A dramatic statement on future mobility that embraces both superior technology and the human factor, the Toyota NS4 Advanced Plug-in Hybrid revealed at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show is a could-be precursor to a mid-size vehicle the automaker is considering for a global introduction by mid decade.
Developed as a dedicated plug-in hybrid completely distinct from the Prius family, the Toyota NS4 embodies a new styling direction Toyota hopes will create an emotional as well as an intellectual connection with buyers. Reflecting what it calls "a new take on the aerodynamics of the modified triangle," the NS4's unconventional but interesting body form, sweeping cabin-forward greenhouse supported by elegantly thin pillars and dramatic detailing combine to give it plenty of curbside presence while power-activated swan-wing doors ease entry/exit to/from its equally futuristic cabin.
An exercise in black, white and blue, the minimalist interior of the Toyota NS4 has a decidedly futuristic but functional character highlighted by an ultra-sophisticated Human-Machine Interface (HMI) built around a center touchscreen that emulates the look and feel of a smartphone. Capable of responding quickly, directly and with the least amount of driver distraction, the HMI handles everything from audio and climate control to navigation needs and keeping tabs on the state of the battery charge. It's also capable of "learning" driver preferences and habits to better anticipate the best responses to given environments and situations.
As you might expect, powertrain details for the NS4 Plug-in Hybrid are pretty minimal. Toyota will only confirm that it's "targeting" a next-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive plug-in package that's smaller, lighter and more efficient with quicker acceleration, longer range and a short charge time.
The automaker is far more forthcoming on outlining a plethora of new safety innovations fitted to the NS4, starting with the next generation of its Pre-Collision System, glare-minimizing Adaptive Driving Beam Headlamps, a pedestrian protecting pop-up hood structure and a more sophisticated Blind Spot Monitor system.
Even the glass in the NS4 benefits from a number of high-tech twists, including anti-fog film, heat-rejecting anti-solar film, an ultraviolet absorbing inner layer and hydrophobic coating that helps divert raindrops off of its windshield and solar roof panel.
"The continued success of our conventional hybrid vehicles has laid strong groundwork for market acceptance of future advanced technologies," said Jim Lentz, TMS president and chief operating officer. "NS4 demonstrates Toyota's ongoing commitment to enhancing the safety, efficiency, and convenience of future mobility for people everywhere."
This story was updated on January 9, 2012, with new information and photos released in conjunction with the world premiere of the 2013 Acura RDX Prototype at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.