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Sydney show: Supercharged Aurion points to future

Race-bred: The Aurion is tuned by Toyota Racing Development.

Toyota's Aurion Sports Concept is destined to go into production

26 Oct 2006

TOYOTA reckons Australia's home-grown sports sedan market has been the exclusive domain of Holden and Ford for far too long.

As a result, the Aurion Sports Concept is the first tangible evidence of how the nation’s top-selling automotive brand plans to rectify that.

Revealed this morning at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney alongside the Aurion sedan, which also made its Australian public debut before officially tackling the Commodore and Falcon large-car dominance in showrooms from next week, the Toyota Style Australia-built Aurion show car is a preview of the force-fed, Toyota Racing Development-tuned Aurion performance flagship that will go on sale in the second quarter of 2007.

The hottest version of Toyota's first legitimate large sedan will aim directly at the likes of Ford's XR and Holden's SS nameplates, which comprise up to 30 per cent of Falcon and Commodore sales.

The Aurion sports sedan is expected to appear in full production trim next March at the Melbourne International Motor show, where Toyota this year debuted its Aurion Sportivo sedan concept and revealed a "design mould" of the TRD-developed Aurion.

Currently, Toyota's twin-pronged Aurion Sportivo variants are priced either side of $40,000 and aim directly at Commodore SV6 and Falcon XR6, but the TRD-tuned Aurion should sell in the same region as Holden's Commodore SS V8 and Ford's XR6 Turbo and XR8 V8 at around $45,000 – below Toyota’s current Aurion Presara luxury flagship ($49,990).

Officially for now, however, TSA manager of styling Paul Beranger stresses the Aurion Sports Concept is nothing more than an exterior styling exercise that presents "a vision for the future styling direction of Toyota Australia's sports-car image".

"Many of the design cues are likely to appear on production vehicles that go beyond Aurion's new sports range, the Sportivo SX6 and ZR6," Mr Beranger said.

"This sports concept is just one example where we are testing the market and encouraging feedback from the public. The Aurion Sports Concept is one possible solution, with styling themes slanted heavily towards the sports car end of our youth market." Unlike Mitsubishi, which revealed a similar concept in the supercharged 380, Toyota revealed no technical details of its upcoming Aurion range-topper.

In fact, an accompanying press release stressed: "Toyota Australia is still keeping under wraps many of its styling and engineering plans for future models. However, from a performance perspective a sports sedan based on the Aurion could be expected to be powered by a supercharged or turbocharged version of an advanced Toyota engine." Having already revealed pictures of TRD boss Greg Gardner with a supercharged version of Aurion's 3.5-litre V6, early tests of which Toyota Australia chairman emeritus John Conomos claims he is "very happy" with, it now seems Toyota is hedging its bets between supercharging and turbocharging for the TRD Aurion.

Either way, it is possible all-wheel drive will be employed to harness the increased urge, which would need to bring power and torque peaks to at least 240kW and 400Nm.

8 center imageToyota has confirmed Aurion's Camry-based platform is compatible with an all-wheel drivetrain, using existing hardware from the Toyota parts bin, and global executive chief engineer for Camry, Kluger and Aurion, Yukihiro Okane, told GoAuto at last week's Aurion launch that its 200kW V6 was "already near the limits of front-wheel drive".

Toyota Australia's X-Runner utility concept of 2003, which GoAuto drove exclusively soon after its debut, featured a TRD-developed 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that drove all four wheels via a viscous-coupled AWD system derived from the Lexus RX300.

And the company remains quick to point out the significant role that car (and the subsequent Sportivo Coupe) played in Toyota Australia gaining approval to develop and produce Aurion from the new Camry platform for local and export markets – and to develop a home-grown performance version.

"Our creative team is continually experimenting with ideas for the Australian customer," Mr Beranger said.

"Previous programs such as X-Runner and Sportivo Coupe have been winning concepts with the Australian public, and now the launch of the Aurion brings a whole new range of opportunities for Toyota to move into more niche market segments." Toyota in May announced it would establish TRD as a separate vehicle franchise from Toyota for the first time anywhere in the world and Aurion will be the first fruits of its labour.

Later that month Toyota received $5.15 million from the federal government's Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme (ACIS), which it said would be invested directly into TRD.

Toyota has confirmed HiLux will be the next cab off the performance rank for TRD, but Mr Conomos has previously stressed the company can only develop one TRD variant at a time initially because the cars will be assembled online at Altona for the first time.

However, expect TRD versions of next year's redesigned Corolla hatch, the Yaris light hatch and possibly even the Camry sedan and Toyota's RAV4 and Kluger SUVs. TRD will not be involved with Lexus, which will continue with its hybrid-performance market positioning.

As for the Aurion Sports Concept, TSA says the glass-infused mica metallic Inferno red and black sports sedan concept features "Formula One-inspired styling and aerodynamics" via integrated front and rear air-dam diffusers, a prominent two-tier rear wing and 20-inch five-spoke dark charcoal alloy wheels.

Fully blacked-out glass stamps it as pure showcar and attempts to create "the impression of a futuristic one-piece glass top", while other features include a floating grille frame with embossed mesh insert, twin exhaust outlets, "tonal" Aurion graphics on the lower body sides and metallic grey cues around the windows, grille and lower bootlid spoiler.

Alongside Toyota's new Aurion sedan range and the Aurion Sports Concept, Toyota also gave its Camry sedan range its Australian motor show debut in Sydney and also revealed a new HiLux-engined Prado D4D turbo-diesel SUV variant.

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