A crossover built for Millennials escaping the city on short notice. Wait, what?

Toyota is stretching its legs and cracking its knuckles; the compact off-roading segment might just be its next target. See, Toyota debuted the FT-4X concept at the 2017 New York Auto Show mid-April, and it seems deeply researched and well executed. The outlandish flair of a concept vehicle is unmistakably present, but the FT-4X seems ready to tackle the light weekend excursion outside city limits. Oh, and guess what generation it’s targeting? Yeah, Generation Y – otherwise known as millennials.

Right from the get-go, Toyota defined its audience as “millennial-aged professionals confined to city limits who oftentimes take unplanned, casual trips into the outdoors.” Toyota’s Calty Design Research president, Kevin Hunter, said it this way: “As designers, we’re investing deep thought into the emotional connection with our cars. We focused on how a crossover vehicle can add fun and value to casual adventures both in and out of the city, thinking about how someone would use it, and what they would love to do with it.”

As if that’s not enough, Toyota defined this city-living, weekend warrior lifestyle: Casualcore Exploration.

With that in mind, Toyota designed the FT-4X to accommodate such folks. The 167.3-inch-long compact crossover with functionality baked into every nook and cranny. An innovative, dual-action rear hatch opens both vertically and horizontally, while the interior has space for five people and their gear. Storage compartments are color-coded and there’s even an intergraded North Face sleeping bag in the center console and resalable water bottles in the door panels.

Toyota hasn’t made an official promise as to when (or if) a production version of the FT-4X, or Future Toyota Four-wheel Drive Crossover, will debut. But with the America’s thirst for crossovers and SUVs growing evermore insatiable, there’s a good chance something similar to this will indeed make production. There’s plenty more details about the FT-4X below the break, so keep reading for the full run-down.

Continue reading for more information of the Toyota FT-4X Concept]


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You’d be forgiven for mistaking Toyota FT-4X for a Jeep Renegade concept. The tall, squarish crossover looks rather similar to the Jeep, even down to its red tow hooks and “X” styling. Still, the Toyota has plenty of unique attributes and flair that’s unmistakably linked to Toyota’s heritage. As for the “X” styling, Toyota says the FT-4X can be described as having X shapes at each side. The front, sides, rear, and roof all have an X shape. It’s most clearly seen in the side profile, with the door handle being at the center of an outwardly bulging X.

Off-roadish details like the black plastic fenders, respectable approach and departure angles, tow hooks, aggressive tires, tall ground clearance, integrated running boards, and the iconic TOYOTA badge on the grille and tailgate all give the FT-4X an attractive appearance that seems more functional than most crossover concepts. Perhaps Toyota is actually serious about delivering an honest off-roader.

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The tall, squarish crossover looks rather similar to the Jeep, even down to its red tow hooks and “X” styling.

Toyota designers say millennials enjoy leaving the digital world and engaging with mechanical things that offer a satisfying clunk. To that end, the FT-4X’s rear tailgate comes with a large dial that rotates 90 degrees. This changes the way the hatch opens. With the dial turned vertical, the hatch opens outward with its two doors split in the middle. Turn the dial horizontal, and the entire liftgate opens like a conventional SUV’s hatch. While the dial isn’t the most practical, the dual action liftgate gives added functionality not found in other crossovers or SUVs. The roof is also designed for functionality. Its flat design makes rooftop storage simple, while four tie-down hooks at each corner make securing cargo easy.

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Also topping the list of interesting injections of heritage, Toyota designers included a glass window just behind the rear door on the driver’s side. The panel is designed to mimic the rear side window in the old Toyota Pickup Xtracab. It’s doubtful such a piece would make production, but the idea is cool nonetheless.


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The concept vibe is alive and well inside the FT-4X. Not one inch of real estate looks ready for production. Still, the idea behind the layout and detailing is interesting and forward-thinking. The dash’s unusual inward scallop makes room for the horizontal bar HVAC vents and pod-style glove box and gauge cluster. It also makes for a cool storage place for odds and ends. The steering wheel shares a hint of design to the current 4Runner’s, though its controls are very different than anything we’ve seen before.

The gauge cluster itself is very small. It shows a digital speed readout, tachometer, and information abut coolant temperature and fuel level. The upper screen is actually a cell phone. Toyota says millennials use their phones for navigation more than a center-mounted infotainment system, so designers integrated a place to dock the phone.

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The idea behind the layout and detailing is interesting and forward-thinking.

Down low is a dial very similar to the one on the tailgate. A small screen off to the right shows menu functions. To switch between menus, just turn the dial to HVAC, Audio, and Map. It’s not the most user-friendly system, but it’s certainly different. More dials can be seen on the door panels. The window switches are rotary, with a left turn raising the windows and a right turn lowering them. A rocker switch operates the door locks.

The center console between the front seats hold plenty of stuff, including a North Face sleeping bag that doubles as the armrest. A large, open space in the bottom of the console offers plenty of storage, though it’s not as handy for smaller items. There’s also a glaring lack of cup holders. Perhaps Toyota thinks the built-in water bottles will supply enough hydration.

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The FT-4X’s interior is certainly different than anything we’ve seen from Toyota, but the look is interesting and somewhat practical.

In back, the rear bench seat folds flat into the floor, making plenty of room for storing larger items. The rear load floor also slides outward though the open tailgate, revealing a large under-floor storage compartment perfect for hiding valuables. Red tie-down hooks match the hooks on the outside, while giving plenty of places to secure cargo.

The FT-4X’s interior is certainly different than anything we’ve seen from Toyota, but the look is interesting and somewhat practical. We’re curious to see how this design translates to a production model, should Toyota take the FT-4X that far.


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Toyota is rather coy in the drivetrain department. The press materials even say, “one could assume” when suggesting the FT-4X uses a small-displacement four-cylinder engine. Perhaps a new four-cylinder is in the works – one that would replace the 2.0-liter found in several Toyota products. Maybe it’s a replacement for the terribly old 2.7-liter four-cylinder in the base Tacoma and budget-friendly Highlander. Who knows.

The concept is said to have a mechanical 4WD system with a selectable low-range.

What Toyota did confirm was the FT-4X’s four-wheel drive system. The concept is said to have a mechanical 4WD system with a selectable low-range. We’d venture to guess the FT-4X is front-wheel-drive during normal operation, with the rear axle engaging when the driver wishes. The FT-4X rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture, which accommodates FWD, RWD, and AWD/4WD driveline types. This same platform is under everything from the Prius and the new Camry to the Lexus LC and LS.

Details about the suspension include “sophisticated” MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone rear suspension. It will certainly be fun to see how Toyota designs the road-going version, assuming the FT-4X will move past the concept stage. And no, we’ve got no official word on what Toyota will name it. Hopefully something iconic will be incorporated like the FJ name.


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Of course, it’s far too early to be talking price at this point. Toyota hasn’t even confirmed the FT-4X will move into production. But should the green light be given, the FT-4X should be pretty affordable. Toyota talks a big game about millennial buyers and those who seek adventure. Those folks probably wouldn’t want to spend big bucks on something designed to get dirty on the weekends.


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The FT-4X might only be a concept for now, but Toyota obviously spent time and deep thought into its target audience and design. Sure, millennials are an easy group to laugh at, but their money is just as green as a baby boomer’s. And as more millennials reach the time when buying a new car is within reach, it’s fun and interesting vehicles like this that will surely grab their attention. Kudos, Toyota. You’ve successfully made something not boring. Let’s just see if you can squeeze this past the bean counters and stodgy executives. Play your cards right, and this might be your hottest selling product outside the Camry.

  • Leave it
    • Perhaps too unconventional
    • WIll it make production?
Mark McNabb
About the author

Press Release

It’s only natural. In the busyness of city-based work life there emerges a growing urge to “get away”. For millennial-aged professionals confined to city limits, oftentimes these getaways are unplanned, and are of the casual, less extreme kind. (No time for summiting a mountain – a drive to the scenic point will do!)

Enter the completely revolutionary Toyota FT-4X Concept – or, “Future Toyota”-Four-Wheel Drive Crossover – that today took the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) by storm.

It’s a four-wheel drive toolbox penned by Toyota’s Calty Design Research Inc. in Newport Beach, California. With its long list of unique functionalities and a Rugged Charm compact design, the FT-4X is the seamless conduit of popular Casualcore – rather than hardcore – outings by anyone, anytime.
“As designers, we’re investing deep thought into the emotional connection with our cars,” said Calty President, Kevin Hunter. “The Toyota FT-4X is not simply a concept where style meets function; it is a thoughtful, charming and engaging experience that adds real pleasure and convenience to the journey. We focused on how a crossover vehicle can add fun and value to casual adventures both in and out of the city, thinking about how someone would use it, and what they would love to do with it.”

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A shift from multiday, extreme, high-effort excursions to brief, unplanned, casual adventures is an overwhelming reality for Generation Y. Millennials are fond of the outdoors, but operate almost always indoors. They enjoy venturing into to new neighborhoods and national parks, but hardly plan ahead. Their countless interactions on social media bring inspiration. It is the busyness of their nonstop daily lives that pushes them past the precipice of “liking” a digital snapshot into the realm of creating their own, in reality. Their adventures begin curbside, in a parking structure, or in the depths of an underground garage.

Dinner on the beach during a beautiful evening; tailgating with friends while listening to music; visiting a favorite trailhead for a run or dog walk; settling next to a campfire for an overnight desert stay – these are the types of quick escapes that an increasing number of young, career-minded urbanites hold dear.
Always ready to go? They are – and so is the Toyota FT-4X.

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Casualcore adventures originate in the city. Knowing this, Calty’s designers instituted a Rugged Charm ethos when creating the FT-4X. Rugged Charm places value on simplicity, capability, durability, and Toyota lineage. Furthermore, it takes into account compact, sturdy dimensions, and a charming ubiquitous tactility of grips, handles, and controls (the notion of feeling a satisfying mechanical reaction to a user’s input).

“You can really tell that we had a blast designing the FT-4X because it looks fun to use and fun to drive,” described Calty Studio Chief Designer, Ian Cartabiano. “I love this idea of mechanical satisfaction because while we’re living in today’s digital world, we took something that’s based on physical movements and made that a large part of what this vehicle is. We want everyone to interact with this car and feel a sense of delight and excitement.”

Designers approached their work uncharacteristically. Rather than begin their styling processes at the nose or profile, they began at the rear. Why? In their months’ long research, they noticed that basecamp for Gen Y explorers was oftentimes the destination itself. Cherished experiences were had in and around this basecamp, usually at their vehicle’s tailgate or hatch.

Small, yet strong outdoor activity gear inspired the FT-4X’s expressive looks. For its exterior, stylists imbued an X Theme throughout the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) C-Platform. Imagine this: At the center of a vertical X (which bows outward) is a door handle, or, in essence, the widest part of FT-4X (71.7 in.). This places the broadest area near the driver and passenger, creating a natural protective zone. At the rear, the bowed vertical X can be seen at the rear hatch, again placing the door handle at the center and creating a protective space.

Now, imagine another X, but this time horizontal, or flat, placed at the top and bottom of the vertical Xs. At each of the four corners of the bottom X is an 18-inch wheel wearing a custom 225/55R-18 Goodyear® All-Season tire. The FT-4X stands 63.9 inches tall, is 167.3 inches long, and has a wheelbase of 103.9 inches. Its form emanates simple sturdiness front to back, top to bottom. It’s X Theme abound.

The rear hatch is a modern engineering marvel. Called Multi-Hatch, it opens two ways: horizontally in Urban Mode, and vertically in Outdoor Mode. Urban Mode splits the hatch in half and makes for easier curbside gear loading when clearance is limited. Outdoor Mode opens the one-piece hatch upward, creating an impromptu shelter from the elements. The door’s design also incorporates a satisfying mechanical touch: a rotatable handle that users turn to select its opening mode. The deeply set handle is capable of being gripped by a gloved hand, say, when loading or unloading while snowboarding, or when out-and-about on a wintry day.

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Twin red hooks sit below the Multi-Hatch within the rear bumper. These high-visibility reflective pieces are secure anchor points for vehicle recovery and the tying down of loads, if desired. Big item hauling is simplified with a reinforced flat roof, plus, a tie down hoop placed at each of the roof’s corners. Extra utility is provided by power supply outlets set at the base of the tie down hoops. Users can power a variety of campsite electronics and lighting or roof rack accessories thanks to the convenient outlets.

Generous approach and departure angles add to the FT-4X’s prowess on a variety of paved and unpaved paths. Wide black-painted over-fenders lend a tough look to the exterior and engulf the beefy Goodyear® rubber. A vertical Picture Window set above the driver’s side rear fender pays homage to the classic version brandished by Toyota’s iconic Pickup Xtracab truck and first-generation 4Runner sport-utility vehicle. The window glass is removable and interchangeable, allowing for owners to personalize their FT-4X even further with multiple opaque color or tinted glass options. The rear door handle is discretely placed fore of the vertical window and high above the beltline, much like it is on the current Toyota C-HR.

Sculpted rocker panels at the lower portion of the doors enhance underbody protection and durability when venturing off the beaten path. And whenever the FT-4X does find some heroic scenery, a GoPro® HERO5 Session™ camera built into the driver’s side rearview mirror can capture it all.

Of course, the X Theme finds its way up front too. At the center of the nose’s vertical X is a classic, extra-large embossed TOYOTA logo that’s flanked by bright LED headlamps. Like the rear, reflective tie down hooks set in the lower bumper add to the crossover’s looks and deftness. Another nod to classic FJ Land Cruisers and Pickup models of yesteryears: the recognizable horizontal orientation of the FT-4X’s grille, headlights, and bumper.

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Proceeding from work to play, indoors to outdoors, without advanced preparation can be a recipe for forgetting some essential equipment. No worries (as Gen Y-ers might say)! The FT-4X is a rolling gear box. Not only is the interior’s concept that of a large open space having plenty of easily accessible storage for basic equipment, but it is basic equipment itself. Passengers can easily identify the space’s purpose based on coloring, as blue classifies closed storage, while orange indicates open storage.
On the inside of the Multi-Hatch with rear Picture Window are twin boxes – one warm, the other cold. They’re designated for a number of functions, such as the temporary stowage of snacks, or the warming and cooling of gear (i.e. gloves, blankets, ice packs, etc.).

The cabin is sectioned into threes: Clean Zone, where the front passengers sit, and where rugged floor mats and door sills were inspired by Japanese sunoko slatted wood flooring; Wet Zone, also characterized by all-weather mats (where passengers can stow damp swimsuits/snow clothing or muddy boots) and located just behind the front seats, as well as below the rear second row bench seat; and, Rear Cargo Zone.

The Rear Cargo Zone’s floor lays completely flat and features topside tracks for securing cargo. A deep storage compartment is hidden underneath, and can be accessed by sliding the floor out toward the Multi-Hatch, transforming the floor into a tray. Folding the second row bench seat down extends the floor’s capacity considerably. Red tie down hooks line the sides of the rear’s cargo hold, too, for added load securing. Above, in the headliner, resides removable inside lighting that doubles as a flashlight.
Diving deeper into the cabin reveals more nifty elements. The rear door handles serve as impromptu water bottles. Its armrests have USB outlets and big, rotatable window switches. And, much like the rear’s ceiling-mounted removable flashlight, the dome light can serve as an exterior locator or beacon.

An ultra-compact The North Face® sleeping bag fits neatly between front passenger seats, and functions as an armrest that is strapped atop an extra-large dividing console. The console can fold upward, revealing additional storage capacity for medium-sized gear. Its breathable, high-grip, hybrid mesh surface allows for wet items to dry quickly, and its bungee cord lattices keep small items in place. Front passenger doors receive identical large window switches and removable water bottle door grips as the rear, but gain blue storage boxes camouflaged as armrests.

The dash ahead of the front passenger is a mix of blue and orange designated storage. A larger blue chest “floats” above a carved orange bin. On both sides of the chest are slim air vents capable of rotating down in order to warm, dry, or cool clothing such as gloves and hats. A removable multimedia audio system is part boom box, part in-dash stereo and is engineered with an extra-large handle grip (ala exterior door handles).

Although there is no traditional navigation screen, designers did include a mobile phone mount directly above the driver’s digitized cylindrical instrument cluster. The concept being that a downloadable navigation application, as well as an application showing digitized off-road instrumentation, can be made available for drivers’ use. Gen Y-ers, Calty’s designers realized, rely heavily on their mobile devices for GPS directions.

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Albeit a concept, one could assume the FT-4X could potentially employ a small displacement four-cylinder engine. Being equipped with mechanical four-wheel drive and selectable low-range further accentuates the FT-4X’s always-ready character, while the punchy, low-displacement engine maintains exceptional usability and efficiency while traversing congested city streets or open dusty trails. A sophisticated MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear suspension absorbs rocks and potholes.


The Toyota FT-4X Concept fully embodies “Rugged Waku-Doki” (translation: a palpable heart-pounding sense of excitement) through its numerous clever design ingredients. It charms its tech-savvy, screen-scrolling users with a distinct tactile charisma sensed at every button push, handle twist, and dirt road trekked. Yes, with the FT-4X, never has the divide between desktop and trailhead been as infinitesimal as now.

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