Japan Steps Up Engine Downsizing Pace

Toyota, Honda, Nissan, plus Japan’s smaller automakers, have a number of new smaller-displacement yet powerful engines on the way.

Roger Schreffler

October 27, 2015

5 Min Read
Toyotarsquos 20L 8ARFTS DI engine runs on Atkinson cycle
Toyota’s 2.0L 8AR-FTS DI engine runs on Atkinson cycle.

TOKYO – Japan’s Big Three automakers are accelerating efforts to downsize and turbocharge their engine lineups.

Though still behind Germany’s leading brands, namely, BMW, Audi and Mercedes, they’re rapidly narrowing the gap.

In April 2014, Toyota introduced the direct-injected 2.0L 8AR-FTS in the Lexus NX200t CUV. The automaker followed this month with installation in the Crown Athlete S-T and Crown Royal Saloon G luxury sedans. Both Crown models are sold only in Japan.

The 8AR-FTS, the first engine in the automaker’s new downsized lineup, employs a twin-scroll turbocharger paired with an integrated water-cooled exhaust manifold enabling it to realize maximum thermal efficiency of 36%.

Euro 6-compliant, the engine runs on the Atkinson cycle, borrowing from Toyota’s hybrid technology. It produces 235 hp at 4,800-5,800 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) at 1,650-4,000 rpm. The older 2.5L model generates 200 hp and 179 lb.-ft. (243 Nm). Fuel consumption is 38 mpg (6.2 L/100 km) in Japan’s JC08 test cycle, up 30%.

Toyota introduced a second gasoline engine, the 1.2L 8NR-FTS last April in the Auris hatchback. In May, it launched its new lineup of turbodiesels with the remodeling of the Hilux pickup in Thailand. The new GD 4-cyl. was rolled out in June in the Land Cruiser Prado, a midsize SUV produced mainly in Japan.

The new diesel initially is available in 2.4L and 2.8L variants, replacing the previous 2.5L and 3.0L options. It is 15% more fuel-efficient and produces 25% more torque than its KD-series predecessors, which already are being phased out.

A newly developed selective-catalyst-reduction system enables the engine to comply with Euro 6 emissions standards. The catalyst is 30% smaller than its predecessor by employing high-dispersion urea technology.

Toyota’s diesel engine lineup, in addition to the KD, includes the ND, AD and VD series, respectively displacing 1.4L, 2.0L-2.2L and 4.5L. The VD is a -6. All others are 4-cyl. units.

Most diesels are produced by Toyota Industries, a Toyota-affiliated supplier.

Including non-turbocharged engines, Toyota plans to introduce 14 new and upgraded engines by the end of 2015. All gasoline units run on the Atkinson cycle. All engines, both gasoline and diesel, feature variable-valve-system technology with expanded operating angles.

To date, these include new 1.0L, 1.2L, 1.3L, 1.4L, 1.5L, 2.0L (three versions), 2.4L, 2.7L and 2.8L engines. All are gasoline except the 1.4L ND and 2.4L and 2.8L GD.

The 1.0L 1KR-FKE, the only 3-cyl. in the Toyota lineup, is produced by Daihatsu, Toyota’s small-car subsidiary. It is installed in the Passo hatchback, also sold as the Daihatsu Boon and Sirion, as well as the Perodua Myvi in the Indonesian market.

Six on Way From Honda

Honda is overhauling its lineup with a series of new downsized, turbocharged engines ranging from 1.1L to 2.0L. In total, the automaker plans to phase in six new engines – five gasoline and one diesel – by the end of 2016.

In 2020, when all older-generation engines will be replaced, Honda projects 30% cuts in fleet-wide carbon-dioxide emissions compared with 2000 levels.

The first in the series was the 1.5L Step WGN engine launched in April. It produces equivalent power and torque of a 2.4L engine – 148 hp and 150 lb.-ft. (203 Nm) –  while realizing fuel economy of 48 mpg (4.9 L/100 km).

The automaker’s 1.6L DI diesel, currently available in the Civic and CR-Z manufactured at Honda’s U.K. operations, is smaller and lighter than its older 2.2L unit. The new 4-cyl. achieves the same output as the 2.2L while delivering 15% lower CO2 emissions of 95 g/km.

Turbocharged, the engine also is fitted with a common-rail injector. Other features include a high-swirl head port and an upgraded heat-management system. Maximum output is 118 hp and 221 lb.-ft. (300 Nm) of torque.

Nissan downsized its HR engine series in 2010. Initially available as a 4-cyl. only, the automaker has added a 3-cyl. variant. The 1.2L HR12DE, which runs on the Miller cycle, employs a supercharger, variable valve timing and direct injection.

The 3-cyl. produces 97 hp and 105 lb.-ft. (143 Nm) in the Micra, March, Note and Latio, about equivalent to a 1.5L 4-cyl.

Meanwhile, Nissan reengineers its VQ V-6. Displacing 3.5L, it generates 300 hp and 261 lb.-ft. (354 Nm) of torque, but is 15% more fuel-efficient. Some 61% of the engine’s parts are new, including the cylinder heads and sodium-filled valves, a technology first employed in the GT-R sports car.

The automaker sources most of its diesel engines from Renault, including the 1.5L K9K installed in the Cube, Micra, Note, Juke and Qashqai models.

In exchange, Renault sources Nissan VQ engines for its Laguna, Latitude and Samsung SM7 models and 4-cyl. MR series for the Samsung SM5 midsize sports sedan.

Working with Daimler, Nissan began production of 2.0L 4-cyl. gasoline engines for Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti cars at its Decherd, TN, plant in the U.S. in June 2014.

At capacity, the Nissan plant will produce 250,000 turbocharged Mercedes engines for C-Class sedans assembled at the German automaker’s Tuscaloosa, AL, plant and European versions of the Infiniti Q50 sports sedan.

Smaller Brands Following Trend

Japan’s medium and smaller brands – Suzuki, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru – are making progress as well, although less conspicuously.

Fuji Heavy Industries, manufacturer of Subaru cars, reportedly is discontinuing the 3.5L 6-cyl. in the Outback and Legacy models and replacing it with the 2.0L 4-cyl. turbocharged powerplant employed in the WRX.

Despite its smaller displacement, the WRZ engine produces more horsepower and torque than the 6-cyl. – 266 hp vs. 256 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) vs. 247 lb.-ft. (335 Nm) of torque.

Mitsubishi, as part of its 3-year business plan announced in November 2013, indicated it would be introducing a series of new engines. Shortly after the 2013 Tokyo auto show, the automaker exhibited a 1.1L turbocharged gasoline engine. To date, no new engines have been introduced but are expected in 2016.

Mazda’s Skyactiv gasoline engine series does not employ turbocharging, although a new 2.5L unit to be displayed at this week’s Tokyo show is expected to add a boosting device. The automaker’s 2.2L diesel employs a 2-stage turbocharger.

Suzuki, Japan’s leading small-car manufacturer, will display the new Baleno hatchback that will have a 1.0L Boosterjet turbocharged engine among its offerings. The car, which was highlighted at the Frankfurt auto show in September, will go on sale in Europe in 2016. Suzuki unveiled a 1.4L version of the engine at the Shanghai auto show in April.

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