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Future products: Toyota lineup gets an 18-month makeover

Tue, 28 Sep 2010

Toyota plans to move into new product segments over the next 18 months, as well as redesign several mainstream models.

By the spring of 2012, Toyota will launch all-new versions of the Camry, Yaris, Tacoma and RAV4. Also, the new FT-86 sport coupe, developed with Subaru, should arrive on these shores by that time. And in the wings are a plug-in version of the Prius and a Prius coupe.

Yaris: A redesign is scheduled for the 2012 model year. Japan may get a hybrid version, but the strong yen will prevent the hybrid from coming to the United States. Instead, expect a six-speed automatic transmission with short lower gears and tall upper gears to improve acceleration and fuel economy. A newly engineered 1.5-liter engine is probable, as the current one has been around for more than a decade. Forget rumors of a 1.8-liter engine. Unless Toyota significantly widens the engine bay, it won't fit.

Corolla: Toyota extended the Corolla's cadence to six years for its last redesign and, with all the engineering challenges the company faces, probably will do so again. That will make its 2012 model year restyling more extensive than a mere fascia change--more likely a reskin--and would push a redesign to spring 2014.

Matrix: The Canada-built five-door compact is based on the Corolla platform, so expect it to continue until the spring of 2014, when the Corolla is redesigned. But with the strong yen pushing Toyota to build more Corollas in North America--and with the Fremont, Calif., assembly plant now closed--the ratio of Corollas to Matrixes built in Cambridge, Ontario, is likely to swing away from the Matrix.

Camry: The Camry was being redesigned as Congress was setting stricter corporate average fuel economy standards, delaying development a few months. Expect the next Camry to arrive in late 2011 or early 2012 as a 2012 model, as opposed to the typical late-summer launch.

Toyota will maintain the Camry's current footprint, although it may be wider. The fascia will follow the styling of the Venza. There also may be updates to the V6.

Camry Solara: It's dead.

Prius: A plug-in version is expected in the 2012 model year. Current prototypes have a 14-mile battery-only range, but that may be extended with a larger battery pack. The prototypes also have a lithium ion battery pack, which may be added as part of a 2013 model year midcycle change and give the hybrid 50 mpg in the combined city/highway cycle.

A full redesign slated for the 2015 model year will have the lithium pack. A decontented version code-named "Package Zero"--meant to undercut Honda's Insight--is planned once U.S. production starts.

Prius coupe: Using Prius underpinnings but with more dramatic styling, the coupe would be built at Toyota's new plant in Mississippi. It's meant to be a Honda CR-Z competitor. Toyota already has conducted a design competition involving the company's four global design studios and a couple of outside coachbuilders. The global vehicle could be built in Japan in 2012 as a 2013 model.

The A-BAT concept could become the basis of a Prius pickup.

Prius pickup: The A-BAT concept could see action as both a Toyota and a Scion. The Toyota version will be based on the Prius, making it more of a parcel carrier than a cargo hauler. The big obstacle: It must be built in the United States because of the "chicken tax" on imported pickups. Toyota also plans a Prius wagon, but it will not come to America.

Avalon: A thorough midcycle freshening this past spring has pushed back the redesign to mid-2013 as a 2014 model. The Avalon preceded the Camry during the last model change-over but will follow in the upcoming redesign. So the Avalon is on a stretched cycle--perhaps seven years long. Toyota is wrestling with what to do with the segment. The vehicle could go sporty like the Nissan Maxima rather than plush like a Buick.

FT-86: The on-again, off-again sporty coupe, developed with Subaru, was shown in concept form at the 2009 Tokyo auto show. Styling of the 2009 show car was conservative, so Toyota subsidiary Gazoo Racing sharpened it up at the 2010 Tokyo Auto Salon in January.

The FT-86 engine is rumored to be a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, 200-hp boxer-four borrowed from Subaru, while Subaru will get a higher-performance--and higher-priced--version. Toyota gets rear-wheel drive, while the Subaru is equipped with all-wheel drive. Toyota aims for a spring 2012 launch. Pricing is expected to be $25,000 to $30,000.

RAV4: The compact crossover will be redesigned for the 2012 model year. Having been thrashed by the new Honda CR-V, the next RAV4 is expected to get an upgraded interior and bolder design. A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder was introduced as part of the 2009 freshening, so don't expect major changes there.

But Toyota looks to be dumping the V6 and replacing it with a hybrid-four because of CAFE fears. Engineering simplification is another factor. It's easier to fit a hybrid pack in the engine bay than two more cylinders. Toyota and Tesla Motors are working on an electric version of the RAV4 that should debut in 2012.

Highlander: A freshening is planned for the 2011 model year, with a full redesign of the crossover for the 2013 model year if the vehicle stays on a five-year cadence. The Highlander has a high order rate on V6 engines, which makes for CAFE complications. Toyota wants a higher order rate for the hybrid over the V6 as few four-cylinder versions of the Highlander are sold.

Venza: No major changes are expected--although if the Camry V6 gets re-engineered, the Venza will get the same engine in 2012.

Sienna: The minivan was redesigned this year. Sales began in the spring.

FJ Cruiser: The FJ Cruiser, launched in the spring of 2006, is a one-generation vehicle. The strong yen creates a pricing problem for the Japan-built SUV. Expect a quiet sell-down in 2012.

4Runner: No major changes are expected.

Sequoia: A company source said Toyota considered moving the SUV to a passenger-car platform, but the current Tundra platform is inexpensive to build. So for the 2014 model year, expect the restyled and re-engineered Sequoia to remain on the Tundra platform and use even more component commonality. The current model is the same as the Tundra from the B-pillar forward. The 2014 version probably will share most of the Tundra CrewMax cabin structure.

Land Cruiser: No major changes are expected in the SUV for a few years.

Tacoma: A restyling and re-engineering of the small pickup is expected for the 2012 model year. 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.

Much of the styling seen in the 2010 4Runner will carry over to the Tacoma. A plan that the Tacoma would share Tundra component sets has been scratched because the beefier Tundra parts would cost too much on a compact-pickup budget. Expect model variants to decline on the new model.

Tundra: No major changes are expected until the 2014 model year redesign, although the regular cab gets a long bed in 4x2 trim this year. The next Tundra will evolve from the current platform, with more money put into the interior styling. At its reduced volume, Toyota doesn't need two V8 engines, so expect maybe one V8 that splits the difference between the current 4.6-liter and the 5.7-liter.

By Mark Rechtin- Automotive News