2008 Detroit Auto Show: Toyota A-BAT Concept
What it Is
new cars: Toyota A-BAT Concept Vehicle Preview – Toyota made quite a name for itself with its small pickup truck in the 1980s, and the company describes the A-BAT as a return, at least somewhat, to those humble beginnings. With a modern Honda Ridgeline/Chevy Avalanche profile, and a four-cylinder gasoline engine combined with Toyota’s hybrid system, the concept targets suburban dwellers who commute to work and need to haul things from big-box stores or their weekend warrior toys. The A-BAT parts ways with its pickup truck kin by being built on a unit-body platform. Toyota places the concept below the Tacoma. The idea is a good one, but the concept is rather odd looking because the awkward proportions between the greenhouse and the rest of the truck.Why it Matters
Car-based pickups have come and gone over the past half century, most notably, the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino. The U.S. market saw a few compact car-based pickups in the 1980s, including the VW Rabbit Pickup, and the Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp twins. More recently, Subaru tried its hand at the idea with the Outback-based Baja. GM car czar Bob Lutz has floated the notion that the Holden Ute could come to the states as a Pontiac model. The idea is simple enough: all the comforts of a car with at least some of a pickup’s utility. Toyota brings the idea up-to-date with hybrid drive and solar panels on the dashboard.
What’s Under the Hood
Toyota has only said that the A-BAT has a four-cylinder, gasoline engine linked to the Synergy Hybrid Drive. No word on the size of the gasoline motor or whether the hybrid system differs from the one found in the Prius. While the bed is four-feet long in the standard configuration, there’s a pass-through mid-gate that can be lowered to add two feet of space and the tailgate adds another two feet, which allows hauling a four-by-eight foot sheet of plywood. Roof panels also slide, adding to the versatility.
What It Looks Like
In profile, the resemblance to the Honda Ridgeline and/or Chevrolet Avalanche is unmistakable, but the low roof line combined with a high beltline makes it much more like a coupe and less like a Tacoma. Fenders and wheel wells are bulky, to give it the truck yang to the roofline’s yin. With the front and rear doors open there is no B-pillar, and that provides a large opening for passengers. Overall, it’s very modern looking, with a touch of concept exaggeration to the lines. The proportions are too awkward.
Concept interiors are frequently more experimental looking than the exteriors, often taking on a flying car look. The A-BAT doesn’t go quite that far, but it’s pretty out there. Solar panels atop the dash help supply juice for the navigation system and display panels. The dash board is nearly devoid of buttons and the steering wheel is D-shaped with the flat section on top. The rear seat bottoms slide underneath the back of the cab to open up space for storage.
What Toyota Says
“We’ve taken Toyota’s truck heritage to a different level by envisioning a vehicle capable of maneuvering the suburbs as well as dirt roads. This compact truck is as comfortable for long commutes as it is for road trips. It can accommodate outdoor toys and home improvement supplies. Plus, customers benefit from the hybrid powertrain’s low emissions and fuel economy.”
What We Think
Priusamino? After all, it is a hybrid car with a pickup truck bed. The idea of having a comfortable, quiet and thrifty commuter vehicle with the option to throw mulch in the back is very attractive. Styling leans a bit too far to the typical concept’s cartoon/flying car realm, but production vehicles are more vanilla than their concepts about 95 percent of the time. So, with a dose of reality and retention of the rest of the A-BAT’s features, Toyota might beat everyone else back to the market or at least fire another shot over GM’s bow.
By Bob Beamesderfer
MyRide Road Test Editor
Photo Credit: Toyota