No more 231 PS turbocharged engine for all-new 2021 Toyota Harrier, this is why
Hans · Apr 8, 2021 01:00 PM
The previous generation XU60 Toyota Harrier was quite a car. The 2.0-litre VVT-iW 8AR-FTS turbocharged 231 PS / 350 Nm was the best turbocharged 4-cylinder engine on the market, until it was pulled off the showroom floor.
Among all force-induction four bangers, the 8AR-FTS revved and pulled most like a naturally-aspirated engine.
Dynamically, it was superior to the entry Mercedes-Benz GLC 200. It’s not that the GLC is bad, but if you are shopping for one, stick only to the GLC 250 (re-designated as 300 for the facelift model).
Even in the used car market, the XU60 Harrier is still holding its value very well, as unlike earlier generation models, the XU60 was also sold by UMW Toyota Motor, which means proper after-sales support is assured.
The all-new XU80 generation Harrier has quite big shoes to fill, but can it? The model has just gone on sale today, with only one 2.0-litre naturally aspirated variant, priced at RM 249,706 (valid until 30-June 2021), imported from Japan (CBU).
For comparison, the previous XU60 Harrier Turbo was launched in 2017 at RM 238,000 for the Premium variant, and RM 259,900 for the Luxury variant.
Unlike its predecessor, the latest Harrier comes with only two powertrain options globally – a 2.0-litre Dynamic Force M20A-FKS naturally aspirated 4-cylinder (173 PS / 203 Nm) which we are getting, and a 2.5-litre hybrid version of the same engine, the A25A-FXS (218 PS).
The 2.0-litre's powertrain is identical to the Lexus UX 200, priced from RM 236,443 (valid until 30-June 2021)
Both the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre engines are paired to a CVT-type automatic, the latter hybrid's a planetary gear-set e-CVT. The previous model used a 6-speed torque converter automatic.
In the US, where the Harrier is sold as the Venza, it’s only available with the 2.5-litre hybrid. Outside of Japan, only Malaysia and Singapore sells the Toyota Harrier, only with the 2.0-litre engine
In other words, a turbocharged engine is no longer on the Harrier's menu.
Why was the Harrier turbo dropped?
The simple answer is the new CO2 emissions and corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards that are currently enforced in Japan and USA – the two biggest markets for the Harrier.
The era of turbocharged engines are coming to an end. They were once the darlings of manufacturers looking to game government-mandated fuel economy and exhaust emission tests because turbocharged engines can produce very good results in a laboratory environment.
See, governments are finally recognizing what companies like Toyota and Mazda have been saying all along, that downsized engines deliver far worse fuel economy and exhaust emissions in real-world driving conditions.
The governments of many car markets have since moved to the stricter WLTP Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (sometimes also referred to as WLTC, for cycle), which unlike the previous NEDC format, no longer grants as much advantage to turbocharged engines, thus pushing car manufacturers to adopt hybrids.
Last year, Japan announced a new regulation that requires all car manufacturers to meet a fleet-wide average fuel consumption of just 3.94-litre/100 km by 2030, a 32.4 percent reduction from the previous 2016 standard.
That’s quite a tall order. It’s a figure that can only be achieved with hybrids, and we mean full hybrids, not useless mild hybrid ones.
In theory, manufacturers have another 9 years before the new Japanese regulation kicks in but remember that Toyota is also a major manufacturer in the US, where CAFE standards there are just as challenging because American buyers’ demand for big Tacoma and Tundra trucks as well as Avalon sedans, Highlander and Sequoia SUVs. Toyota needs to offset the penalties for these fuel-guzzling models with hybrids.
Internally, Toyota, as Japan’s biggest and influential car manufacturer is bounded by social expectations that it must go beyond just meeting minimum regulation requirements, and to show its leadership to the rest of Japan’s automotive industry.
Toyota has an internal target of reducing the average CO2 emission of all the cars it sells globally, by 30 percent by 2025, compared to 2010 levels.
By 2030, the year the new Japanese CAFÉ regulation kick in, Toyota wants to sell 5.5 million electrified (hybrid or EVs) vehicles annually by 2030, including 1 million electric vehicles.
Last year, Toyota sold 1.92 million electrified vehicles, well ahead of its 1.5 million electrified cars stepped target for 2020.
It is because of all these reasons that Toyota is weaning itself off turbocharged engines.
At the same time, and in a somewhat contradictory stance (one that us car fans greatly appreciate) President Akio Toyoda wants to continue building loud, low-volume internal combustion engines driven cars for as long as he can - cars like the Toyota GR Yaris, GR Supra, GR 86, Lexus LC 500, Lexus IS 500.
It’s a delicate balance that Toyota needs to tip toe around. For every GR 86 that Toyota makes, the company has to sell x more hybrids to maintain its CAFE targets.
In this context, there is no place for a turbocharged Toyota Harrier. Keen drivers who are true to their inner driving spirit, the sort of people that President Akio Toyoda wants to build cars for, won’t try to make a family SUV into a canyon carver.
Yes Porsche makes the Cayenne while Lamborghini has the Urus, but it is not about power, it's about balance. Those who understand why a lower powered, naturally aspirated 205 PS Toyota 86 is more rewarding to drive than a 500 PS super SUV will get this immediately.
Whatever little margin Toyota has left in this increasingly delicate CO2 balancing act, will have to be reserved for true sports cars, not family SUVs trying to become something that they can never be.
In case you haven’t notice, Toyota is still the only car maker that makes homologation specials (GR Yaris), one of the few that still makes manual transmission coupes (GR 86), and the last grand tourer with an 'old school' free breathing, naturally aspirated V8 (Lexus LC 500).
For Toyota to still make such cars, sacrifices will have to be made.
Sorry Harrier Turbo.
The fact that the all-new Harrier is available as a hybrid is good enough for buyers. In fact, the all-new Harrier is a No.1 selling model in its class in Japan, and it's also Japan's third best-selling SUV after the Toyota Raize and Toyota Yaris Cross. There, few buyers want a turbo over a hybrid.