- NS4 provides a glimpse of the midsize Toyota sedan of the future
- Shape portends a new, more emotional styling direction
- Packed with technology aimed at efficiency, safety and connectivity
Toyota debuted its latest concept at the Detroit Auto Show, a four-door lift-back sedan sculpted in an aggressive shape and stacked with the latest in high-tech gear. The NS4 points to the global midsize sedan of the future. More specifically, the concept shows what a 2015 production vehicle could look like, according to Toyota. And the look is striking, a decidedly aggressive form that points to the company's aim to build more emotionally appealing vehicles. Under its skin, though, the NS4 is even more futuristic. Propulsion is from an advanced, plug-in version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive. A new interface improves connectivity while a host of cutting-edge safety systems protect occupants.
With the new plug-in concept standing separate from the Prius family of vehicles, Toyota says the next-generation hybrid components in the NS4 will be lighter and more compact to promote performance and efficiency. Better fuel economy, better acceleration and greater electric-only range are the targets. Meeting these goals must not rely on greater charging time that may inconvenience drivers.
Indeed, all the technology in the world is pointless if using it is inconvenient. To that end, Toyota incorporated a new multi-touch screen called Human-Machine Interface allowing simple control of a range of vehicle settings. The system, which has the look and feel of a smartphone interface, provides information with minimal distraction and is capable of adapting to a driver's habits and anticipating his or her responses.
Toyota's collision avoidance system performs such predictive calculations and is already offered in certain vehicles. But the NS4 expands on this technology, too. Both the current system and the one found in the concept car use radar and cameras to detect possible conditions. The NS4's version will not only brake should the driver fail to respond, but also steer the vehicle away from a potential crash. Further, the new system includes near-infrared beams, giving the cameras better night vision.
Other safety technology on the NS4 concept includes adaptive headlights that shield glare to oncoming traffic and a blind spot monitoring system. Working in conjunction with the latter is an array of cameras in place of interior and exterior rear-view mirrors, providing a panoramic rearward view displayed on a dash-mounted screen.
Whether or not the NS4 ? or something very similar ? arrives in dealers and eventually in driveways a few years down the road is a question that remains to be answered. But some more basic versions of the concept's technology are already offered on Toyota or Lexus production vehicles, so taking the hardware to the next step seems all but certain.
What it means to you: The NS4 concept reveals Toyota's design and technology aspirations for a safe, connected and efficient midsize sedan for the future.