Before the recent mold-breaking vehicles such as the LFA and FT-86, Toyota had the reputation of a carmaker that had gone soft and played it safe. Although the company did cut back on risky ventures, there were quite a few calculated, experimental projects that made considerable headway in both domestic and overseas markets. Among these was the Toyota WiLL automotive line, consisting of three uniquely designed vehicles between 2001-2005.
Based between partnerships of 6 different Japanese companies, the project aimed to achieve a cross over between, electronic appliances, lifestyle products, and cars. In hopes of breaking through to an untapped twenty-something audience (much like the current American Scion brand) the automobiles were designed to have interactive systems and monthly, flexible purchase plans. Due to this joint-collaborative effort the restraints of the Toyota styling guidelines of the period were gently placed aside. Allowing each of the vehicles to go into limited production followed by a legion of die-hard fans.
Toyota WiLL Vi (1300cc Yaris Platform)
Easily the most eye-catching (perhaps for the wrong reasons) of the trio, the WiLL Vi was a compact vehicle designed by Jim Shimizu. A bit of a visual oddity, the car seemed to take elements and lines from a variety of sources. Its small size and borderline cartoonish styling almost made it seem radio-controlled. Paired with its looks comes an interesting vehicle composition with a rarely seen back-cut rear window. Much cannot be said about the WiLL Vi’s driving capabilities or agility, but it did seem to hit a note with its buyers. If you manage to catch one of the few convertible versions putting around, please be gentle and release it back into the wild.
Toyota WiLL VS (1800cc VVT-I/VVTL-I Corolla Platform)
As the most impressive and well-received vehicle of the bunch, the WiLL VS was the accumulation of everything the project was designed to be. With styling cues based on the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter, the car always seems to do its best to not get a ticket while parked. First introduced in 2001, the vehicle’s extravagant styling holds up extremely well with today’s modern vehicles. From exterior to interior, the sleek, angular cuts and simple, bold accents made the car stand out of the pack back then as much as it does now. The VS performed well in its domestic Japanese market, but with a production number of around 4,000 units it is now a heavily sought after (and modified) vehicle.
Toyota Cypha (1300cc/1500cc AWD Yaris Platform)
Perhaps one of the most commonly seen, but often unrecognized, of the group is the Cypha. Not to be outdone by the others, the Cypha came with its own styling cues that brought a futuristic set of stacked projector headlights and pop-color paint options such as orange, green, and yellow. Designed around the concept of a “Cyber Capsule,” the vehicle proved to be an interesting options in a relatively dull market. Playful, modern, and chic, the car aimed to be more of a statement of automobile ownership and had its own commercial-spot series. The newly released network navigation system, “G-book,” was pushed heavily in this car, offering to assist its user to sync their contact list and communicate through messaging.
Even though the WiLL project did not reach the level it was expected to, it did give the automaker insight into what the future of the car industry was ready to accept. As Toyota continues to prove that it has never lost the ability to make impressive cars, the future looks bright under the new direction of Akio Toyoda. Proving the fact that it takes more than muscle to make a great car seems to be the keystone of the company’s new direction in making cars.