Toyota has a reputation for being a manufacturer of some of the most reliable and competitively priced cars on the planet and have excelled in customer satisfaction surveys globally for many years.
But when it comes to inspired design, the company has a tendency to lag behind other Asian car-makers like Kia.
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda wants to change all that. Evidence of his influence over the company’s design department in recent years is clear in models like the reasonably-priced 86 and Lexus RC Coupe, and it was his nod that green-lighted production of the limited-edition Lexus LFA supercar in 2010.
Toyoda is the type of CEO who also likes to get behind the wheel of his company’s race cars, including the LFA and IS F for events like Germany’s Nurburgring 24-Hour and the 86 in domestic rallies, so his “outside the box” decision to create more aspirational models comes as no surprise.
To inject more spice into Toyota’s design department, the outspoken CEO created an all-female design team in 2011 starting with seven ladies. Kind of like Toyota’s ‘Charlie’s Angels’, the three-lady team you see in this photograph was given the job of reinterpreting some of the company’s higher-profile cars, starting with the now-iconic 86.
Debuting as a concept car at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Salon, the ‘86 Style Cb,’ which stands for ‘Cool Beauty’, has just been launched into the Japanese market in limited numbers.
“We first flexed our muscles with the FJ Cruiser Style Cb in 2012 and were then asked to take on the 86 and add something special to it. Something with style and chicness, borrowing ideas from Toyota’s sports car past,” says Megumi Nakano (pictured in the centre), the leader of the design team.
Toyoda must have liked what he saw in 2013 because the production 86Cb has now appeared in showrooms basically unchanged.
Inspired by retro styling hints from legendary sports cars of yesteryear like the 2000GT (which appeared in James Bond’s You Only Live Twice), the Cb gets a new softer nose section, elongated oval-shaped grille, reshaped rear bumper and exhaust outlets, round bubble headlights, side air-vent accents with unique illumination and 18-inch wheels and tyres.
The original concept car was given two-tone paintwork in ‘nuance beige’ and ‘demitasse brown’ (demitasse means “small espresso cup”), and luckily it survived the arduous design process in which many original concept ideas are shelved.
The design team also made available more popular paint jobs including single colours or two-tone finishes in either silver, white, black, or a combination of the two.
Inside, the Cb incorporates wood-like and polished aluminium tones, specially designed gauges and bucket seats, and a steering wheel and handbrake wrapped in black leather with red stitching and unique Cb logos.
But Toyoda obviously only gave the all-girl design team permission to reinterpret the aesthetics of the car, not the performance or handling. The 86Cb comes with the stock 2.0-litre boxer engine generating 147kW and the choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
Despite this, as with all dress-up models from Japanese car-makers, the 86Cb’s price tag of 4.2 million yen ($A45,000) represents the a handsome price premium over the model on which it’s based, with the stock 86 costing around 2.5 million yen ($A27,000) in Japan.
If you’re looking for that bit more midrange or top end from your 86 then look no further than the MRT Power Kits (complete with factory warranty guarantee!).
Words by Peter Lyon