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ME.WE Concept From Toyota Provokes Head Scratching

By raccars Published

There are times when function quite correctly prevails over form, but Toyota seems to have taken this idea to a whole new level with its ME.WE concept...

The ME.WE is more than a car, it's a lifestyle judgement. The Japanese giant has collaborated with French architect, Jean-Marie Massaud, to create a monument to 'anti-excess', a response to the worldwide financial and fuel crises. The very strange looking vehicle purports to be all things to all men: a citycar, a convertible, a pick-up and an off-roader. It's also supposed to be environmentally friendly, made from recyclable panels and powered by electric.

That bulbous shape has been produced by a chassis formed from tubular aluminium and polypropylene panels, meaning the whole car weighs only 750kg – those panels come in at just 14kg each. That makes the Toyota ME.WE 200kg lighter than any other supermini. In line with Toyota's earlier i-ROAD concept, the ME.WE gets an electric motor to each wheel, giving it four-wheel drive capabilities according to demand, without the complications and bulk of a traditional all-wheel drive transmission. In effect, there's no transmission, driveshaft or a central engine adding bulk.

The cabin follows the same theme, with horizontal surfaces and floor mats in sustainably sourced bamboo and a minimalist, touchscreen instrument panel giving information on battery status, speed and satellite navigation instructions. Interior space has been entirely devoted to passengers, with the battery storage compartment situated under the floor and luggage to be placed on the roof under a folding, waterproof neoprene cover. The car can be turned into a pick-up layout by removing the rear bench seat and storing underneath the front seats, or turned into a convertible of sorts, by opening all the windows – including the windscreen for a beach-buggy effect.

While the Toyota ME.WE can lay equal claim to practicality and ugliness, it does appear to be convenient and comfortable, with air conditioning and heated seats, but even these keep their green credentials by being supplied by a low energy air pump. The surfaces are easy clean with a wipe down finish and the whole car is designed to be very low maintenance.

That all sounds great, but it's hard to get away from the car's unorthodox appearance. Only the most generous soul could, at best, call it funky and futuristic looking. Most people will just call it downright ugly. The concept, as seen so far, lacks mirrors, indicators or bumpers, confirming that it's still strictly in the concept stage, so there's hope for improvement yet.

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