As gas prices rise and fall unpredictably and drivers think about the kind of car they want, auto manufacturers are scrambling to adjust to a rapidly changing industry to meet new consumer demands. Although there are several different types of alternative fuel vehicle technologies, hybrid technology is the one that we seem to hear the most about. In this realm, it seems that companies are turning predominantly to hybrids, too, since they offer the benefits of a clean, emissions-free electric motor combined with the added power of a gasoline engine.
However, manufacturers are still dealing with uncertain perceptions customers have of hybrid cars. One common concern is that hybrid cars don't offer consistent power or speed due to the electric motor. And then there's the design angle -- some hybrids might be just a little too small or even a little too strange-looking for some drivers that have become accustomed to sportier designs.
At the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2003, Toyota introduced a concept car that aimed to combine innovative insides -- efficient hybrid technology -- with the sleek, nearly futuristic outside design of a sports car. The vehicle the company revealed was the Toyota CS&S (Compact Sports & Specialty) concept. One look at the design and you'd think you were looking at something from a science fiction film. Toyota had already influenced the hybrid car sector with the popular Prius model, but with the introduction of the CS&S, the company aimed to show that hybrid technology could work for a flashy open top convertible as well as the usual mid-sized car.
The CS&S concept doesn't look futuristic from just the outside, either. The car's interior features the same kind of innovative hybrid technology you'll find in most Prius models, and a few extra features that sound like clever gadgets from a comic book super hero's vehicle. So what makes the Toyota CS&S so special? Keep reading to find out.
Toyota CS&S Design and Specs
One of the first things mentioned about the Toyota CS&S is that it's a 2+2 sports car. But what exactly does that mean? At first glance, the CS&S looks like your typical two-seat sports convertible from the next century. You simply have one seat for the driver and another for the passenger. On closer inspection, however, you'll notice two bumps behind the front passenger seats. These bumps are actually removable rear canopies that open up to reveal two more seats, making it possible for up to four people to ride in the CS&S at once. For added protection when it's time to park the CS&S, the driver and front passenger can pull the backs of the front seats fully forward to create a protective cover for the cockpit of the car.
The exterior of the CS&S is immediately noticeable, almost resembling some kind of shiny white bullet. It's built low, wide and compact -- it's a relatively small vehicle. In fact, the CS&S measures just 3.7 feet (1,120 millimeters) high, 5.9 feet (1,800 millimeters) wide and 12.9 feet (3,940 millimeters) long, making it lower than the Toyota MR2 but wider than the Toyota Celica.
The CS&S is powered by Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, the same gas-electric technology that's inside the second generation Prius. The 1.5-liter internal combustion engine drives the rear wheels, and an electric motor runs the front wheels, allowing for power and efficiency. The CS&S has a maximum speed of 127 miles per hour (204.4 kilometers per hour) and can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour (0 to 96.6 kilometers per hour) in 8.6 seconds.
The concept also features what Toyota calls Toyota Space Touch, a multi-function information system that allows users to touch a series of floating holographic projections in order to control several areas of the car, including air-conditioning, sound system configurations, satellite navigation and Internet connections.
The CS&S is still just a concept at this point, but it has continued to impress onlookers at auto shows around the world since 2003. And although you won't currently find this hybrid at any Toyota dealership, there's no telling when you might look out on the road, see a CS&S drive by and suddenly get the feeling feel like you're in an episode of The Jetsons.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- AME Info. "Al-Futtaim Motors brings the innovative Toyota CS&S concept car to Dubai." Dec. 11, 2005. (March 30, 2009) http://www.ameinfo.com/73725.html
- Cartype.com. "Toyota CSS Hybrid: 2003." (March 30, 2009) http://www.cartype.com/page.cfm?id=291&alph=All&dec=All
- Toyota.com. "CS&S -- a hybrid to make your heart race." (March 30, 2009) http://www.toyota.com/concept-vehicles/css.html