Toyota’s plans for downloadable driving characteristics have me excited for its future EVs

The Japanese automaker says future electric sports cars could have downloadable sound profiles, too

Toyota FT-Se electric concept car
(Image credit: Toyota)

You’re probably familiar with how electric cars can receive over-the-air software updates like a smartphone. But what about the option to download new driving characteristics and engine sounds?

That’s exactly what Toyota has in mind for its future electric cars. Specifically, we’re talking about a new range of sporty EVs from Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division. They’re the ones responsible for the brilliant GR Yaris and GR86 petrol-powered sports cars, and they’ll be soon turning their hand to EVs like the FT-Se concept revealed in October and pictured above.

These are cars that must “stimulate all the senses,” Toyota’s chief branding officer Simon Humphries told TopGear this week. He went on: “It can’t just be fun to go in a straight line. It needs to make you smile in the corners too. And it should reward people who are prepared to hone their skills and take more control. Mastering quick manual shifting with a smooth clutch action always used to feel good, so why shouldn’t it be the case with an EV?.”

He has a point. Electric cars are massively fast in a straight line – battery power means we’re now in a world where a small Volvo family car can hit 60 mph in 3.4 seconds – but they lack the engagement of an engine and a manual gearbox.

Toyota FT-Se

(Image credit: Toyota)

Toyota has already said it’s working on a simulated manual gearbox for electric cars, where drivers can use a clutch pedal and gearstick when they want more engagement, then switch back to a regular, one-speed EV system when they don’t. It’ll work with paddle shifters too, and Toyota says it could arrive on production EVs by 2026.

It sounds like such a system – and sporty Toyota EVs generally – could let drivers download and install different sets of driving characteristics, making the cars feel and sound different to when they left the factory. Humphries added: “How about downloading your favourite engine sound and driving dynamics, and you could truly create your own unique experiences,”

Downloading engine sounds doesn’t take much imagination. Many of today’s EVs have synthetic sounds to entertain the driver, with options to adjust their pitch and volume, or turn them off. But driving dynamics? This is where things get interesting.

Toyota hasn’t given any more details, but we can imagine how a sporty EV’s power and torque curves could be adjusted; how the steering weight and sensitivity could change, and even how a synthetic manual gearbox could be given shorter or longer ratios. Throw in a convincing sound that makes the driver truly believe they’re working through the rev range, keeping the car in its optimal power band, and we think Toyota could be on to something.

Looking for a home charger? Don't miss our guide to the best EV chargers for the home. 

Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3, where he covers topics ranging from classic cars and men's lifestyle, to smart home technology, phones, electric cars, autonomy, Swiss watches, and much more besides. He is an experienced journalist, writing news, features, interviews and product reviews. If that didn't make him busy enough, he is also the co-host of the AutoChat podcast.