A look at Toyota future productsFri, 03 Aug 2012 00:00:00 -0700
Toyota has slipped behind competitors in drivetrain technology and now must play catch-up against the likes of Ford, Hyundai and Mazda.
Much of Toyota's lag stems from engineering resources being diverted by the unintended acceleration crisis and other quality miscues in the past two years. Now expect Toyota to focus more on turbocharging and direct injection, and it may even bring a couple of diesels to the United States as part of midcycle changes.
Also, because Honda and Nissan are installing continuously variable transmissions in their mainstream vehicles, expect Toyota to follow suit.
Across the lineup, President Akio Toyoda's call for more expressive styling and weight reduction will become apparent.
Here is a look at Toyota's product plan through the 2016 model year:
Yaris: It was redesigned in fall 2011.
iQ EV: Toyota Division will get an electric version of the Scion iQ in late 2012. But with a projected range of about 50 miles, it will only be sold to commercial fleets that have a short route and centralized charging system.
Corolla: The redesign is set for fall 2013. Expect livelier design above the rocker panels and a more stylish interior layout. But the chassis--and the car's numb suspension--will remain mostly the same. A new transmission family is in the works, with gearing designed to stretch fuel economy. But the existing engine will carry over, with the possibility of more advanced engines coming with the midcycle change planned for the 2016 model year. Weight-saving is a priority.
Matrix: The Corolla offshoot likely will be killed after the current generation. It may carry on for a year after the current Corolla is redesigned, but no successor is planned.
Celica: A convertible or turbocharged performance version of the Scion FR-S coupe was considered, but it didn't make economic sense given the limited volumes. But such versions could be built for the Japanese and European markets.
Camry: It was redesigned in fall 2011.
Avalon: A redesign arrives this fall with swoopy, fastback styling aimed at rescuing the Avalon from its Japanese Buick label. It will ride on a 111-inch wheelbase, same as the current model, but is shorter overall because of shorter front and rear overhangs.
Although slightly narrower and lower in height, rear-seat legroom is still spacious. Among its features are 10 standard airbags, a blind-spot warning system, precollision warnings, a hand-stitched instrument panel and a sport-driving mode with quicker throttle response and more dynamic steering inputs. Weight has been reduced by 120 pounds.
Prius: A plug-in version of the Prius arrived in spring. When the full redesign comes in spring 2014, the Prius likely will move to a lithium ion battery pack. Toyota has been wedded to nickel-metal hydride, but advances in lithium--and Toyota's partnership with Tesla--will push the Prius into the new battery technology. The downscaling and weight reduction of key components used in the Prius C will help enable the next-generation Prius to be lighter and more efficient. The current Prius has a relatively high center of gravity, but lowering the engine and cowl point presents a difficult engineering challenge. The NS4 concept from the 2012 Detroit auto show is the first attempt to realize that architecture.
Because it shares much of its chassis layout with the Corolla, the next-generation Prius could be assembled at Toyota's new plant in Mississippi, where Corollas are built.
Prius C: It was launched in spring 2012. No changes are planned.
Prius V: It was launched in summer 2011.
RAV4: The redesign will be unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show in November and will arrive in showrooms in early 2013. With the compact crossover segment splitting into larger and smaller variants, expect the RAV4 to stay comparably large--almost the size of the original Highlander. The optional 3.5-liter V6 made the current RAV4 a hot rod, but its share of the sales mix is low, and the V6 provides more power than the vehicle needs. The 2013 model probably will be available only with the 2.5-liter four-banger. The emphasis will be on weight reduction and improved aerodynamics for fuel efficiency.
This summer, Toyota will launch an electric version of the RAV4 with a 100-mile range. The RAV4 EV was co-developed with Tesla Motors using the old RAV4 platform.
Highlander: Toyota is pushing the five-year cycle to nearly six years, meaning a redesign will come in fall 2013 off the new Camry platform. Both four- and six-cylinder engine offerings will remain, especially as fuel economy concerns increase volume for the three-row, four-cylinder version. A hybrid powertrain will remain.
Venza: It will be re-engineered in 2015.
Sienna: It was redesigned for the 2011 model year.
FJ Cruiser: This is a one-generation vehicle. It runs on the same line as the 4Runner, with outsourced bodywork, so Toyota will keep building it until there is no more demand.
4Runner: It was redesigned for the 2010 model year.
Sequoia: The SUV will be re-engineered for the 2014 model year. Though based on the Tundra, there had been rumors of moving it onto the Land Cruiser platform--or even a car-based vehicle. But Toyota will stick with its truck-based recipe.
Land Cruiser: No major changes are expected.
Tacoma: The Tacoma soldiers on until a fall 2014 redesign that is required for safety and emissions standards. The platform is linked with Prado, 4Runner and Hi-Lux in the rest of the world, with frames built in different widths for different markets. The United States will get a weight-reduction program and a restyling.
Tundra: No major changes are expected until the spring 2013 re-engineering. Toyota will call it a full redesign, but the V8 powertrains and suspension will remain the same, and the ladder frame dimensions won't change much.
Toyota will keep to a two V8 strategy because it needs the beefy 5.7-liter for towing capacity. But expect Toyota to start pushing the 4.0-liter V6 version hard for corporate average fuel economy reasons, using direct injection to boost horsepower from its current 270 to more than 300. A larger fuel tank will increase range. Expect more "trucky" styling. Toyota is still talking with partner Hino about a diesel variant for the next generation, but overall volumes will need to increase first.
By Mark Rechtin- Automotive News