Toyota isn’t known to break away from traditions, but the recent engine downsizing trend has gone on for long enough for it to be considered the industry norm. Yet, the Japanese carmaker has remained reluctant to join the small-capacity turbocharged wagon, and it looks like that is set to continue in the near future.
Toyota’s engine and powertrain guru Koei Saga said as much in an interview with Automotive News USA, claiming that he’s unconvinced that turbocharging is a technology that “makes the world better.” Instead, the company is looking at upsizing its engines (larger displacement) to run on the Atkinson cycle that is predominantly used in its current hybrid powertrains.
Saga believes that a bigger engine running the more efficient fuel combustion cycle may deliver better power gains without sacrificing fuel economy. Top-end output will be compromised, but the increased thermal efficiency will allow for “strong acceleration and better fuel economy” compared to a traditional Otto cycle engine.
Toyota isn’t skipping the mainstream turbocharged game altogether, however, as it will indeed introduce a line of force-fed 2.0 litre engines soon, most likely in the upcoming Lexus NX crossover (a trademark for the NX 200t name has already been filed). Its availability within Toyota’s range will be limited though, according to Saga.
Meanwhile, he also commented on Toyota’s on-going push towards the use of CVT transmissions (mainly on the new American-market 2014 Toyota Corolla). The leading Japanese carmaker will expand CVT use, but only where it makes sense, said Saga, as the technology does have its limitations, and that the buyers’ desire for it is still reserved.
He goes on to say that larger vehicles, such as the D-segment next-generation Toyota Camry that is due in 2017, will have “a next-generation automatic transmission (fixed-gear torque converter), probably not a CVT.” Its higher power and weight demands would prove too great for a CVT to handle, apparently.
As the directly comparable American-market Accord already employs a CVT transmission, it looks like Honda has more faith in the technology than Toyota does (though not enough to offer it in our Accord, mind you). Even on the turbo front, Honda appears to be more open towards embracing the change than Toyota is.
Nissan too is quick to adapt to the changing market demands. Its US-market Altima, which will be our next-generation Teana, has used a CVT transmission since 2007, and the brand is seen as the industry-leader for this technology. Its partnership with Renault has also brought in various turbocharged engines, including 1.6 litre units used in the Juke and Latio/Tiida, as well as the new 1.2 litre motor that will debut in the next-gen Qashqai.
So there you have it, folks. Don’t expect a mainstream Toyota with a small-capacity turbocharged engines anytime soon, or you will be disappointed. Bigger, not smaller engines seem like the more likely possibility at this point. Same with CVTs too – don’t count on them being fitted to models larger than the Corolla.
Some things change, while others don’t. Toyota, it seems, falls in the latter category. Thoughts on this, anyone?