Matt Greenop: Bold move in beige world

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Toyota GT86. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Toyota GT86. Photo / Ted Baghurst

With a huge amount of hype, a great deal of enthusiasm and some seriously worn rear rubber, Toyota this week launched its much-vaunted 86 model to press and public alike.

It's no ordinary machine in these days of foliage-fondling EVs and hybrids and super-frugal turbodiesels. It's no subscriber to the cloud of "beigeness" regulators worldwide are desperate to see swallow up our beloved automotive industry.

Dropping the 86 is something fairly brave for Toyota and its partner in crime, Subaru (with its upcoming twin, the BRZ), but thankfully, better-than-hoped-for sales show one thing for certain - we're not ready to roll over and play bored just yet.

Car companies face a huge challenge in the real world - the one where people have needs beyond a rorty little rear-drive sports cars - in how to keep vehicles useful as well as compliant with the ever-thickening book of emission and safety regulations, without completely sucking the joy out of driving.

I'm a tech-head, but cringe whenever I hear fresh talk of autonomous vehicles like Google's driverless cars that gained legit, on-road registration in Nevada earlier this year (as long as there was someone actually sitting at the wheel).

How different companies respond to the regulatory decisions that will be foisted on us in the coming decade will prove two things; that some are just like us, and appreciate the enjoyment motoring can bring to people; while others are likely to show they're in it for something more mercenary and won't pour money into the R&D required to stay one step ahead of the rule book without sending those who love to drive to sleep.

Either way, most are still keeping it real, and I must say thanks Toyota and Subaru for proving that a low-cost, lightweight rear-driver is still relevant, and can be done without harming any fluffy bunnies.

And as for you Google, love your search engine, like what you've done with Android, and am quite impressed that your fun-free car actually works. But when all is said and done, driverless cars and ill-conceived regulations aside, you'll have to pry these keys out of my cold, dead hand.

- NZ Herald

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