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Toyota Launches Aurion V6 Large Car

Motoring Channel Staff - 18/Oct/2006

Toyota Aurion
Toyota Aurion

Toyota Aurion
The Toyota Aurion Sportivo ZR6 gets 17-inch
alloy wheels, stiffer suspension, sports bodykit,
leather interior and parking sensors for $42,500

Toyota Aurion
The entry-level sports model, the Sportivo SX6, is
just as sporty but forgoes the leather and luxury items
in favour of a $4,000 price reduction over the ZR6

Large Lessons Learned

Toyota has already tried to crack the large car market in Australia when the Avalon was released a handful of years ago. It failed. Miserably. 'Twasn't a particularly bad car, just not what the market wanted at the time, but some positives can come of the exercise, and now Toyota has learned a lesson.

Large car buyers in Australia don't want something that looks like a lump of quickly-cobbled together metal and plastic, and the new Aurion certainly has good looks on its side. But one of the key issues for some buyers may be the front-wheel drive layout. Though Toyota has learned to make it's new large car look pretty, has beefed up the V6 power, improved fuel economy and offered an impressive safety package, it is still a front-wheel drive vehicle and this could be its Achilles heel. Time will tell.

- Feann Torr, Editor

Toyota Aurion
From a visual standpoint, the new Aurion is a much
better looking vehicle than the Avalon, featuring a more
progressive and dynamic exterior with dual rear exhausts

Toyota Aurion
The interior is similar to the Camry's

Toyota Aurion
Toyota is seriously pumped with the new
Aurion, believing the vehicle will play a key
role in reinvigorating the local large-car market

Melbourne, Australia — For months now Toyota has been drip feeding the Australian motoring public new information on its new large car, the Aurion. There's been photos, data and other tidbits of information on its new locally-built family car, and though it's not quite a make-or-break vehicle for Toyota in Australia, the incredibly successful car company would lose face if the car failed to give the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon a few bruises in terms of market share, as the Avalon was Toyota's first effort at usurping the local big sixes, and it failed. 

But this new model is an altogether more handsome large car, with the most powerful naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engine in the class, besting both the 190kW Ford Falcon and the 180kW Holden Commodore with its 200kW 3.5-litre 6-cylinder engine (using 95 RON or higher grades of fuel, the Aurion makes slightly more power - 204kW).

With the Toyota Camry now a purely 4-cylinder vehicle, the Aurion is now the Japanese marque's dedicated 6-cylinder model.

However, one of the only things the Aurion doesn't have that it's Holden and Ford rivals offer is rear wheel drive. But Toyota doesn't think customers will mind, and is predicting a surge in sales when it hits dealers in early November.

Priced from $34,990 for the AT-X model, all Aurion models get the powerful V6 engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission plus general features including six airbags (including side curtain), cruise control, air conditioning and stability control. In terms of features at least, the Aurion offers more than its Ford and Holden rivals at a similar price, and in terms of safety it isnow clearly the class leader.

The Aurion range includes the following models in order from entry to top spec level:

AT-X - $34,990
Sportivo SX6 - $38,500
Prodigy - $39,500
Sportivo ZR6 - $42,500
Presara -  $49,990

All models from the AT-X up to the luxury Presara feature a strong safety compliment, including vehicle stability control (VSC), traction control (TRC), ABS with active braking with intelligence (AB-i), plus brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD).

As well as wider tyres than the Toyota Avalon it replaces, the Aurion gets larger brakes (296mm x 28mm ventilated front discs, 286mm x 10mm rear discs) and Aurion AT-X, Prodigy and Sportivo models get projector-type low beam headlamps, while the high-grade Presara has adaptive, self-levelling high-intensity discharge protector-type low-beam headlamps. Prodigy, Sportivo and Presara grades have front foglamps as well, and all Aurion models get six airbags: front, front side airbags for front occupants andside curtain-shield airbags for both front and rear occupants.

Engine:

As well as it's strong safety complement, the new Aurion's powerful 3.5-litre V6 is another class-leading aspect of Toyota's new large car. Though peak torque isn't quite as hefty as found in Ford's 4.0-litre Falcon, it leads on power output, developing 200kW of power @ 6200rpm, while peak torque is 336Nm @ 4700rpm. Here's how it stacks up with the opposition:

Holden Commodore - 180kW, 330Nm
Ford Falcon - 190kW, 383Nm
Mitsubishi 380 - 175kW, 343Nm
Toyota Aurion - 200kW, 336Nm

Toyota is confident that the new Aurion V6 will have the best fuel economy of the naturally aspirated Aussie big-six family cars, as well as the highest power output. Though the V6 engine drives the front wheels, unlike Falcon and Commodore which are rear wheel driven, yet it is the most powerful vehicle ever sold by Toyota in Australia.

The Aurion's advanced 3.5-litre V6 engine delivers 200kW of power using regular unleaded petrol (ULP) and when using premium unleaded petrol (PULP) will produce even more power, lifting maximum output to 204kW. It is also the most fuel-efficient 6-cylinder car in the large-car segment, consuming just 9.9 litres/100km on the combined cycle according to Toyota. It has a large 70 litre fuel tank for a theoretical range of around 700km per tank (click here for fuel consumption comparisons between the four Aussie large cars).

With its 1590kg kerb weight, the entry-level Aurion's 200kW V6 engine propels it from zero to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds with a top speed of 228km/h, which makes it a bit slower than the Falcon in the sprint times, but is slightly faster than the Commodore.

Featuring quad camshafts (DOHC per cylinder bank), the new V6 engine (designated the 2GR-FE) gets dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and an intelligent electronic throttle (ETCS-i). In technical terms, the dual VVT-i system can independently vary inlet timing across a range of 40 degrees (relative to crankshaft angle) and independently vary exhaust timing over a range of 35 degrees. On the road, this dual VVT-i system can reduce fuel consumption at low revs, while still boosting power output when engine speeds increase.

Displacing 3,456 cubic centimetres, the 3.5-litre V6 has a compression ratio is 10.8:1 and features 4-valves per cylinder, for a total of 24. Dual main mufflers are fitted to reduce exhaust back-pressure and hence boost performance, and Toyota adds that it has increased reliability and serviceability by adopting chain camshaft drive and a replaceable element oil filter among other things. All told, the Aurion's 2GR-FE engine has a service weight of 163kg.

David Buttner, the big chief of sales and marketing at Toyota Australia had plenty to say about the Aurion: "This is the automotive equivalent of breaking the three-minute mile," Mr Buttner said, highlighting the fact that the new V6 can achieve these impressive levels of power and economy.

"Aurion is the first Australian-built production car to achieve this power and economy double - a rare feat previously only possible with a small number of imported vehicles, such as those with hybrid drivetrains. Aurion is the performance leader among non-turbo Aussie 6-cylinder family cars, delivering the power demanded by Australia's large-car buyers. At the same time, it achieves fuel efficiency that is not matched by the six-cylinder competitors in its [large] class."

Gearbox:

Buttner touched on the "non-turbo Aussie 6-cylinder family" and it should be noted that Toyota has plans to release a supercharged version of the Aurion V6 half-way through 2007, which may well match the Falcon XR6 Turbo's power output (but probably not torque). Putting the Aurion's 200 kilowatts of power to the front wheels is a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is standard across the range. There is no manual option.

Toyota says that the Aurion's new six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission has artificial intelligence and a sequential-style manual gear select shift. The new 6-speed automatic transmission, codenamed the U660E, features electronic control software that includes new fuel-saving features, including increased range of low-speed torque-converter lock-up control and flexible lock-up control.

The transmission ECU provides three functions: basic shift control pattern, road condition support control and driver intention support control. The AI shift can adjust the shift pattern to suit different drivers and provide engine braking for hill descents and it also reduces 'gear hunting' when going uphill.

Gear ratios are:
1st: 3.300
2nd: 1.900
3rd: 1.420
4th: 1.000
5th: 0.713
6th: 0.608
Reverse: 4.148.

Final drive ratio: 3.685:1.

Though Toyota has not released any performance figures, such as top speed, it has revealed that - along with power output and safety features - it also leads the large car class in terms of weight. The entry-level Aurion AT-X weighs 1590kg. Here's the comparison with its rivals:

Holden Commodore - 1622kg (Omega model)
Ford Falcon - 1694kg (XT model)
Mitsubishi 380 - 1625kg (ES model)
Toyota Aurion - 1590kg (AT-X model)

Styling: 

Though much has already been said about the Aurion's exterior appearance, it is much easier to regard than the ugly Avalon ever was. An Australian stylist was the central point of the international design team for the new Aurion V6, Nick Hogios. "Australia is a unique nation," Mr Hogios said. "We tend to like American-sized sedans with European style. We know our market, and for the first time we've had a big say in the design of our own vehicle from inception. For this unique exercise, so important and deservedly so Australian, simultaneous clay models were produced in Japan and Australia and developments were paralleled," said Mr Hogios.

"Some cars are overly balanced with predictably constructed design elements. These cars may have immediate appeal, but the design does not stand up to the passing of time," Nick Hogios continued. "Other cars attempt to create excitement by being overly imbalanced. They have an immediate impact because of their odd shapes, but they have limited market appeal. Aurion achieves perfect imbalance - the best of both worlds.

"It has design features which deliberately provide a counter-point to others, and are therefore both interesting and appealing. Due to the proportions and character in the car, people will like it from the start, yet won't grow tired of it," surmised Mr Hogios.

"To balance the hood, it has a lower bumper which cradles it," he said. "That led to the unique tagline for this car: double concave architecture, which is the signature of the front end. Conventionally designed cars have architecture that is primarily horizontal - lamps, grille and bumper surface breaks are placed in a horizontal line. Aurion tries to create more drama and interest with vertically sculpted features balanced by lamps that are placed quite wide. This gives the car a very distinctive 'face'."

Nick Hogios, the chief of design for the new Aurion, also added that the rear end has been given some sharp styling cues: "Detail styling cues at the rear include the after-burner LED tail-lamp clusters and the dual exhaust pipes, signifying power. For the first time, turn indicators are located in each wing mirror - an upmarket feature typical of the attention to detail in Aurion that will surprise and delight customers," concluded Mr Hogios.

Models:

When the Aurion goes on sale in early November, it will be launched in five model grades. The entry-level AT-X model will feature the 3.5-litre V6, 6-speed auto, six airbags, VSC, power driver's seat (slide, recline, height and lumbar support adjustment), steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, air conditioning, and an MP3/WMA CD audio system.

After the AT-X model is the Prodigy, and like all models hereafter gets everything the AT-X gets plus things like dual-zone auto air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, front foglamps, leather seat and door trim, 6-CD in-dash multi-changer, 6-way power-adjustable front-passenger seatsplus a clearance and rear reversing sonar system.

The two Sportivo models - SX6 and ZR6 - get stiffer sports suspension with additional rear bracing, plus 17-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tyres for more assertive handling. They also get bodykits comprising of sports headlamps and rear combination lamps, sports radiator grille, front foglamps, a rear wing spoiler plus front and rear aprons and side skirts. Alloy-look sports pedals also make the Sportivo grades, as do 3-spoke leather-bound steering wheels. The top spec sports model, Sportivo ZR6, gets luxury extras like dual-zone auto air conditioning, black leather seat trim, two front and four rear clearance and reversing sonars, smart entry (including boot release) and engine push button start.

The range-topping Presara model, which will compete with the Holden Calais and Ford Fairmont Ghia, gets everything the Prodigy model receives, but adds things like 17-inch alloy wheels, HVAC and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel, lots of chrome accents inside and on the car's exterior, telematics with three-year service subscription, electro chromatic interior rear-view mirror, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, a reversing camera, auto-tilt exterior mirrors on reverse, smart entry (including boot release) and push button start, AVN satellite navigation with Bluetooth, power rear sunshade, auto-levelling HID headlamps with washers, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) and even a moonroof.

Toyota's Take:

Toyota Australia's senior executive director of sales and marketing, David Buttner, said the Melbourne-built Aurion defines Toyota's view of the future for Australian six-cylinder cars: "Aurion is a value-for-money Aussie car that is better priced and better equipped than its major VFACTS large passenger car class competitors," Mr Buttner said. 

"It has more power than the naturally aspirated 6-cylinder rivals in its class and better fuel economy than any of the large-six competitors in its class. It is styled for Australian tastes, tuned for Australian driving preferences, and has the power and comfort required for driving vast distances. At the same time, it is endowed with technology that ensures excellent fuel economy, with high levels of active and passive safety features as standard equipment on all models."

Set to reach Toyota showrooms in early November, the Australian-designed Aurion V6 is priced between $34,990 and $49,990, and size-wise it's a fairly close match for its rivals. Here's the breakdown:

Vehicle

Length

Width

Height

Boot space

Holden Commodore

4894mm

1899mm

1476mm

496 litres

Ford Falcon

4930mm

1864mm

1444mm

504 litres

Mitsubishi 380

4837mm

1840mm

1480mm

437 litres

Toyota Aurion

4825mm

1820mm

1470mm

504 litres

While the Aurion is a class leader in terms of engine power and standard safety features, it's clear that the Toyota Aurion is not quite as roomy as its rivals, being the shortest and narrowest in the large car class (see table above), but it comes close to most of its rivals, and is larger than its precursor the Avalon. Surprisingly however, it has the equal best-in-class boot space, sharing that honour with the Ford Falcon.

Toyota is very positive that it's new car, together with its multi-million dollars advertising campaigns, will be enough to alter the balance of power in the locally-built large car market, which for the last three decades has been a Holden versus Ford event. The Mitsubishi 380 will be the Aurion's first target, and if it can eclipse 380 sales, then the Ford Falcon will come next. However, the Falcon has a huge history in Australia and may a tough nut to crack, as will be the case with the all-new VE Commodore. But Toyota has put a very tempting vehicle up for sale, and when it hits showrooms in November, we'll get a better idea of its initial take-up rate.

Toyota is so positive of the Aurion's success, it believes the vehicle will play a key role in "reinvigorating" the Australian large-car market, according to David Buttner. "It is a serious contender - a modern alternative that will also take sales from the traditional large 6-cylinder models," said the head of marketing and sales for Toyota Australia.

The large-car segment peaked at 211,791 sales in 2003, but its share of the total market has been in long-term decline since, which is linked primarily to rising fuel prices. "In 1996 ... large cars made up 43.4 per cent of those [passenger car] sales," Mr Buttner said, "But, by 2005 ... large cars were just 27.5 per cent...".

One of the reasons the large car segment has dipped in the last decade is the rising price of petroleum. The bigger your engine and the heavier your car, the more it needs to work, and hence the petrol consumption will rise, and this is one of the areas that the Aurion hopes to claw back some market share from the Commodore and Falcon models. As the tabular data highlights, the Toyota Aurion is now the class leader, followed by Falcon and then Commodore:

Fuel Efficieny
(City/Highway
cycle combined)

Holden V6 Commodore

Ford L6 Falcon

Mitsubishi 380 V6

Toyota Aurion V6

10.9L/100km

10.2L/100km

11.4L/100km

9.9L/100km

David Buttner says that the Aurion will be an ideal solution for many one-time large car buyers who may have opted for a smaller model in recent years, and who may be tempted back to the large car fold with this new Toyota: "They're looking for a solution - and we've developed the Aurion to deliver to their needs."

The new Toyota Aurion is manufactured at Toyota's Altona plant, alongside the 4-cylinder Camry models, both of which will sold to international markets as well as in Australia.

Related articles:
- Toyota Aurion Revealed
- Toyota Aurion & Camry: Factory Partners

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