7 or 9? The other 2 new Toyota…er…Lexus models for 2014

AddSlipsBack in 17 November 2010, a Toyota RAV4 press release concluded by informing us, in an almost throwaway fashion, that “by the end of 2012, Toyota will add seven all new (not next-generation) hybrid models to its portfolio”. We scrambled to figure out what they were, and 2 days later, the first of our Informed Speculation stories was posted. Right about that same time, our 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. This was confirmed by Automotive News‘ Hans Greimel on 22 November 2010, and, the next day, our sequel Informed Speculation story appeared.

Flash forward just over 2 years, and history repeats, in a manner of speaking. On 11 September 2012, a Toyota USA news release announcing a new ad and communications tagline cited Toyota Division group vice president and general manager Bill Fay’s prediction that “seven, exciting all-new or updated Toyota and Scion vehicles (will be unveiled) in 2013. We deliberately waited to comment on this until after the November/December 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show (the last major show of the 2012 calendar year), and the resulting story was our first for 2013. Two days later, another Toyota USA Newsroom press release, the December 2012 and Year-End Sales Conference Call Notes, revised this to

Nine all-new or significantly updated models…Beginning this month with RAV4, followed later this year by the Lexus IS and Scion tC, just to name a few

in the words of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Lentz.

So, what are the two extra models? Jim Lentz made it crystal-clear that one of them is the new, 3rd-generation Lexus IS, which will debut in a little over a week. Rather than get into particulars here, we refer you to the Front Page of the my.IS website, where yours truly has been writing, and will continue to do so, on what we know so far in advance of the 15 January 2013 reveal. The other is, we predict, the Lexus GX mid-life facelift, given that the brand’s mid-range SUV usually marches in lockstep with its Toyota 4Runner sibling, and that one is widely believed to receive its own refresh later this year. That GX facelift should make it the latest Lexus to receive the trademark spindle grille.

And what about Lexus’ upcoming compact crossover NX line? While it is believed to see the light of day at one or more of the major 2013 fall auto shows, namely Frankfurt (press days Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 September), Tokyo and Los Angeles (both with press days Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 November), its more-than-likely 2014 calendar year on-sale date has us pushing it back to the next round of Toyota and Lexus debuts.

We’re rather perplexed, though, by Jim Lentz’s mention of the Scion tC among the 9 models to be revised this year. The audio version of his remarks clearly mention the tC. The current, 2nd-generation tC made its public debut at the 2010 New York Auto Show, and appeared in U.S. dealerships the following October. Thus, the 2013 New York Auto Show (long a favored venue for Scion reveals) could bring a mid-life facelift for the brand’s front-wheel-drive coupe, which, sales-wise, has held up better than this author expected in the face of the far superior and sportier FR-S. Did Lentz, in fact, misspeak when he mentioned the tC, or should we cast aside our beliefs and hopes for at least one, if not two all-new Scion models this year?

Informed speculation: the 7 all-new or updated Toyota and Scion vehicles for 2013

7 imagesCA6G017NAs the calendar turns from 2012 to 2013 and we look back at our previous predictions (some dating back to 2010) on what new or revised models Toyota, Scion and Lexus models were launched, we are reminded that Toyota is a company that is always Moving Forward, even though its new tagline is “Let’s Go Places”. Quite apropos, as buried in the 11 September 2012 news release announcing the new ad and communications tagline was a new round of product predictions. As Toyota Division group vice president and general manager Bill Fay noted,

(We will unveil) seven, exciting all-new or updated Toyota and Scion vehicles in 2013

Longtime Kaizen Factor readers know that we take these proclamations as a challenge to come up with a precise list of the vehicles in question. A couple of things seem crystal-clear: Lexus is specifically excluded from this prediction (their 2013 calendar year new releases are expected to be the 3rd-generation IS sedans, the GX SUV’s mid-life facelift and the new, sub-RX crossover SUV line, the NX); and the fact that it was uttered by a Toyota USA official means no Japanese domestic market or Europe-only models are part of the 7.

Unlike our previous Informed Speculation articles, where we were mostly on our own as far as deducing what went on the lists, this time there is more internet chatter on what the precise models are, mostly via Mark Rechtin of Automotive News. At the 4th-generation Toyota Avalon press preview in early November, he chatted with Toyota U.S.A.’s vice president of marketing Jack Hollis, who revealed that

The Avalon…will be followed by redesigns of the Toyota RAV4 and Highlander crossovers, Tundra full-sized pickup and Corolla compact sedan. A midcycle update for the 4Runner also is planned…

The redesigned RAV4 is expected in the first quarter of 2013; the Highlander and Tundra are coming the second quarter, and the Corolla is scheduled to arrive in the third quarter…

In addition, Toyota’s Scion brand has its xB and xD hatchbacks scheduled for renewals, either as a redesign or an entirely new product category.

Without further ado, here are our predictions:

Corolla badgeToyota Corolla
After the 11th-generation (E160) Corolla’s 2012 calendar year debut in Japan (in sedan, wagon and Auris hatchback guises), Europe and Oceania (Australia/New Zealand), North America patiently waits its turn. And it looks like we may have to wait a bit longer. Once touted as a shoo-in for a 2013 Detroit Auto Show unveiling, the announcement of the Monday 14 January 2013 debut of the Toyota Furia Concept at the show turned that notion on its head. The final scene (shot above right) of its pyromaniac’s delight teaser video shows the side profile of what appears to be a C-segment front-wheel-drive sedan such as the Corolla. And, indeed, there is near-unanimity among pundits (this author included) that Furia is a preview of the 2014 Corolla sedan for North America. Thus, we’d be surprised if the production version of the newest 11th-gen Corolla iteration is officially revealed any earlier than the 2013 New York Auto Show press conferences on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 March.

As with most if not all recent Toyota and Lexus new-generation launches, we expect the new Corolla to use a carryover engine from its predecessor, in this case the 2ZR-FE 1.8 liter, 4-cylinder engine. If Oceania’s new Corolla Hatchback (Auris) is anything to go by, it may receive a slight 4 hp bump, to 136. Transaxles, though, may be a different story. Again referencing Oceania and other markets that have seen the newest Corolla, the current woefully obsolete 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic will, in all likelihood, be replaced by a 6-speed manual and a Multidrive CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Yes, it’s more likely than not that the Corolla will become the second non-hybrid (besides the Scion iQ) Toyota CVT application in North America. Whether any of them (such as a sporty Corolla model) will use the Multidrive S with 7-speed sport sequential manumatic mode and paddle shifters remains to be seen.

Speaking of sporty Corolla models, we hope the current tepid Corolla S model gives way to a proper Corolla SE that follows the lead of current Yaris, Camry and Sienna SE variants in going beyond the merely cosmetic and offering meaningful firmer suspension and steering tweaks. And what about a return of the Corolla XRS with the 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder 2AR-FE engine as a rival to the Honda Civic Si, Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI? Don’t count on it, much as we’d like to see it. Another losing bet is on a third generation of the Toyota Matrix, as Toyota Division group vice president and general manager Bill Fay told Mark Rechtin of Automotive News, “If we don’t have the Matrix, it won’t be the end of the world.” Thus, it seems that the Toyota brand will join the Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra in not offering a C-segment 5-door hatchback body style in the United States. No biggie, for the Scion brand will probably take up the slack. More baffling is Fay’s contention that the Matrix will continue to be available in Canada. Will the aging 2nd-generation E140 Matrix soldier on alongside the newer E160 Corolla sedan in the Great White North? Or might the Green Car Reports‘ John Voelcker be on to something when he suggests that the new E160 Auris might be imported into Canada as a Matrix replacement?

Highlander badgeToyota Highlander
With Toyota’s Camry and Avalon and the Lexus ES having been renewed within the past year or so, it is now their K-platform Highlander sibling’s turn for a new generation. Although any growth spurt would probably be slight, at least the discontinuation of the V6 and 3rd-seat options from the North American RAV4 makes for much less overlap between the two. The 3.5-liter 2GR-FE V6 should be largely carryover. Whether the base 2.7-liter 4-cylinder 1AR-FE engine survives in the next Highlander is an open question, given that in the latest Sienna minivan the 4-cylinder option was a barely more fuel economical resounding flop that was only offered for 2 model years. For the V6, it is a given that the current 5-speed automatic transaxle will give way to the U660E 6-speed auto currently used in the latest Camry, Avalon and ES V6s.

The current 2nd-generation Highlander is an anomaly that, like the Toyota Zelas/Scion tC and Lexus ES, is built (as a hybrid and for export to a handful of markets outside North America) but not sold in Japan. Going forward, however, that will change. As a February 2012 press release informs us:

Toyota will increase production of the Highlander mid-size SUV in late 2013 at the company’s Princeton, Indiana (USA) plant. Hybrid and export versions will be included…

The company will invest about $400 million to support global demand for the Highlander, which will no longer be built in Japan by late 2013. Toyota builds Highlander in China for that market only…

Highlander is currently sold in Russia and Australia, and TMMI will export to those countries.

Speaking of Australia, in that market the Highlander still bears the horrible, Freddy Kruegeresque Kluger nameplate, due to a conflict with a Highlander trim level for the Hyundai Terracan SUV that was discontinued in 2007. Might the Australian nomenclature finally align with that for the rest of the world?

Given the newest Corolla’s preview by the Furia concept and Jack Hollis’ assertion that the 3rd-generation Highlander will go on sale in the 2nd quarter of 2013, might this be the major production Toyota debut for the 2013 Detroit Auto Show?

2013_Toyota_Highlander_Hybrid_007_46257_2524_lowToyota Highlander Hybrid
As noted above, the big news regarding the 3rd-generation of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the shift in sourcing from Japan’s Kyushu facility to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, Inc. (TMMI) plant in the U.S. This makes it the first Toyota hybrid to be built in the Hoosier state.

We suspect that the 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder 2AR-FXE hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain from the current Camry, Avalon and Lexus ES would be marginal in the bulkier and heavier Highlander, but would an extra 178cc, 8 hp and 15 lb/ft of torque make the difference? Those are the approximate benefits from hybridizing the current base Highlander’s slightly larger 1AR-FE 2.7-liter four to create an Atkinson cycle hybrid 1AR-FXE. Useful as they may be, though, we suspect that the next Highlander Hybrid will carry on with the current 2GR-FXE 3.5-liter V6 hybrid powertrain.

Given all this emphasis on U.S.-only sourcing, we expect the latest Highlander to join the Avalon and RAV4 EV in having an American chief engineer.

Tundra_Double_Cab-prvToyota Tundra
The current, 2nd-generation of the space shuttle-towing Toyota Tundra full-size pickup truck made its debut at the February 2006 Chicago Auto Show. Since then, it has seen a minor facelift coupled with the replacement of the “middle option” 4.7-liter 2UZ-FE V8 engine with the newer, more powerful yet more economical 4.6-liter 1UR-FE V8 for the 2010 model year. We expect its latest version to debut 7 years later, during the Thursday 7 and Friday 8 February media preview for the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.

By most accounts, don’t expect a totally new, 3rd-gen Tundra to emerge. Rather, we should expect to see something akin to the extensive second facelifts applied to the 3rd-generation (XX30) Toyota Avalon in April 2010 for the 2011 model year; or to the 4th-generation (XF40) Lexus LS for the 2013 model year. Or, in the words of Motor Trend

…a source confirmed to us that the Tundra’s updates will be purely aesthetic and quite minimal – don’t expect to see any updates to the truck’s powertrains.

This is partially contradicted by Mark Rechtin of Automotive News‘ predictions dating back to last August:

Toyota will call (the spring 2013 re-engineering) a full redesign, but the V8 powertrains and suspension will remain the same, and the ladder frame dimensions won’t change much…

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.

Finally! A long-overdue 1GR-FSE direct-injected 4-liter V6. We wonder if it will feature dual (D4-S) direct+port injection or go direct injection-only like the 2.5-liter 4GR-FSE V6. And would a V6 that powerful threaten to make the small 4.6-liter V8 redundant?

In comparison to the recent activity surrounding Detroit 3 full-size pickup trucks, then, expect something more akin to the 2013 Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 refreshes than an all-new generation like the upcoming 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

4Runner_Trail-prvToyota 4Runner
The 5th-generation 4Runner was unveiled at the Texas State Fair on 24 September 2009, for the 2010 model year. Thus, it is due for a mid-life refresh for the traditional autumn 2013 kickoff of the 2014 model year. Primarily focused around new headlights, taillights, front grille inserts, exterior colors and interior tweaks, there may nevertheless be one significant change if Mark Rechtin’s Tundra prediction noted above holds true: the addition of direct (or dual direct+port) injection to the current 4-liter 1GR-FE V6 to create a 1GR-FSE successor.

Its overseas Toyota Land Cruiser Prado fraternal twin and its upmarket Lexus GX 460 derivative should similarly see a minor facelift, the latter becoming the latest Lexus to receive the signature spindle grille.

sequoia-platinum-badge-3Toyota Sequoia
Where the Toyota Tundra goes, its Sequoia full size sport utility vehicle offshoot soon follows. Although not explicitly mentioned in the latest round of “new Toyota” predictions, the suggestion of a 2014 model year “re-engineering” by Rechtin would imply a Tundra-like makeover to appear no later than the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show press previews on Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 November. For reference, the 2nd-generation Tundra made its public debut at the February 2006 Chicago Auto Show but did not go into production until a full year later, on February 2007. In contrast, the 2nd-gen Sequoia first appeared at the November 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show but went into production the following month. Thus, our prediction is not particularly far-fetched.

Given that the Sequoia is probably too large and heavy for even an upgraded 1GR-FSE V6, don’t expect much more than a revised front end, taillights and wheels, with a couple of new exterior colors and some interior tweaks thrown in for good measure.

scion_bdg_ns_102612_717New Scion hatchback (xD successor?)
Historically, Scion’s two 5-door hatchback offerings have marched together in lockstep. The original 2004 xA and xB debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show on 2 January 2003 and both went on sale together, starting with 105 Toyota dealerships in California on 6 June of that year. Their successors, the xD and the 2nd-generation xB were both unveiled on 16 December 2006 at an invitation-only, no-camera event in Miami, Florida, followed by their joint public reveal on 8 February 2007 at the Chicago Auto Show. Soon thereafter, however, each went their own way. The xD went on sale in early August 2007 and soon settled into a routine groove of traditional late summer/early fall (between August and October) annual model changes. In contrast, the larger 2nd-gen xB was all over the map…er…calendar when transitioning from one model year to the next. After its debut in early May 2007 (3 months ahead of its xD sibling), it followed a March/April pattern for release of the following model years until 2011, when the 2012 xB was pushed back to July (thus creating a 16-month 2011 model year). Another 16-month (if not even longer) 2012 model year is in store, given that the 2013 model year xB, in Scion’s words, “will begin arriving in dealerships early next year” (the 2013 calendar year).

In light of this, we’re going to agree to disagree with Mark Rechtin’s contention that replacements for both the xB and xD will be introduced at the New York Auto Show in March. Would Scion really replace the xB so soon after the 2013 model goes on sale? We’ll stick out our necks and say no, and suggest that Scion’s 10th-anniversary festivities will only include a single new model, and that the xD will be discontinued before the xB. We will agree, though, that we’ll likely see several new Release Series special editions during 2013 to celebrate 10 years of Scion. (This author will be rooting for an admittedly unlikely long-shot larger-engined, manual transmission Scion iQ micro-hot hatch).

Toyota’s traditional veil of secrecy becomes even more impenetrable when trying to figure out what the future holds for the Scion model range. Back in April, a teaser for a subscriber-only WardsAuto article quoted then-Scion vice president Jack Hollis as saying

We don’t have plans for a direct xB or xD replacement…Harkening back to the original brand tenet of “one-and-done” models, Scion won’t carry over the names of the xB and xD

Soon, the notion of rebadged Daihatsu models as part of the future of Scion took hold, and Mark Rechtin, in the latest iteration of his annual “future of Scion” predictions for Automotive News and AutoWeek agreed, suggesting that

There has been talk of reconfiguring the boxy, 100-inch wheelbase Daihatsu COO/Materia (a.k.a. Toyota bB), which is closer in size and design to the original xB that defined the Scion brand.

Because of the xD’s tepid sales, Scion is rethinking its entry in the segment. We may see something more like the Ractis mini-minivan from the Japan market. The new xD (successor) likely will arrive in the fall of 2013.

Other possibilities
In spite of having more clues and hints than ever, there is still an unexpected level of uncertainty hanging over these predictions. Does the Toyota RAV4, with a public reveal in November 2012 but an early 2013 start-of-manufacture and sales date truly belong on last year’s predictions list or on this one? Is Mark Rechtin right about 2 Scion debuts for 2013 versus our prediction for a single one? Is Toyota counting the Highlander as one entity this year as opposed to last year’s counting of hybrids and non-hybrid versions separately?

Speaking of hybrids, a number of pundits, such as Auto Express, Green Car Reports and WardsAuto have wondered about the possibility of a gasoline-electric RAV4. Auto Express quotes RAV4 Deputy Chief Engineer Yoshikazu Saeki as saying that

…a hybrid “would not be difficult to do. We are watching the market. After introducing the new RAV4 we will see. There will be a possibility of introducing a hybrid RAV4 and we will respond to what the market wants.”

while WardsAuto cites Toyota U.S.A vice president-marketing Bill Fay as saying that

A hybrid version of the RAV4 is possible, but not now. You never know what’s down the road, but nothing short-term.

Perhaps Toyota sees some overlap between the Prius v and a RAV4 Hybrid, even though the former is longer, lower and narrower than the new RAV4. Also, unlike RAV4, Prius v is unavailable with all-wheel-drive. Or is Toyota, in a sense, borrowing from the Ford playbook that saw it abandon the Escape crossover SUV hybrid in favor of a front-wheel-drive only C-Max Hybrid tall wagon?

The initial draft of this article had a 2014 model year mid-term facelift for the 3rd-generation Toyota Sienna not-so-minivan in place of the Sequoia, given that the outgoing Highlander got one after 3 model years. The current Toyota Venza, Tundra and 4Runner mid-life refreshes, on the other hand, didn’t happen until after the 4th model year, Thus, we walked away from that prediction.

Finally, my esteemed colleague Flipside909 keeps insisting on how long overdue the Tacoma not-so-compact pickup truck is for a new generation. To which Mark Rechtin (again?!) of Automotive News replies:

The Tacoma soldiers on until a fall 2014 redesign that is required for safety and emissions standards.

Ahhh…then we can start our 2014 calendar year predictions list with a Sienna facelift and a new-generation Tacoma…

Does Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ sharing even extend to exterior colors?

During the years-long gestation of the so-called Toyobaru coupe, one of the favorite guessing games was how much or how little differentiation there would be between the Toyota/Scion and Subaru versions. As both were finally unveiled, we learned that there is far less distinction between the two than there was between the old-school Detroit 3 ponycar siblings (Ford Mustang/Mercury Cougar, Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird and Dodge Challenger/Plymouth Barracuda). Heck, even the later Diamond-Star triplets (Mitsubishi Eclipse/Plymouth Laser/Eagle Talon) showed a bit more differentiation among themselves than the Toyota/Subaru collaboration coupes. Yet, when the carmakers invited the press to the Friday 16 March production launch ceremony of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ at Subaru’s Gunma Main Plant in Ota City, Gunma Prefecture, the two companies strived for maximum distinction by showcasing a Subaru BRZ in the brand’s signature WR Blue Pearl and a Toyota 86 in their exclusive Hot Lava orange hue, as shown above. What about the rest of the color palette, though? Is Subaru’s Dark Gray Metallic any different from Scion’s Asphalt hue? Does Scion’s Whiteout imply a “refrigerator white” as opposed to Subaru’s Satin White Pearl?

The surest way to answer these and other similar questions is to seek out the all-important 3-character alphanumeric paint code for each individual color and see whether or not they are common across both brands. Traditionally, Toyota and Lexus’ official Japanese websites identify exterior colors by that code. Sure enough, Toyota Japan’s Toyota 86 Exterior Bodycolor Index page does not disappoint. In contrast, official Subaru sites are not as forthcoming with this information. Fortunately, there are plentiful other Internet sources, such as the Automotive Touchup site. Following is what we’ve gathered and learned from those sources.

The unequivocably shared colors
Of the seven exterior colors available for each brand (Scion/Toyota and Subaru), four emerge as unequivocably and undoubtedly shared, and use Subaru-sourced paint codes, even in their Toyota/Scion applications. They are:

Dark Gray / 61K / Asphalt (Scion) / Dark Gray Metallic (Subaru)
Red / C7P / Firestorm (Scion) / Lightning Red (Subaru)
Black / D4S / Raven (Scion) / Crystal Black Silica (Subaru)
White / 37J / Whiteout (Scion) / Satin White Pearl (Subaru)

Thus, fans of “refrigerator”, non-pearlescent whites will be disappointed, since, at least for the 2013 model year, this will be the only shade of white to be offered for both brands.

Dark blue and silver. Shared or not?
Figuring out whether or not the dark blue and silver hues are shared between Toyota and Subaru took a bit more detective work, since their respective D6S and E8H color codes do not appear on the 2012 Automotive Touchup site. It turns out that the silver is the equivalent of a throwback jersey or a revived Nike shoe style, since D6S Sterling Silver Metallic was last offered by Subaru outside of North America in 2009 and 2010. Confusingly, in 2009 Subaru used both the Sterling Silver Metallic and Platinum Silver Metallic monikers to describe D6S. Thus, we can add

Silver / D6S / Argento (Scion) / Sterling Silver Metallic (Subaru)

Similarly E8H dark blue was last offered by Subaru outside of North America in 2010, discontinued for the 2011 and 2012 model years and brought back for the 2013 BRZ.

Dark Blue / E8H / Ultramarine (Scion) / Galaxy Blue Silica (Subaru)

WR Blue Pearl, yes, but which one?
Beyond the D6S Sterling Silver Metallic / Platinum Silver Metallic example we quoted earlier, Subaru color name / paint code alignment can be a bit convoluted. For instance, 37J, 925 and 926 paint codes all bear the Satin White Pearl name. And two separate paint codes (02C and 42C) both share the WR (World Rally) Blue Pearl denomination. What is the precise difference between the two? And which one does the BRZ use?

Page 3 of an official Japanese Subaru BRZ Options chart is inconclusive, for it only lists the last two characters of the three-character Subaru paint code, and 2C can equally refer to 02C or 42C. We know for a fact, however, that the current U.S. market WRX and STI use the 02C iteration of WR Blue Pearl. Further confusing matters, some sources outside the U.S., such as Pro-Spray Automotive Finishes list Subaru paint code 42C as Jet Silver Metallic. Fortunately, a visit to the 2012 New York Auto Show during press previews clarified matters, for the sole BRZ on the Subaru stand just happened to be WR Blue Pearl, and opening the passenger-side door revealed the 02C color code.

Two different color codes for Hot Lava? What’s up with that?
After ragging on Subaru for applying the same name to 2 or 3 different color codes, we must note that Scion has seemingly done something similar with the Hot Lava color name. While the signature 86/FR-S orange bears the H8R color code on Toyota Japan’s Toyota 86 Exterior Bodycolor Index page, on other Scion applications, namely the just-launched iQ, 2004 xB Release Series 1.0, 2008 xD Release Series 1.0 and 2012 xB Release Series 9.0, the color code is 4R8.

Why the two different codes (4R8 and H8R) for Hot Lava? We have a couple of possible educated guesses:

1) There is some sort of subtle difference between the FR-S Hot Lava and the version on iQ plus the myriad Release Series models that justifies the two separate color codes.

2) The Hot Lava hue itself is identical on FR-S and the FWD Scions but, given that the other GT 86 / FR-S exterior colors use Subaru paint codes (not to mention the Subaru-only WR Blue Pearl), then the H8R is a Subaru paint code for what is, at heart, a Toyota/Scion paint color.

The answer is something of an “all of the above”. Given that the Toyota/Scion is built in Subaru’s Gunma assembly plant (and, indeed, the inside door jamb/sill information labels clearly state that the vehicle is built by Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries even for Toyota and Scion-branded versions), it is only natural that FR-S Hot Lava would use a Subaru-specific color code in line with all the other exterior hues. Yet, as luck would have it, the Scion stand at the 2012 New York Auto Show had a Hot Lava iQ and a Hot Lava FR-S not even 50 feet from each other, and consensus was that the FR-S H8R hue is a bit lighter and brighter than the iQ and previous Release Series models’ 4R8.

Informed Speculation: the 19 new Toyota, Lexus and Scion models to launch during 2012

Ahhh… Pavlov and the conditioned reflex. For those of you that stayed awake during high school science or psychology classes, this was the famous experiment where Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov would ring a bell at the same time as offering a dog food, with the latter making the dog salivate in anticipation. Eventually, the dog was conditioned to salivate simply upon hearing the bell ring, even before the food was actually presented.

Here at Kaizen Factor, however, the conditioned reflex works a bit differently. All it takes is for a senior Toyota official to declare something like, “during (insert year or period of time) Toyota will introduce (insert number) new or updated (possibly having a certain common characteristic) models” for this author to indulge in educated guesswork to figure out what, precisely, those vehicles will be. Indeed, our Informed Speculation series of articles have, in the past, built upon Executive Vice President in charge of Research & Development Takeshi Uchiyamada’s claim that Toyota would release 7 all-new and 4 next-generation versions of existing Toyota and Lexus hybrids by the end of 2012.

Concurrent with the Detroit Auto Show in early January, trade publication Automotive News holds its World Congress get-together of car industry executives. On 10 January 2012, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.’s Group Vice President and Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter’s speech included this tidbit:

With the improving car market…along with a barrage of 19 new or updated Toyota, Scion and Lexus products…we expect 2012 to be a banner year for Toyota.

Yes, you heard right. We’re going to introduce one new or updated car every 19 days on average this year!

That’s unprecedented in Toyota’s history.

As this author…um…salivates at the prospect of guessing what, precisely those 19 models are, we need to put forth a trio of ground rules. The first is that, given that this particular pronouncement was made by Toyota U.S.A.‘s Bob Carter, we won’t consider models for other markets, such as the Euro-centric Toyota Avensis and Aygo mid-life facelifts or the upcoming made-in-France Yaris Hybrid that have already been revealed.

Second, we’re interpreting this to mean new or updated models launched during calendar year 2012, not necessarily model year 2012. Thus, new 2012 models that went on sale during the late 2011 calendar year such as Toyota’s Camry, Camry Hybrid, Prius v, Yaris and refreshed Tacoma, as well as the new-to-North America Scion iQ are specifically excluded from our listing, logic that is tacitly supported in the 7th paragraph of an article by David E. Zoia of WardsAuto.

Finally, we should note that, given Toyota and Lexus’ penchant for considering hybrid and non-hybrid versions of any given model as two separate versions, they’re probably using that logic in arriving at their 19 model count.

Although not contained in the Toyota USA Newsroom’s draft of Bob Carter’s speech, word soon got out that 9 out of the 19 new or updated models would wear the Lexus badge, at first via the aforementioned David E. Zoia of WardsAuto and the Hans Greimel / Mark Rechtin team from Automotive News, and then officially admitted by Lexus in their first-ever Super Bowl commercial press release. With two Scion-badged debuts expected during 2012, that leaves 8 new or revised Toyotas for the list.

Although listed in seemingly random order, the list can, in fact, be mentally divided into two separate “blocs”. The first 9 are the no-brainers, the Toyota, Scion and Lexus vehicles that have already been officially revealed to the world, in some cases as far back as a year ago or longer, but not available for purchase until the 2012 calendar year. The remaining 10 is where our informed speculation title comes in, with yet-to-be-revealed vehicles whose probabilities vary from highly likely to speculative wild-ass guesses that may well be bumped off the list by something else.

OK, enough qualifyers and preambles. Here’s our Informed Speculation list:

1) Lexus GS 350
With its slow, protracted rollout during 2011 (LF-Gh predictor concept at April’s New York Auto Show; 4th-gen GS 350 debut at Pebble Beach, California in August; GS 350 F Sport premiering at Las Vegas’ SEMA Show; and the debut of the not-for-North America GS 250 at China’s Guangzhou Auto Show, both in November) plus its familiar, predictable exterior styling, the latest iteration of the Lexus GS may not, on the surface, feel particularly “new”, but just wait until its February on-sale rollout, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the generational leap of its interior and, above all, by a driving experience that is miles ahead of its predecessors, one that is certain to produce anxiety attacks in Ingolstadt, Munich and Stuttgart.

2) Lexus GS 450h
The hybrid version of the 4th-generation Lexus GS got its own dedicated public debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. Like its predecessor, this is a performance-oriented hybrid with a 3.5-liter 2GR-FXE V6 that is a hybridized and more powerful derivative of the GS 350 engine. Due to go on sale after its non-hybrid sibling in spring 2012, it is, if anything, even more of an eye-opening improvement over the previous GS 450h. And, if published rumors (notably from England’s Auto Express) turn out to be true, the GS 450h may well be joined by a second more economy and low CO2 emissions-oriented hybrid sibling. Most rumors point towards a GS 300h powered by a variant of the new-for-2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s 2.5-liter 2AR-FXE 4-cylinder engine. A more remote possibility is a GS 350h powered by a new hybridized variant of the Lexus IS 250 and GS 250’s 4GR-FSE 2.5-liter V6.

3) Toyota Prius c
As Toyota’s Prius branches out into a family of Prii with the larger Prius v (a.k.a. Prius Alpha or Prius+), the subbrand now goes in the opposite direction with the smaller Prius c (for cookie city). This dive into Toyota’s deep parts bin essentially mates the 2550mm (100.4″) wheelbase iteration of the NBC platform (think outgoing Toyota Yaris / Vios / Belta sedan) with the 1NZ-FXE 1.5-liter 4 cylinder hybrid powertrain from the 2nd-generation (2004-2009) original Prius. Toyota has put a great deal of effort into making the mechanical components as compact and light as possible and in lowering the center of gravity (a major Toyota goal these days) as Prius c project manager Masahiko Yanagihara informed Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars. About to go on sale in Japan as the Toyota Aqua, the Prius c will be available in the U.S. in March with a starting MSRP below $19,000. Expect it to obliterate what few sales the current 5-door Honda Insight still generates.

4) Toyota Prius Plug-in
After a rather long public introduction period (its North American debut was at the December 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show, and this author attended a technical briefing at the South Florida Auto Show in October 2010), the Toyota Prius Plug-in is finally about to go on sale. Its public rollout is just as protracted as its launch was, with order-taking for 14 launch states (California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia) having begun in October 2011 for Spring 2012 delivery, followed by a 2013 national rollout. The Prius Plug-in features a lithium-ion battery that provides an extended electric-only driving range of up to 15 miles at a maximum speed of 62 miles per hour. Charging times are 2.5-3 hours using a standard 120V outlet or 1.5 hours using 240V.

5) Scion FR-S
The most highly anticipated affordable new sports car in a long time finally goes on sale this coming Spring. The phrase “game-changer” has probably devolved into cliché by now, but if any one car truly deserves that description, this is it. The collaboration with Subaru has brought out the best each company has to offer, and red-blooded car enthusiasts are anxiously awaiting its release. Sure, die-hard Toyota fans remind us that none of the company’s golden-age sports cars bore the Scion badge, while others fret that Subaru’s marketing and two trim-level offering for the BRZ are trumping Scion’s traditional mono-spec plans, but all this pales to the hearty celebrations and hosannas for the return of the reliable, affordable rear-wheel-drive Japanese 2+2 sports coupe in new-car showrooms.

6) Toyota Land Cruiser
Many Toyota fans fret over the similarities between the Toyota Land Cruiser and its Lexus LX 570 sibling, eloquently expressed by the Toyota’s ranking among the 10 least-selling vehicles by a mass-market brand. After all, if you’re spending over $70,000 on a super-capable SUV, may as well get one with a luxury badge and its commensurate dealer VIP treatment. So, what does Toyota do for the current Land Cruiser’s first mid-life facelift going on sale this month as a 2013 model? Bring it even closer to the Lexus LX by adding a large, chrome-trimmed body side molding and adding “over $2,500 in new and updated equipment, inside and out” and making the features of the previously optional Upgrade Package standard! Once you get over the eye-popping $77,955 base MSRP for the 2013 Land Cruiser, head on over to Expedition Portal and read Scott Brady’s spot-on take on the subject.

7) Lexus LX 570
Like its Toyota-badged fraternal-verging-on-identical twin described above, the current iteration of Lexus’ top-of-the-line SUV receives its first mid-term refresh. Most obviously, the LX becomes the third model (after the CT and 4th-generation GS) to receive the new-face-of-Lexus spindle grille, as well as new Turn Assist (which tightens the turning circle by adding more brake force to the inside rear wheel) and Multi-terrain Select (allowing for a choice of five types of terrain settings) features. Expect it at your local Lexus dealer in early February with an MSRP of $80,930, or almost $3000 over the Land Cruiser. As we said earlier, a no-brainer which one to go for. By the way, the LX 570, like the Toyota Land Cruiser and 4th-generation Lexus GS, skips the 2012 model year altogether and goes straight from 2011 to extended 2013 model year.

8) Scion iQ EV
After a couple of launch delays, the North America-market Scion iQ was nonetheless barely excluded from our “list of 19″ by virtue of the 248 units sold in the western United States during December 2011. Yet to go on sale, but expected by the end of this calendar year, is a limited run of battery-electric Scion iQ EVs. A Toyota-badged prototype, as shown above, debuted last March at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show. Information on the Toyota USA Newsroom is scant, except to predict a range of less than 50 miles per charge and a small run of cars available only to demonstration programs such as fleets and short-distance urban car-sharing programs. The Integrity Exports website adds that there will be an initial run of 600 cars, with 400 remaining in Japan, 100 earmarked for Europe and the final hundred coming to the United States wearing the Scion badge.

9) Toyota RAV4 EV
Back in May 2010, we amply reported on the Toyota/Tesla collaboration, which, soon enough, begat a Demonstration Vehicle prototype battery electric 3rd-generation Toyota RAV4 EV that debuted at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show with the promise of a late 2012 on-sale date. The carmaker’s second BEV launch this year harkens back to the first RAV4 EV that was available from 1997-2003. Those of you with long memories may recall that this resulted in an odd product cadence where, after the 2001 model year 1st-gen RAV4 EVs were sold alongside newer 2nd-gen gasoline-powered RAV4s. Given that the current RAV4 has been around since the 2006 model year, will history repeat with the post-2013 RAV4 EV an offshoot of the 3rd-generation RAV4 that will soon be superseded by a 4th-generation gasoline version? This author’s admittedly hazy crystal ball says no…

10) Toyota RAV4
With its debut in late 2005 as a 2006 model, the current RAV4 has been the longest-lived gasoline or diesel-powered generation of Toyota’s pioneering small crossover SUV, now in its 7th model year with but a single mid-term refresh in 2009. Would Toyota really launch a RAV4 EV this year in such an aging model? We doubt it. And this author isn’t alone in his skepticism, as Car and Driver‘s Jon Yanca noted that, “Toyota made a point to say that the (2010 RAV4 EV) demonstration vehicles will be based on current-generation cars, which sure makes it sound like the appearance of the fully baked version will coincide with the launch of the next RAV4. So there’s one useful thing we learned—maybe.” Even more useful, however, would be a return to its roots as a short, strictly 2-row seating model such as Japan and Europe get, and not the current North America and Australia super-size that is barely shorter than the Toyota Highlander.

11) Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
With the existence of a Toyota RAV4 EV that will supposedly be available in significantly greater numbers than the 100-car test run of Scion iQ EVs, should we really expect a RAV4 Hybrid? Back in November 2010 this author wrote that, “With all the talk of the full-electric Toyota/Tesla RAV4 EV, a separate hybrid RAV4 is unlikely, but you never know.” In retrospect, we feel that prediction to be erroneous, and that we will see a RAV4 Hybrid to plug the price and fuel economy gap between a gasoline and full-electric RAV4. Other factors include the lack of a 4-cylinder hybrid crossover SUV with an all-wheel-drive option in Toyota’s lineup and, to a lesser extent, Ford’s mix of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-electric variants of its Focus and C-Max lines.

12) Toyota Avalon
Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter’s speech at the Automotive News World Congress also included this enigmatic clue: “You’ll see an outstanding example of a locally developed new product later this year. I can’t say much about it other than its name has a letter “A” or two in it”. While Venza, Sienna, Tundra, Sequoia, maybe Matrix or even an improbable and highly unlikely Solara revival could fit this U.S.-developed description, odds are he’s talking about the 4th-generation Toyota Avalon. The current iteration of Toyota’s full-size front-wheel-drive sedan is certainly overdue for a major change, given its 2005 model year debut and 2 mid-life facelifts. In June 2011, a Toyota dealers’ national meeting in Las Vegas included a preview of both the 2012 Camry and the upcoming Avalon. Reportedly, they were far more excited by the latter, likening the new Avalon’s styling to the Audi A7 and current Jaguar XJ. Given the Avalon’s precedent of Chicago Auto Show debuts, we may well see the newest version of Toyota’s large sedan unveiled at the show’s Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 February press conferences.

13) Lexus ES 350
Where the Toyota Camry goes, the Lexus ES closely follows, at least as far as total makeovers go. Hardly surprising, given their common mechanicals and roots. Current rumors peg the debut of the 6th-generation Lexus ES during the 2012 New York Auto Show press conferences on Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 April, alongside the unveiling of the production version its archrival, the smokin’ hot 2nd-generation Lincoln MKZ. Given that the current Lexus ES is the brand’s best-selling model in China (and, in fact, among the 5 top-selling luxury vehicles there), the premium that frequently chauffeur-driven Chinese executives place on rear seat leg room, and no plans for a Chinese market long-wheelbase version of the new GS sedan all suggest that the new ES may well skew closer to Avalon than Camry in size and proportions.

14) Lexus ES 300h
As we reported back in December 2010, Toyota applied for U.S. and Canadian trademarks for ES 300h for use by its Lexus division. Likely to debut alongside its non-hybrid counterpart in New York, the first-ever hybrid Lexus ES will probably share the latest Camry Hybrid’s 2AR-FXE 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid engine. Given the rave reviews this new powertrain has received, not to mention its noticeably improved fuel economy versus its 6th-generation Camry Hybrid predecessor, expect this to be the final death knell for the underperforming Lexus HS. Also, don’t be too surprised if, at some point, this Lexus ES and ES h becomes the second Lexus model to be built in North America, be it in Canada’s Cambridge, Ontario South Plant alongside the RX 350 or in the U.S. at a new Lexus-caliber facility within Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky manufacturing complex.

15) Lexus RX 350
Having debuted in November 2008 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the current 3rd-generation (AL10) Lexus RX is just about due for its mid-life refresh. At a minimum, expect a revised front with Lexus’ new spindle grille, plus new wheel styles and revised taillight inserts for Lexus’ most popular model in the United States. One possible surprise, however, was hinted at by Hans Greimel and Mark Rechtin of Automotive News as they quote Lexus general manager Mark Templin’s statement that “Lexus will launch nine new or updated models this year, plus three F-Sport variations“. With the new GS F-Sport being the first, might an RX 350 F-Sport be the second? Unlikely as this notion may sound to some, don’t forget that the RX currently offers an unheralded Sport Package with sport-tuned suspension and VDIM.

16) Lexus RX 450h
The bulk of what we wrote above for the RX 350, naturally, also goes for its RX 450h hybrid sibling. One probable exception, though, would be the slim likelihood of an RX 450h F-Sport for North America. CT 200h F-Sport notwithstanding, Japan and Europe seem to be far more amenable to the notion of F-Sport hybrids than the New World is. For proof, just look at 4th-generation GS offerings here versus other markets.

17) Lexus LS 460
With the current, 4th-generation (XF40) Lexus LS having debuted for the 2007 model year and received but a single mid-life refresh for 2010, the time seems ripe for the rollout of its 5th-gen successor. Though details are scant-to-nonexistent at this point, we expect a protracted, multi-continent rollout of its diverse variants, akin to what we saw for the 4th-generation Lexus GS. Assuming that April’s 2012 New York Auto Show is earmarked for the ES, possible LS debut venues include Pebble Beach, California in August; Paris in September; and Los Angeles and Guangzhou, China in November. Given that the Lexus LS’s archrivals Audi A8, BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class all currently or will soon offer 6-cylinder versions of their flagships even in North America, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an LS 350 powered by the 2GR-FSE 3.5-liter V6. On the reverse side of the coin, might a 5th-gen LS F-Sport be the third new thusly-badged model that Mark Templin was hinting at?

18) Lexus LS 600h
Again, there isn’t much to add to what was said above for the Lexus LS’s hybrid variant. Given the rumored 2-pronged economy hybrid/performance hybrid strategy for the new Lexus GS, plus the current or upcoming availability, even in North America, of diesel-powered Audi A8 and Mercedes S-Class models, an LS 450h powered by the Lexus GS 450h’s 3.5-liter 2GR-FXE hybrid V6 to be sold alongside the LS 600h L and its 2UR-FSE 5-liter hybrid V8 sounds like a natural strategy.

19) mystery large Toyota hybrid
Unexpectedly hinted at during Bob Carter’s Automotive News World Congress speech, this one deserves its own separate Kaizen Factor article. Stay tuned…

Other possibilities
As is the norm for this sort of Informed Speculation articles, there are a number of seemingly more remote, secondary possibilities that may well shove some of these entries off the list. They are definitely worth exploring.

With Scion focused on expanding previously-delayed gasoline-powered iQ availability beyond the U.S. west coast, rolling out the highly-anticipated FR-S coupe and the 100 electric iQ EVs, we wouldn’t expect more from them besides a token Release Series or two of an existing model. What about Scion’s long-standing tradition of always revealing something at the New York Auto Show, you say? More often than not, this is a concept vehicle, as opposed to a new production model, and that’s certainly what we’d expect this year.

At Lexus, some of you may be baffled at the inclusion of the 5th-generation LS ahead of the 3rd-generation IS. After all, the 3rd-generation (S190) GS launch at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show in January was swiftly followed by the 2nd-generation (XE20) IS debut at Geneva in March of that year. Our rationale is that the current LS has received only a single mid-cycle refresh and no talk of a delay from its traditional 6-year cycle between major changes, whereas the current IS has received two mid-cycle refreshes amidst talk of a 1-year delay versus original 3rd-gen launch plans. Thus, IS can more logically stand to be released after LS.

There are also hopes that the trademarked-in-mid-2009 CT 300h name might become an actual, more powerful option for the successful entry-level Lexus CT line. But would a new engine option without a mid-cycle refresh count as one of the 19 anyway? We’d guess not. As to rumors of a sub-RX, RAV4 based Lexus SUV or a larger, 7-seat crossover, sure, they’d be logical additions to the line, but with Lexus’ hands full juggling the cadence of renewing its four core sedan lines, don’t expect to see them as production vehicles debuting during this calendar year.

Toyota’s broad model line, of course, makes for the largest margin of error on this list. Starting at the bottom, the new-for-2012 in North America 3rd-generation (XP130) Toyota Yaris hatchbacks are still awaiting a notchback sedan sibling. But will it ever come? Just over two years after the newest Yaris debuted in Japan as the Toyota Vitz, we are still awaiting the next generation of its Japanese Domestic Market sedan counterpart, the Belta. And no new Belta nor Yaris sedan also means no new Vios for southeast Asia. With Honda and Mazda adopting a no-sedan-for-North America strategy for their Yaris-rivaling Fit and 2 lines, Toyota may well be following suit.

Corolla and Matrix? Nah. The North American Corolla appears one year later than its Japanese Corolla and European Auris siblings, and the latter isn’t expected to be unveiled until this September’s Paris Auto Show. The Sienna minivan? Another unlikely, since the 2011 model year debut of its 3rd-generation puts its mid-term refresh at some point next year at the earliest. Highlander? With the current model’s 2011 model year mid-life facelift, also improbable. On the other hand, their Venza sibling is a prime candidate for bumping something off the list, since it has been around since the 2009 model year without the benefit of a mid-term refresh. A 2013 model year mid-term refresh at the end of this year for the current, new-for-2010 Toyota 4Runner and its Lexus GX 460 sibling also rates a maybe, while our esteemed co-editor Flipside909 has also suggested the possibility of a second mid-term refresh for the Tundra and Sequoia.

Lotus in transition: As Elise and Exige “Final Editions” roll out, new Evora variants come in

Back in 17 September 2010, at the British Embassy in Tokyo, an event rife with symbolism took place: Lotus Cars CEO Dany Bahar gave Toyota president Akio Toyoda a white Lotus Elise R powered by Toyota’s last Yamaha-designed 1.8-liter 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i 4-cylinder engine. The event was a Lotus/Toyota mutual admiration lovefest, as reported by Autoblog, AutoWeek and an entry on the Automotive News Blogs (the latter subsequently taken down or relegated to their subscriber-only archives). Bahar said:

“The presentation of Toyota’s last 2ZZ engine in the Elise is a symbolic gesture of our continued respect and deep appreciation for our partner not only acknowledging our past but also looking forward to our future together. There is no one superior to Toyota in terms of reliability.”

Toyoda added:

“A Toyota engine in a Lotus car creates a completely unique drive feeling – a special blend featuring the best of Lotus and Toyota that we hope many car lovers continue to experience and enjoy…The Lotus test course can be considered the start of my driving career…I want all my executives to drive this Elise and experience it for themselves.”

Toyoda then fondly recalled his first exposure to the brand roughly 30 years ago during a visit to Lotus’ testing grounds. He took a car for a spin around the track and toured Lotus’ underground workshop, a visit he likened to “descending into a James Bond 007 world.” and added that he considers the Lotus Elise the very embodiment of fun-to-drive. Vividly proving this, as Toyoda sat behind the wheel of his new toy, he stomped on the gas, drove through a line of startled reporters and revved the engine in an impromptu spin around the embassy grounds.

Roughly two weeks later came the Paris Auto Show press conferences, and, for this author, the most memorable was Lotus’ orgasmic explosion of five new-generation concept sports cars that denoted the carmaker’s inexorable march upmarket, plus a sixth Lotus City Car Concept tucked away in a corner (more on this later). Yet, ambitious as this future Lotus roadmap is, we couldn’t help but wonder about the present and the immediate future, and what would happen to the Lotus Elise. Would it die abruptly, at least in North America and other export markets? Seeking clarity, we sought out the spokespersons at the show’s Lotus stand, one of which informed us that the whole “Akio Toyoda getting the very last 2ZZ-powered Lotus Elise ceremony” was, in fact, symbolic, and that the carmaker had stockpiled enough of the engines to last until the end of the 2011 model year, roughly in August of this year. The end, however, came a bit sooner than that, for the Golden Gate Lotus Club’s Chapman Report Online, via Autoblog reported on Saturday 16 April 2011 that a trio of Elise and Exige “Final Editions” would be built between now and July 2011, for arrival in the US and Canada between June and August 2011. Here are the basics on each of them:

Lotus Elise SC Final Edition
Perhaps Akio Toyoda did get the very last Elise R (powered by a naturally-aspirated 189 hp 2ZZ-GE engine), but, in a sense, he was cheated, as North America’s Final Edition is a supercharged Elise SC. This boosted (albeit non-intercooled) iteration of the 2ZZ engine produces 218 hp@8000 rpm and 156 lb/ft of torque@5000 rpm. Lotus will only make 15 copies, priced at US$57,500 plus destination charge. Four exterior colors are available (Ardent Red, Aspen White, Chrome Orange and Carbon Grey) are available, and include the Touring Package with sport seats trimmed in black Alcantara; Bilstein sport pack dampers with Eibach springs; Torsen (Torque-sensing) Limited Slip Differential; black 5 Y- spoke forged wheels with Yokohama ADVAN A048 tires; black rear diffuser; matte black painted hard top, roll bar cover, transom panel and door mirrors; and a special numbered plaque. The sole available option is the $995 StarShield, which is clear protection film applied to the car’s nose, rocker panels, exterior mirrors and lower rear panels, applied at the port for U.S.-bound cars only. Although no pictures have been released, we expect it to look very similar to the Elise SC RGB shown above left.

Lotus Exige S260 Final Edition
Half as exclusive as the Elise SC Final Edition (with 30 units to be built as opposed to the Elise’s 15), the Exige S260 Final Edition uses an Eaton M62 supercharger (versus the Elise SC’s smaller M45 unit) plus an intercooler to produce 257 hp@8000 rpm and 174 lb/ft of torque@6000 rpm. While also featuring the Touring Package, Torsen Limited Slip Differential and black Y-spoke forged wheels with Yokohama ADVAN A048 tires from the Elise SC Final Edition, the Final Exige is available in Lotus’ full suite of interior and exterior color options. This includes a no-cost choice of black, red, magnolia or biscuit leather inside and solid or metallic exterior colors. More importantly, the suspension is the full-fledged Track Package with double adjustable Ohlins dampers. Priced at US$67,500 plus destination charges, the option list includes Lifestyle and Premium exterior colors and StarShield protection.

Lotus Exige S260 Final Edition – Matte Black
At the pared-down 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, the sole foreign-carmaker world debut was the Lotus Exige Stealth shown at left, which bore the Lotus Exige Scura moniker outside Japan. This murdered-out matte black-with-gloss black stripes-and black interior model was a 35-car limited edition sold only in Europe, Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and select Asian markets. Better late than never, North America gets its own limited run of 25 Lotus Exige S260 Final Edition – Matte Black cars. Sharing its specification with the regular Exige S260 Final Edition save for a dedicated set of black 5-spoke ultra lightweight forged wheels, it sells for US$69,900 plus destination charge, essentially a $2400 premium for the matte paint. No options are offered, and the only interior seating available is black Alcantara. It remains unclear if the beautifully contrasting gloss black stripes from the Scura/Stealth will make their way to the Matte Black Final Edition, but this author certainly hopes so.

Where do the Lotus Elise and Exige go from here?
A number of factors converged to force the Lotus Elise and Exige’s exodus from the North American market. The aging 2ZZ-GE engine’s last appearance in a North American-market Toyota was in the 2006 Matrix XRS, while in European-market Toyotas it died with the 7th-generation Celica and failed to make the Corolla-to-Auris transition. The engine’s lack of compliance with stricter Euro 5 emissions standards currently in effect further doomed it. The current Elise will carry on in Europe, however, in its base model, which is powered by Toyota’s 1.6-liter 1ZR-FAE 4-cylinder engine, tweaked by Lotus to produce 134 hp@6800 rpm and 118 lb/ft of torque@4400 rpm. Actually, that tweak is only good for a 4 hp boost and unchanged torque ratings versus its more mundane applications in Toyota’s European-built Auris, Avensis and Verso models.

With the 1ZR-FAE not homologated for U.S. and Canadian emission standards, perhaps its similarly-powered non-Valvematic 1.8-liter sibling, the 2ZR-FE that powers our Corolla, base Matrix and Scion xD could’ve fit the bill, but Lotus justifiably felt that such a sharp drop in power wouldn’t fly in North America. The final death knell for Elise in North America, however, is the 2006 U.S. law requiring “smart” airbags with varying deployment force according to the size of the passenger. A hardship for low-volume carmakers such as Lotus, the company’s original exemption from the law was granted a single extension that expires in August 2011.

Less clear is what happens to the Lotus Exige going forward. Its two current models, the Exige S and Exige Cup 260 are powered by differently-tuned supercharged variants of the soon-to-be-extinct 2ZZ engine, and there have been no indications that it would be down-powered in the manner of its Elise. And, quite notably, the Exige did not receive the Elise’s 2011 Evora-esque facelift, shown at right. Further, the official Lotus Cars site’s Car Configurator page currently only allows for Elise and Evora configuration. So is the Exige on its way out everywhere? Or will it return, as some rumors have it, powered by the Evora’s Toyota-sourced 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6? We asked two different Lotus spokesmen at the New York Auto Show press conferences about the latter possibility, but they would neither confirm nor deny the rumors.

Lotus Evora with IPS (Intelligent Precision Shift)
With the number of Elise and Exige variants in decline, a growing Evora model range will carry Lotus forward until the marque’s planned ascension upmarket continues with a reborn Esprit. The Evora itself is notable for being the first rear-mid-engined 2+2 since the 1970s heyday of the Italian Ferrari Dino GT4 / Lamborghini Urraco / Maserati Merak triumvirate. After debuting in July 2008 and going on sale a year later in a single model powered by Toyota’s ubiquitous 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 driven through the Aisin EA60 six-speed manual transaxle from the European Toyota Avensis diesel, additional Evora IPS and Evora S models were unveiled at the 2010 Paris Auto Show.

The Lotus Evora with IPS (Intelligent Precision Shift) is simply Lotusspeak for the 6-speed automatic transaxle option. To be more precise, this is essentially the U660E transaxle used in front-wheel-drive V6 versions of the latest Toyota Avalon, Camry (including the Australian-built Aurion), Sienna and Venza, as well as Lexus’ ES 350 and RX 350. In fact, Lotus even leaves the individual gear ratios unchanged. That does not mean, however, that Lotus has left the automatic untouched. As shown above, paddle shifters as well as sport and full-manual modes have been added, with the latter, according to Lotus spokesmen, including a lockup torque converter for 2nd-thru-top gear à la IS F. Per official Lotus specifications, the Evora with IPS gains 117 lbs and is 0.4 seconds slower in 0-60 mph acceleration versus its manual counterpart.

And that, quite frankly, is just about all we know at this point, for Lotus has yet to offer the world’s automotive press a chance to sample the Evora IPS. Road & Track‘s Mike Monticello, however, quotes Lotus CEO Dany Bahar as stating that, “It’s been a long time since Lotus created an automatic and we’ve spent a great deal of time refining this one to make sure that it perfectly complements the Evora drive experience.” Indeed, for those of you that would expect Lotus founder Colin Chapman to be spinning in his grave at an F1-like 18,000 rpm at the notion of an automatic transmission Lotus, we should remind you that, during his lifetime, the Elite II (Types 75 & 83), Eclat and Excel 2+2s offered an optional 4-speed ZF slushbox. If, in fact, Mr. Chapman is spinning in his grave over anything, it’s bound to be over the fact that the Evora weighs more than 3000 lbs., and let’s not even discuss the planned retractable-hardtop Elite or the 4-door Eterne…

Lotus Evora S
Of far more interest to the hardcore enthusiast is the other new Evora variant, the “S” model. Available only with a 6-speed manual transaxle, the “S” stands for supercharger. Adding an Eaton TVS (twin vortices series) blower to the standard Evora’s 2GR-FE 3.5-liter Toyota engine boosts the horsepower level from 276 to 345 hp, and bumps up the torque by around 35 lb/ft, peaking at 295 lb/ft at 4500rpm.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because this is precisely what Toyota Australia did to create the short-lived Toyota Aurion TRD model. For the uninitiated, the Aurion is the badge that the current V6 Camry wears Down Under, where Camrys are 4-cylinder only. To compete against the plethora of local GM Holden and Ford Falcon performance versions, the Aurion was fitted with the world’s first production application of the aforementioned Eaton TVS supercharger for a 323 hp rating and 300 lb/ft of torque. Optimistically launched in August 2007 with a target of 50-70 units per month, the Aurion TRD never met even that modest target, likely because the performance promise of the engine was undermined by its being offered only with front-wheel-drive. On 31 March 2009 Toyota shut down its TRD Australia division and, with it, production of the Aurion TRD and TRD Hilux pickup.

As evidenced from the numbers above, Lotus managed to extract an extra 22 hp over what Toyota managed for the supercharged 3.5-liter V6 that bears the 2GR-FZE moniker. Although Lotus spokesmen we spoke to at the 2011 New York Auto Show swear that they “started from scratch” in their own pairing of the Toyota V6 and the Eaton TVS supercharger, the fact that both Evo and Top Gear first drives of the Evora S mention Australian firm Harrop in conjunction with the engineering of the supercharger installation, just like the Aurion TRD makes that claim a bit suspect.

Will the Evora be the last Toyota-engined Lotus?
At the 2010 Paris Motor Show unveiling of Lotus’ 5 future concepts, conventional wisdom combined with the specifications released by the company pointed towards Esprit, Elite and Eterne models powered by a boosted version of the Lexus IS F’s 2UR-GSE 5-liter V8, an Elan powered by a boosted version of the current Toyota 4Runner and FJ Cruiser’s 1GR-FE 4-liter V6 (or, perhaps, a yet-to-be-unveiled direct+port-injected 1GR-FSE variant thereof) and a next-generation Elise powered by a boosted 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, likely a derivative of the 3ZR-FAE engine used in Europe’s current Avensis and RAV4, as well as a number of Japanese Domestic Market models.

Yet, barely a month later, rumors started that Lotus honchos felt that, in order to properly compete against the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini, Lotus needed to develop its own dedicated, clean-sheet, from-scratch engines. Of course, other rivals such as Spyker (with its Audi V8-powered lineup), Pagani (which uses Mercedes-AMG engines) and Koenigsegg (whose engines are heavily modified 4.7-liter 4-valve DOHC versions of the Ford Modular V8) will agree to disagree. And, conversely, Lotus is perfectly capable of coming up with its own engine, as it did with its 900-series 4-cylinder range that debuted in 1972 as the first modern DOHC, 16-valve production engine.

Lotus is still seemingly grappling with the issue and sending ridiculously mixed signals, though. On Wednesday 20 April, on the eve of the Lotus press conference, a company spokesman was candid enough to admit that they were still debating whether to launch their first post-Evora model, the Esprit (shown below), with a barely-modified Lexus IS F V8, with a more heavily-modified version of that engine or to roll out a dedicated, totally Lotus-designed lightweight, high-revving V8. The indecision has pushed back the Esprit launch from its original Spring 2013 target to the end of the 2013 calendar year. Weighing heavily on the decision, though, is a heartfelt belief by Lotus’ leadership that, at the Esprit’s expected $180,000 selling price, its clientele demands an engine that is not a Toyota hand-me-down. And, indeed, at the Lotus press conference the next day, Lotus’ Chief Technical Officer Wolf Zimmerman (formerly the Managing Director of Engineering & Production and Chief Engineer of Technical Strategy at Mercedes-AMG) was almost defiantly quoted as reaffirming that the Esprit would use a new, all-Lotus V8.

That still leaves open the question of what will power the rest of the Lotus line. As reality sets in that the Paris Auto Show launch may have been akin to mental masturbation comes word that a more realistic plan will focus on the already-delayed Esprit, Elite retractable-hardtop convertible and next-generation Elise. The 4-door Eterne would be jettisoned (it was an interiorless quasi-afterthought, anyway) and the V6 2+2 Elan was essentially a premature Evora successor. If what Lotus refers to as the 2015 Elise is to compete in roughly its current segment, it’ll probably be more profitable for Lotus to stick to Toyota engine sourcing. Then again, if Lotus develops a 4 to 5-liter V8, half of it could conceivably form the basis of a 2 to 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

So, what’s the point of the Lotus City Car Concept?
All this grandiose talk of Lotus moving up to challenge Ferrari and Porsche makes the sixth Lotus unveiled in Paris, the City Car Concept (shown at left), all the more baffling at first glance. Yet, upon further reflection, it makes all the sense in the world. With upscale carmakers particularly challenged by meeting the double whammy of ever-tightening U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and European CO2 emissions laws, we should nevertheless note that such revered marques as Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Bugatti and (probably within a year or so) Porsche are all owned by larger carmakers offering a multitude of super-economy models against which to weigh or average their more ravenous emissions and appetites for fuel. Then we have the situation of Aston Martin, whose spinoff from its Ford parent left it without mass-market fuel sippers against which to average its CO2 emissions. The solution was either a stroke of genius or the world’s biggest April Fools’ joke that really isn’t, depending on your perspective: take the Toyota iQ microcar, give it a bespoke, upmarket interior, facelift the exterior and call it an Aston Martin Cygnet.

Lotus’ situation falls somewhere between these two extremes. The company has since 2003 been fully owned by Proton, Malaysia’s manufacturer of weapon packs for Ghostbusters second-largest carmaker behind Daihatsu licensee Perodua. Over the past 25 years, Proton’s model range has consisted of an unremarkable range of front-wheel-drive cars, vans and pickup trucks including a hodgepodge of rebadged Mitsubishi Mirage / Colt / Lancer models built under license and unique models powered by Renault or the Lotus-designed Campro engine. Of some interest or relevance here, however, is the trio of Proton EMAS concepts unveiled at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show. An acronym for “Eco Mobility Advance Solution”, emas is also the word for “gold” in the Bahasa Malaysian language.

The trio of EMAS concepts (a 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback and Country SUV-wannabe) were among Italdesign Giugiaro’s last independent designs before being bought out by Volkswagen. More crucial, however, is what lurks beneath the Italian designer sheetmetal: a series plug-in hybrid powertrain with Lotus’ 1.2 litre, 3 cylinder Range Extender engine with flex-fuel (methanol, ethanol and gasoline) capabilities. Yet another surprise lies beneath, as Auto Express‘ first drive of the 5-door Proton/Lotus EMAS concept reveals that “under the skin are the remnants of a Toyota iQ”!

The Lotus City Car Concept, then, is a clear descendant of the Proton EMAS family, albeit designed by Lotus’ current design guru Donato Coco, who earlier reached similar positions at Citroën and then at Ferrari. The apparent plan is for this A-segment vehicle to eventually reach production in Proton and Lotus variants, as well as an undisclosed third Asian badge (rumored to be – are you sitting down? – Detroit Electric, in a venture that has nothing to do with the Motor City and everything with China buying the rights to a brand that has been defunct for over 70 years!)

This author couldn’t help but ask a Lotus spokesman at this year’s New York Auto Show if it wasn’t oddly ironic that currently Toyota-powered Lotus was planning to compete so directly with the Toyota-derived Aston Martin Cygnet. “Well”, he replied, “who do you think did much of the engineering work for the VH architecture that underpins Aston Martin’s entire current lineup?”

Scion’s got a surprise & its coming to New York!

Everyone is anxiously awaiting the next “FUN” car to come from Toyota. Just last month  Toyota unveiled the Toyota FT-86 II Concept at the Geneva Motor Show. We’ve always wondered if we would get the FT-86 as a Toyota or something else. With this newest video teaser, it looks like Scion may get the highly anticipated AE86 descendant. Coincidentally this new Scion concept car will be revealed on Wednesday 4/20 LOL. Check out the teaser below:

For those of you that are not able to be at the press event in New York, you can watch the Scion concept unveiling LIVE. Mark your calendars and make sure you have good internet connection.  April 20th at 1:40pm EDT on sciondimension.com

Source: Scion USA