Striking, Elegant New Coupe Design for the 2021 Toyota Mirai Limited

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2021 Toyota Mirai Limited
2021 Toyota Mirai Limited © Toyota
Dec. 16. 2020
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Toyota City, Japan - Beauty, technology and a hint of the future come together in Toyota’s new flagship sedan, the all-new 2021 Mirai.

The 2016-2020 Mirai was the first production fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) offered for sale to retail customers in North America. Now, for 2021, Toyota has fully rebooted the Mirai as a premium rear-wheel drive sports-luxury FCEV with striking design, cutting-edge technology, more engaging driving performance and a significantly longer EPA-estimated range rating.

The model name, which means future in Japanese, is wholly appropriate, as the 2021 Mirai is powered by the latest evolution of the brand’s advanced fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) powertrain. The new Mirai is one part of an electrification strategy that also includes Toyota’s current and future hybrids and upcoming battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Toyota put the auto industry on the road to modern electrification in 1997 with the first Prius hybrid and today remains the global leader in gas/electric hybrid sales.

Built on the rear-wheel drive GA-L platform that also underpins the larger Lexus LS sedan, the 2021 Toyota Mirai makes a major design departure from the front-wheel drive first-generation version. The body is lower, longer, and wider, with its bolder stance accentuated by standard 19-inch alloy wheels.

A more powerful fuel cell system provides a more engaging driving experience than its pioneering forerunner. The rear-wheel drive layout and four-wheel independent suspension deliver a true sports-luxury sedan driving feel, with greater handling agility than before, yet also with a more comfortable ride. The RWD layout also allowed for increased hydrogen storage to boost EPA-estimated range to 402 miles (Mirai XLE grade), a 30 percent increase over the first-generation Mirai.

The new Mirai’s clean, modern profile was inspired by coupes, yet the new design is also more practical than before. Improved use of space enables a five-seat cabin versus the four-seat layout in the first-generation Mirai. The new Mirai’s interior matches the elegant tone of the exterior.

The 2021 Mirai features more advanced user and safety tech, including Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+. This latest generation of Toyota’s driver-assist technology suite includes Full Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, automatic emergency braking, and Lane Keep Assist. In addition, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert is standard on the 2021 Mirai.

The switch to a rear-wheel drive platform delivers a “twofer” in the 2021 Mirai. The new layout facilitates the coupe-like proportions and bolder stance. At the same time, the new platform allowed for a roomier cabin with more usable space on the inside and in the trunk. The result is neither “form follows function” nor the opposite; it is perhaps better described as “form marries function,” and it’s a beautiful marriage, indeed.

The 2021 Mirai conveys a sense of motion with a classic GT car stance (long-hood, sweeping roofline, short rear deck), rendered in a practical four-door sedan package. The cabin silhouette flows rearward with flush, smooth side surfaces, accented by a dynamic sculpted rocker area with a kickup near the rear wheel.

The body tapers to the rear and blends into an integrated rear spoiler. The effect is that of a single metal form sculpted into a bold shape. The Limited grade is equipped with an exclusive dual-panel panorama roof, which features fixed glass panels and a power sunshade.

The 2021 Mirai will be offered in five exterior colors: Black, Oxygen White, Supersonic Red, Hydro Blue, and Heavy Metal. Hydro Blue, exclusive to the Limited grade, is created with primer, silver base, clear, blue clear, and final clear layers.

The 2021 Mirai introduces a new lighting signature for a Toyota sedan, with long, narrow headlights that sweep rearward into the fenders. Both grades are equipped with auto-leveling bi-beam LED headlights, multi-LED front and rear turn signal indicators, Daytime Running Lights (DRL), and clearance lights. The LED side marker lamps are etched with the Mirai logo.

At the rear, a thin LED taillight panel spans the car’s width, tapered in the center, and creates a unique nighttime signature with three distinct gradation lines. Color-keyed heated power-folding outside mirrors feature turn signal indicators, defrosters, blind spot warning, and puddle lights.

The second-gen Mirai features a more highly evolved FC system. Still 650v as in the first Mirai, the next-generation fuel cell stack is about 20 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than the previous stack, and so fits easily under the hood. The new, smaller stack allowed the switch to rear-wheel drive. In comparison, the first-gen Mirai was FWD, and the larger stack was placed under a raised section of the passenger compartment floor.

There’s no combustion in an FCEV, of course, but there is a kind of air supercharger. An electric air compressor pressurizes the intake air, and a water-cooled intercooler reduces the temperature of the compressed air before it enters the FC stack. A water-cooled oil cooler integrated with the air compressor helps to provide reliability.

The intake system is designed to mitigate noise, which will be virtually unnoticeable to occupants. The inlet design and sound-absorbing material in the air cleaner prevent air column resonance. By necessity, the intake air for the fuel cell must be purified; the electret air cleaner element captures ultra-fine particles (PM 2.5), and a charcoal filter removes chemical substances. The resulting air released from the system is cleaner than the intake air.

Driving the Toyota Mirai is like driving a Toyota Hybrid – meaning a thoroughly “normal” experience. Get in, buckle up, push the Start button, and the Mirai is ready to drive immediately. Shift the gear selector into D, and off you go. While the 2021 Mirai will initially be offered only in California, it is fully optimized for cold weather operation; the FC system has been tested in extremely cold conditions and can start at an outside temperature as low as -22°F.

Toyota, projects that fuel cell electric technology will one day be as common as the company’s hybrid electric technology.

Fuel cell technology pre-dates the automobile by half a century. In 1838, a Welsh physicist combined hydrogen and oxygen in the presence of an electrolyte and produced an electric current, though not enough to be useful. By the 1960s, the technology was being used in America’s Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, where it provided crews with both electricity and water from stored hydrogen and oxygen.

Fuel cells had been studied for the automotive sector, but the technology only recently became practical and cost-effective. Toyota began its fuel cell development around the same time as its original Prius nearly 25 years ago, and the Mirai shares technology from the company’s hybrid program.

Toyota developed the solid-polymer electrolyte fuel cells used in the first- and second-generation Mirai models. To help foster FCEV proliferation, the company has released over 5000 of its patents, royalty-free.

Toyota remains committed to fuel cell technology as a powertrain for the future.