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One step closer to a Toyota sporty hybrid?

The GRMN Sports Hybrid Concept II gets the same hybrid drivetrain and engine as the Lexus RX 450h and the same battery as the Lexus GS 450h.

TOKYO -- Toyota is taking another tantalizing step closer to rolling out a sporty hybrid.

The latest incarnation is the GRMN Sports Hybrid Concept II, an updated, more powerful and refined version of the open-cockpit sporty hybrid based on the MR2 that debuted last year.

Toyota will unveil the car -- in a deep red paint job -- at the 39th Nurburgring 24-hour race in Germany, which runs June 23-26 and is a favorite forum for President Akio Toyoda to tout his company’s performance credentials. Toyota has tweaked the car’s all-wheel-drive system as well as its midship, gasoline-electric powertrain to improve handling and stability.

It gets the same hybrid drivetrain and engine as the Lexus RX 450h and the same battery as the Lexus GS 450h. Overall horsepower is boosted to 295 from 268 in the previous version. It also is longer, taller and heavier.

But the big advances come in styling, with sculpted front and side fascias taking cues from the FT-86 sporty car Toyota is developing with Subaru for release next year.

Toyota is coy about production plans -- it will watch fan reaction before making any decisions.

Toyota will be fielding its Lexus LFA sports car again at this year’s Nurburgring race.

The GRMN from the hybrid concept’s name, by the way, stands for Gazoo Racing tuned by the Meister of Nurburgring. The latter is a nod to veteran Toyota test driver Hiromu Naruse, who died in a crash while driving an LFA on a road just outside the race circuit last summer.

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