Informed Speculation: 7 or 11? The other 4 upcoming Toyota and Lexus hybrids.

No sooner had this author posted our Informed Speculation: The 7 new Toyota and Lexus hybrids due by the end of 2012 story that co-editor Flipside909 stumbled upon a Yahoo News/AFP story stating that Toyota would, in fact, release 11 new hybrids by the end of calendar year 2012. Barring miscommunication between Toyota’s Japan and U.S. branches, yours truly speculated that the U.S. specified “all-new (not next generation) hybrids”, whereas Japan simply mentions 11 new hybrid models, meaning that Japan might be counting four existing hybrid models that will be thoroughly overhauled and succeeded by a new-generation version within that time frame. This theory was confirmed by no less than Automotive News‘ esteemed and well-informed Asia editor Hans Greimel in a story he wrote that also appeared on AN‘s sister AutoWeek site.

So what, precisely, are the four existing Toyota and Lexus hybrids that will be revised by the end of calendar year 2012? Here are our thoughts:

Lexus GS h
With its expected debut no more than a year from now, the 4th-generation Lexus GS is probably the first of the four revisions to current hybrids to publicly appear. Expect a carryover 2GR-FSE 3.5-liter V6 plus hybrid motor powertrain as on the current outgoing GS 450h that would also serve as a de facto replacement for the GS 460 V8. A less likely possibility is sacrificing some performance at the altar of fuel economy with a GS 400h using the slightly smaller 3GR-FSE 3-liter V6 from the 2006 Lexus GS 300 with the addition of hybrid motor and batteries.

Toyota Camry Hybrid
With the 2012 Detroit Auto Show the likeliest venue for its debut, the 7th-generation Toyota Camry will, naturally, include the second iteration of the Camry Hybrid. Although it may carry over the current 2AZ-FXE 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine plus hybrid motor powertrain from the current Camry and Lexus HS 250h, we would hope that, by that time, its overdue, more modern successor, the 2AR-FXE based on the newer 2AR-FE 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine from the current non-hybrid Camry, Toyota RAV4 and Scion tC would finally appear.

Lexus LS h
With an expected debut at the end of 2012 for the 2013 model year, the 5th-generation Lexus LS barely squeaks into Toyota’s timeframe for 7 all-new with no predecessor and 4 next-generation of existing hybrids by the end of 2012. While Lexus is justifiably proud of its V8 hybrid-as-V12 alternative strategy that led to the LS 600h, only BMW with its ActiveHybrid7 followed Lexus in hybridizing its V8. Mercedes-Benz, instead, opted to hybridize its S-Class sedan by using the 3.5-liter V6 as the basis for its S 400 Hybrid, with benefits in both fuel economy and cost control. This could, conceivably, lead to an LS 450h for Lexus.

Toyota Estima Hybrid
The name may be unfamiliar to many, but its alternate badging as the Toyota Previa should bring things into focus. While in North America the Previa/Estima (or Tarago in Australia) gave way to the Sienna in 1998, the old rounded front mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive minivan soldiered on for a couple of more years until, in the year 2000, the 2nd-generation Estima/Previa/Tarago, now a front-wheel-drive Camry offshoot, debuted in markets outside North America. Its Japanese Domestic Market hybrid variant was the world’s first hybrid minivan. The 3rd-generation Estima, debuting in 2006, saw the model depart from the European market that moved en masse to smaller people movers such as Toyota’s own Verso. A hybrid variant of this 3rd-generation Estima, powered by the 2AZ-FXE 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine plus hybrid motor powertrain from the current Camry Hybrid and Lexus HS 250h, is available only in Japan and Hong Kong. That 2006 debut puts the Estima on a roughly similar model cycle timeline as the Lexus LS, thus barely putting it in the now-2012 time frame.

Other possibilities
Other current hybrids, such as the Lexus RX and Toyota Highlander Hybrid aren’t due for a full makeover before 2012, and it’s an open question if Lexus’ HS will even see a second generation, let alone be renewed within that time frame. Within the Japanese Domestic Market, two other hybrid models remain: the Toyota Crown Hybrid and another minivan, the Toyota Alphard Hybrid. The Crown was just renewed for 2008, and its latest hybrid version has already been released. The Alphard (and its Veilfire twin) also saw a new generation for 2008. Curiously, though, the first Alphard was offered as a hybrid, while the second-gen, as far as we can surmise, isn’t. This, then, is a dark-horse possibility in case either the Toyota Estima or Lexus LS re-dos are bumped back beyond 2012.

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