DETROIT – Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. unveils a concept it hopes will reenergize the minivan segment here at the North American International Auto Show.

The F3R, which stands for “Freedom 3-Row,” was co-developed by Toyota's California design studio, Calty Design Research Inc., and its Advanced Product Strategy Group, also of California.

It's a radical design Kevin Hunter, vice president-Calty Research and Design Studios, tells Ward's may influence the next-generation Toyota Sienna.

“Yes, we're looking at the possibility right now,” he says of using some of F3R's styling cues, such as its aggressive face, on Toyota's current family hauler.

“We think minivans need to take a more bold design direction, otherwise we can't attract any buyers anymore. People are getting tired of the typical minivan.”

Toyota F3R concept minivan.

The F3R “can best be described as a lifestyle-in-a-box,” says Jim Lentz, Toyota Div. group vice president. “It combines the advanced performance of hybrid technology with the practicality and utility of a traditional minivan.”

Lentz says a revolution in minivan design is needed because the median age of minivan buyers (51) has risen faster than most other segments.

“We needed to appeal to more people with more functions to address the lifestyle of younger buyers, who are outside the definition of the traditional minivan buyers,” Lentz says.

Hunter says Toyota worked from the inside out to find out “how a young family would actually live with the vehicle.”

The interior can be described as lounge-like, or an extended family living room, he says.

Some eight people can fit in the F3R when it is not in motion, he says, making the interior, which includes two track-mounted flat-panel video screens, most useful at children' sporting events, the auto maker says.

When in lounge mode, the F3R's driver's seat reclines and swivels; the passenger seat reclines to a chaise; and the right and center middle-row seats fold into the floor.

Additionally, the left-hand middle-row seat reclines fully to integrate with the third row, forming what Hunter says is “a comfortable conversation area similar to what you might find in an upscale home.”

In “transport mode,” seating is stadium-style, he says.

Other unique interior features include a 3-tier instrument panel, wherein the upper strip has a driving and lounge mode. The driving mode displays warning lights, the transmission shift indicator and clock and audio readouts.

In lounge mode, the upper strip is ambient blue, says Hunter.

Recycled rubber is used for the F3R's floor.

The vehicle's exterior has a wedge-shape profile, high beltline and bold front face with high-mounted headlamps; robust nose, as seen on many Japanese-market vehicles; rear raised roof; and third-row access door. Wheel wells have been moved to the far corners of the vehicle to increase interior legroom.

The F3R has a wheelbase of 124 ins. (315 cm), is 200 ins. (508 cm) long, 73 ins. (185 cm) high and 81 ins. (206) cm wide. It rides on 22-in. wheels.

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com