It’s the New York Auto Show this week, which usually signals the onslaught of concept vehicles — cars that showcase a lot of nifty design elements, but for the most part will never be built and sold on a mass scale. First out of the gate is Toyota with its FT-4X, which may have the distinction of being the concept-iest concept car I’ve ever seen.
This is less of a vehicle and more of a giant, rolling Leatherman multi-tool with four-wheel drive. Or a big, orange gearbox on wheels. Everything in this car is actually something else. The arm-rest is also a North Face sleeping bag. The handlebars are water bottles. The dashboard is a boombox. The trunk doors contain a hidden warmer and refrigerator.
Toyota says the FT-4X embodies “rugged Waku-Doki,” a Japanese phrase that translates as “palpable heart-pounding sense of excitement.” This is the feeling Toyota hopes its target demographic feels when encountering these numerous, clever design gimmicks. To be sure, there is a certain satisfaction that comes from rotating some shiny metal cylinder and popping it out of its casing with a satisfying clicking sound. Everyone loves a good click.
What demographic is Toyota targeting? According to the press release, “millennial-aged professionals confined to city limits”; millennials “fond of the outdoors, but [who] operate almost always indoors”; “most intrepid urbanites”; and Generation Y-types looking to “shift from multiday, extreme, high-effort excursions to brief, unplanned, casual adventures.” I’m not well-versed in this type of terminology, but aren’t all these people some variation of yuppie? I want to like this concept, I really do, but Toyota’s marketing department is making it so, so hard.
Let’s look closer at this trunk, because Toyota — or more specifically, Toyota’s design shop, Calty — really outdid itself with the rear end of this vehicle. Check this out. (Ignore the millennial-aged professionals, if you can.)
That looks fun, if not slightly breakable. Toyota calls it the “multi-hatch” because, as you can see, it’s much more than just a trunk. It’s an impromptu shelter from fake snow. And built inside the doors are two boxes, one warm, the other cold. Winter gear, like hats and gloves, go in the warming box, and perishable snacks and beer go in the cooling one.
In more cringe-worthy marketing-speak, Toyota says the FT-4X is “is the seamless conduit of popular Casualcore — rather than hardcore — outings by anyone, anytime.” (I may have thrown up a little in my mouth when I read that.)
Naturally, there’s much, much more. This thing is festooned with power outlets, USB ports, bungee cords, cameras, and other assorted bells and whistles. You can imagine Adam West’s version of Batman swapping out the Batmobile for the FT-4X without any hesitation. This is a gearhead’s dream come true.
But while most concept cars we see these days are platforms for the automakers to show off their latest visions for a self-driving future, the FT-4X dispenses with all that claptrap, and lasers in on functionality. Toyota wanted to build a car that would be seen as a rolling toolbox, full of hidden nooks and crannies, ready with built-in flashlights and water bottles for that spontaneous drive up the mountain. No need to bring that sleeping bag, brah. Your car is the sleeping bag.