Toyota Reinvigorating Its Gasoline Engines With Turbos, Direct Injection

By Blake Z. Rong | October 01, 2012
Some car companies are known for the engines they keep. Porsche and Subaru are the last practitioners of the boxer engine, for example. Mazda dabbles in rotary engines. And Toyota, for better or worse, has built up such an experience with hybrid technology that it's at the vanguard of twin-propulsion technology, no matter how stubborn it might be about it. Problem is, this has come at the cost of Toyota's gasoline-only engines. Remember those? Yes, Toyota still builds them. And just as Mazda and Subaru are switching over to tech like turbochargers and direct injection, the juggernaut that is Toyota is rekindling its gasoline engine strategy. But will it be too late? Toyota will introduce turbochargers and gasoline direct injection into their new crop of small engines by 2014. Most dramatically is a brand-new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine for 2014, which will most likely go into the next Corolla and Camry. This will be Toyota's first factory turbocharger since the 1980s, when even its Corollas were ripe fodder for legions of Japanese compact worshipers. Toyota plans to introduce direct injection to its 2.5-liter four-cylinder, then trickle this down to smaller engines: "This is the beginning of gasoline direct injection for the four-cylinder engines," said Takashi Shimura, who is in charge of Toyota's engine development. "Smaller engines will be following this engine. As a trend, this is right. It will be standard." This four-cylinder engine will pair direct injection with hybrid drivetrains, which Toyota engineers estimate will boost fuel efficiency by 10 percent. If you see it in the next Camry Hybrid, you'll have heard it from us first. The problem, however, is that it's not cost-effective for Toyota to implement direct injection in its smallest engines. Anything below 2.0 liters, says engine engineering manager Yoshihiko Matsuda, would be an incremental benefit for the cost. The current Prius has a 1.8-liter gasoline engine; the Yaris has a 1.5-liter. It's safe to say that the Yaris won't receive direct injection anytime soon, but the jury is still out on whether the next Prius will get direct injection as part of its hybrid drivetrain for 2014. On the transmission front, Toyota is falling in line with Honda, which deployed its first mainstream CVT in the 2013 Accord. Expect CVTs for maximum fuel efficiency benefits, especially within Toyota's small to midsized cars. Eight-speed transmissions will trickle down from the Lexus LS down to large Toyotas, with six-speeds becoming the standard. The only question remains if Toyota will catch up in time to remain competitive: nearly all the manufacturers introducing new cars this and next year already have CVTs, turbos and direct injection as standard as seats and mirrors. Hyundai's Sonata and Kia's Optima both tout their GDI technology proudly with their badges; Ford has implemented Ecoboost across its range with stunning effectiveness. The next Fiesta will get an Ecoboosted motor as small as 1.0 liters—there's no reason why the world's largest automaker can't handle a smaller engine with a small turbocharged, direct injection engine without ferrying its customers towards hybrid drivetrains.'s take: Over the last few years it's been pure doggedness on Toyota's part to compete on the merits of hybrids and without its gasoline engines. The Camry with a V-6 gets 5 mpg less than the Accord's V-6, for example, while other midsize sedan companies are foregoing the V-6 altogether for--you guessed it--turbocharged four-cylinders like in the 2013 Ford Fusion. Fuel economy sells to consumers, and keeps in line with the government. Even fastidiously conservative Toyota has to realize this eventually, no matter how long it takes. Source: Automotive News