The future of mobility is an exciting frontier that everyone in the automotive world is trying to explore. As a result, companies have taken creative and odd approaches to meet the challenge.
Recently, Toyota gave me the chance to test out their i-Road concept. The i-Road is one of Toyota proposed solutions to solving urban transportation.
To be honest, most of the prospective future mobility offerings I’ve seen thus far have either been impractical, boring to drive — or just flat out strange.
When it comes to cars, I’m a traditionalist. I love the visceral experience that a great drive can engender. The sound of the engine, the shifting of the gears, and the feedback from the steering. In the right car, it all comes together to create perfection. Although speed is often a fun aspect of a great car, it isn’t entirely necessary — you can chase some thrills without eye-tearing 0-60 acceleration.
So it was with a bit of apprehension that I tried out Toyota’s i-Road concept.
In one of the large halls of New York’s Javits Center, I got my first look at one of Toyota’s “urban mobility solutions.”
At first sight, the three-wheeled i-Road is anything but boring. It’s not quite what I would call a “car,” but it’s so much more than an electric scooter with a canopy. What the design allowed Toyota to do was combine the small, nimble characteristics of a scooter with the wet-weather capabilities and driving stability of a small city car.
After taking some photos of the car, I jumped in for test drive on the twisting indoor course Toyota set up.
With a single headlight, the three-wheeled, electric i-Road looks unlike anything on the road today.
But it has to be said that the i-Road and its 'dumbo ear' doors have a certain amount of charm to them.
... a tad over seven and half feet long, the i-Road should be a breeze to handle on tight urban streets.
.... a top speed of 37 mph, you probably wouldn't want to venture beyond the confines of an urban center.
.... and you'll find a conventional driver's cockpit, complete with steering wheel, turn indicators, and accelerator and brakes pedals. It's even got the interior door handles from a Camry.
Although Toyota says there's room for second passenger behind the driver, you're better off as a solo act.
As with most electric cars, the torquey electric motor gives the i-Road quick reaction off the line.
The Toyota leans into the corners like a skier. The car will even alert you if you are going too fast or banking at too extreme an angle. (Note that this is not me driving!)
Initially, the sensation created by the swivelling rear wheel is a bit strange. But once you get used to it, you realise the i-Road offers a very nimble and spirited driving experience. I'm not saying driving the i-Road inside of a convention center is like piloting a Porsche 911 in the Swiss Alps, but it's certainly far from boring.
The Toyota i-Road is currently not for sale in the US. The car is being tested on the streets of Tokyo in Japan and Grenoble in France.
All in all, the Toyota i-Road was fun, funky and innovative. Toyota was able to mesh the conventional with the orthodox to create interesting take on future urban mobility. Sign me up!
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