smartly-folded North Face sleeping bag. There are open and closed storage spaces throughout the cabin, some of which are waterproof, some chilled, and some heated.
The matting and coverings around the rear passenger seats are mud-proof and waterproof, giving adventurers somewhere warm to dry off, and the tailgate space is completely flat for easier loading and to double as seating when parked. Even the interior lights can be removed to use as flashlights.
Toyota conceived the cabin as the vehicular equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife. “You can really tell that we had a blast designing the FT-4X because it looks fun to use and fun to drive,” said Calty Studio Chief Designer Ian Cartabiano. “We want everyone to interact with this car and feel a sense of delight and excitement.”
And while some elements of the car’s design might be seen as gimmicks, what is refreshing and genuinely clever about the FT-4X is that it is unapologetically analog — full of proper switches and buttons. The four-wheel drive system is mechanical, there is no infotainment or touch screen system, just a cradle for drivers to mount their smartphone and use apps.
“I love this idea of mechanical satisfaction because while we’re living in today’s digital world, we took something that’s based on physical movements and made that a large part of what this vehicle is,” Cartabiano explained.