2021 Toyota Mirai First Look Review: Fighting Tesla With Hydrogen

First Look / Comments

The second-generation Mirai looks absolutely stunning.

The first-generation Toyota Mirai debuted back in 2014 with an impressive fuel-cell hydrogen powertrain but an ugly face. But design matters. It always has. The original Mirai went on to become the EPA's most fuel-efficient hydrogen fuel cell vehicle despite only being sold in two US states, California and Hawaii. As battery-electrics continue to dominate the electric car sphere, Toyota has made it clear it has no intention of abandoning the Mirai.

Introducing the all-new 2021 Toyota Mirai, a stunning styling departure over its frumpy-looking predecessor. Built on the same rear-wheel-drive platform that underpins the Lexus LS 500, the Mirai has become a fully-fledged luxury vehicle aimed directly at the Tesla Model S. Thanks to an improved fuel cell powertrain, the 2021 Mirai offers greater range than before as well. But will Toyota be able to lure away Tesla customers? That's the big question we can't wait to find out.

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Gorgeous Exterior Design

The 2021 Mirai's styling has nothing in common with that of its predecessor. Thanks to riding on Toyota's global GA-L modular platform, the new Mirai's proportions are radically different. Height has been reduced and the wheelbase length increased, now measuring 115-inches. The rear overhang has been increased by 3.34 inches, width by nearly 3 inches, while overall length comes to 195.9-inches. Standard 19-inch wheels and optional 20-inchers help provide a more dynamic look.

The new platform also enabled designers to give the Mirai a four-door coupe design. From some angles, the new Mirai resembles the Audi A7 Sportback, which is certainly not a bad thing. Toyota's latest front- and rear-end styling language are present, though both are somewhat toned down compared to the Camry and Avalon. Toyota stresses emotional design was a major priority because customers judge vehicles not only by the way they drive but also by their looks. What they'll be getting here is stunning styling that looks good from every angle.

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Bigger And More Luxurious Interior

The Mirai's new platform also allows for significantly more interior space than before. With seating for up to five, rear-seat passengers will enjoy increased legroom. This was made possible by that new platform that enabled engineers to repackage the fuel cell stack and other drivetrain components.

The dashboard layout is similar to other models with a large infotainment touchscreen display located directly above the HVAC controls. Exact measurements of the display and driver's information screens have not been provided. A wide center console allows for sufficient space for two cupholders and a wireless charging pad for a smartphone. The location of the gear shifter is somewhat unique because it's been placed directly to the left of those climate controls for easier driver access.

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Fuel Cells And Hydrogen Tanks

The Mirai has three high-pressure hydrogen tanks holding a combined 12.3 pounds of hydrogen compared to the previous 10.14 pounds. Toyota expects a range of up to 400 miles, a 30 percent improvement, though official EPA testing has not been completed.

The new fuel stack is smaller than before with 330 cells reduced from 370, setting a new record for power density as the electric motor now produces 179 horsepower, up by 27 hp. Torque has dropped by 26 lb-f to 221 lb-ft. Toyota claims a 0-62 mph time of 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 108 mph. RWD and a lower center of gravity promise a better driving experience, while a new multilink front and rear suspension replace the previous front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam for better stability.

The hydrogen fuel cell has been moved from beneath the floor to the front compartment resulting in a 50:50 weight distribution. The fuel cell stack's weight reduction was achieved thanks to relocating the manifold, cutting down the size of the cell optimizing the shape of the gas channel separator, and the use of innovative electrodes. A lithium-ion battery replaces the old nickel-hydride unit.

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Pricing And Competition

Official US pricing has yet to be announced but Toyota says the MSRP will be reduced by around 20 percent. The outgoing Mirai started at $58,550. This is quite significant and should greatly help achieve the goal of increasing sales volume by ten0-fold. Another good selling point for eco-conscious buyers is that the Mirai goes beyond zero emissions with "negative emissions," meaning it literally cleans the air as it moves thanks to a newly developed catalyst-type filter fitted in the air intake.

Previously, fuel cell rivals included the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell hatchback and the Hyundai Nexo crossover. This time around, however, the 2021 Mirai is literally in a class of its own thanks to a new platform and flagship-sized sedan proportions. The Tesla Model S is now a direct rival despite it having a nearly $70,000 base price. Another question we hope to have answered soon is whether Toyota will expand Mirai sales to additional US states. We certainly hope that'll be the case.

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