In the course of researching and writing our previous Kaizen Factor story on recent Toyota and Scion trademark filings, we also stumbled upon a number of new trademarks surely earmarked for the Lexus brand. Most of these are simply a matter of United States Patent and Trademark Office filings for trademarks previously registered in Europe or Australia. A couple of new and unexpected surprises, however, turned up. On 21 October 2014, Toyota filed U.S. trademark application number 86429787 for RC 300. Almost 6 months later, on 10 April 2015, a parallel U.S. trademark application number 86593239 appeared for IS 300. That’s just plain IS 300, no “h”, so Lexus has not decided to bring over the IS hybrid to North America. To date, no new corresponding GS 300 application has turned up, but we’ll note that an old one for that trademark (filed on 5 December 1991 and registered on 14 December 1993 bearing serial number 74227417) is still described as “live” or active.
Those “300” trademarks seemingly are part of a broader engine downsizing trend within Lexus, parent Toyota and the automotive industry as a whole. A series of Toyota/Lexus “200t” and “500h” trademarks certainly bear this out (more on those in a bit), but perhaps more relevant to these “300” applications is the new, 3rd-generation Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. Officially unveiled on 12 January 2015 at the Detroit Auto Show, its official news release trumpeted
…an all-new, segment-first 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V6 equipped with Toyota’s D-4S technology, featuring both direct and port fuel injection.
as did Toyota Group Vice President and General Manager Bill Fay’s presentation there. But is that V6 really all-new, as in a new engine family, or simply the latest evolution of the decade-plus old GR V6 engine family? An April 2015 “Toyota/Scion tentative 2016 Dealer Model Reference page reveals a 7GR engine code for 2016 V6 Tacomas, the smoking gun that reveals the continuation of the current GR V6 family.
But what is the rest of the engine code? Historically, a Toyota engine code alphanumeric prefix (such as the 7GR under discussion) is followed by a dash and 2 or 3 letters denoting the most salient characteristics of the engine. This used to be a fairly predictable game, but the mushrooming of China-specific engine codes (even though they appear to be fairly similar to other older non-Chinese versions of the same engine), different types of fuel injection (port only, direct only or dual direct + port), Atkinson-to-Otto cycle capability, occasional maximum fuel efficiency K designations and inexplicable gaps and jumps in prefix numbers within some engine families currently make this guessing game a very inexact science where the odds are stacked against pundits like yours truly. Case in point: when word came in late September 2012 of a future 2-liter turbo version of the AR 4-cylinder engine, yours truly reckoned it would bear a 3AR-FTE or 3AR-GTE engine code. Instead, the world premiere of the Lexus NX 200t at the April 2014 Beijing Auto Show revealed an 8AR-FTS engine code.
Toyota has been a bit inconsistent on how it does or doesn’t trumpet Atkinson-to-Otto cycle capability in its engine codes. Our previous Kaizen Factor story touches upon the NR 4-cylinder engine family, where the 1329cc 1NR-FE engine, upon being upgraded with Atkinson-to-Otto cycle capability, electric VVT-iE and intake port shape optimized for strong vertical tumble flow received a new 1NR-FKE engine code. On the other hand, when the Lexus IS F’s 2UR-GSE 5-liter V8 received similar upgrades for its RC F and GS F applications (along with a healthy power boost from 416 hp and 371 lb/ft of torque to 467 hp and 389 lb/ft of torque), the engine code remained unchanged. Then we have the case of the latest addition to the AR 4-cylinder engine: the 6AR-FSE. As described by Malaysia’s paultan.org in its report on the 2015 Toyota Camry mid-life refresh, this is essentially a naturally-aspirated version of the Lexus NX 200t engine that nonetheless includes D-4S direct + port injection, Atkinson-to-Otto cycle capability and electric VVT-iE. It is not altogether clear whether this is the powerplant for the upcoming Lexus ES 200 and NX 200 models for Russia, China and other Asian markets, or if they use the simpler, less sophisticated 3ZR-FAE from the European Toyota RAV4.
Back to North America, and the Tacoma. Based on the above, we predict a 7GR-FSE engine code for the newest Toyota truck V6. Given that the 7GR-FSE is essentially the Lexus IS 350 / GS 350 / RC 350’s 2GR-FSE 3.5-liter V6 plus Atkinson-to-Otto cycle capability, electric VVT-iE and other enhancements, we’re going to further predict that the old 3GR-FSE 3-liter V6 from the 2006 GS 300 will receive Atkinson-to-Otto cycle capability plus electric VVT-iE, a new 8GR-FSE engine code and replace the current 2GR-FSE 3.5-liter V6 to create the just-trademarked RC 300 and IS 300 and GS 300 badge revivals. Performance figures for the new 8GR-FSE are anybody’s guess at this point, but if we note that the dual cycle + VVTiE enhancements to the 2UR-GSE 5-liter V8 produced a gain of 51 hp and 18 lb/ft of torque, applying those figures to the old 3GR-FSE 3-liter V6’s numbers bring us to 303 hp and 249 lb/ft of torque. In other words, roughly similar horsepower figures (but notably less torque) versus the current 2GR 3.5. Let’s not be needlessly pessimistic, though, as this may be mitigated by the extra gear ratios on today’s automatic transmissions and possible greater-than-noted performance gains from the dual cycle + VVTiE enhancements (it is widely believed that the newer 2UR-GSE 5-liter V8’s true performance potential was curtailed by the decision to avoid the U.S. EPA gas guzzler tax, whereas a 3-liter V6 has more leeway in that regard).
This is hardly the end of the current Lexus new trademarks discussion, for the spate of engine downsizing news also brings us
LS 500h: from Europe to America (or vice versa?)
On 26 May 2015, Jason Siu of AutoGuide first reported on an LS 500h trademark filing in Europe. But, as Kevin Watts of the Lexus Enthusiast brought to our attention, the actual OHIM (Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market) filing was done 4 days earlier, on May 22. That same day, Toyota filed a U.S. trademark for LS 500h with Serial Number 86638889. And what, exactly, does an LS 500h entail? We’ll repeat some of our thoughts from last year’s report on the LC 500h trademark:
…a 500h implies a 4-liter V6 with the performance of a 5-liter V8…there is, in fact, already a 4-liter V6 in Toyota’s repertoire: the 1GR-FE, a truck engine which launched the GR V6 engine family back in 2003…
The 1GR-FE 4-liter V6 is essentially the 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 from Lexus’ ES 350 and RX 350 (and a plethora of Toyotas) with its stroke increased from 83mm to 95mm (both engines share a 94mm bore)…
A range-topping Lexus 2+2 hybrid sports car with a price tag likely to nudge into low 6-figure pricing in U.S. dollars, however, could hardly be expected to use a straight workhorse truck engine. Beyond more car-like higher horsepower numbers and a more 2GR-like valve lifter system, we would expect a full-on upgrade to dual direct + port injection and Atkinson cycle functionality as on the GS 450 Hybrid’s 2GR-FXE, thus creating a 1GR-FXE 4-liter V6 plus electric motors powertrain. Guesstimating such a system’s power output is not a task yours truly is even willing to speculate on, but bear in mind that the one specification Lexus has released for the LF-LC Hybrid concept is a 500 hp figure…
Kevin Watts’ of the Lexus Enthusiast‘s other possible suggestion that “the next-generation hybrid system generates the equivalent of 1.5-litre of (extra) displacement and the engine remains as a 3.5L V6 engine” is certainly a viable scenario that cannot be discarded.
But AutoGuide‘s Jason Siu makes another intriguing suggestion:
There’s also the unlikely possibility that Lexus is revamping its naming convention for its hybrid models to represent just the powerplant under the hood, meaning the LS600h would just become the LS500h.
Hmm…in a day and age when Mercedes-Benz and BMW are using the flimsy excuse of turbocharging to justify “badge inflation” that sees 2-liter engines as _28 or 300, 3-liter engines as _35 or 400, 4.4-liters as _50 and 4.7-liters as 550, it would be quite refreshing to see Lexus’ clear-cut honesty with its gasoline engine badging extend to its gasoline-electric hybrids. This would, of course, entail a future Wal-Martesque rollback of the marque’s hybrid badging, with GS and RX 450h models becoming 350h; IS, ES and GS 300h models becoming 250h; and a lineup that would start with a CT 180h.
In America, a trio of 200t trademarks
Reports of the RC 200t trademark have centered on an Australian filing on 12 August 2013, but, in fact, the U.S. filing was carried out 3 days earlier, on August 9, with trademark #86033759.
The GS 200t trademark filing story also publicly centered on the land Down Under, with an 11 September 2013 filing date. That same day, Lexus parent Toyota was also issued trademark #86061565 in the United States for GS 200t.
Most pundits regard a Lexus IS 200t to replace the IS 250 as a fait accompli in North America, yet the discussion was framed in terms of Australian and European trademark filings on 23 May 2014. It turns out that is also the date for the U.S. filing of IS 200t, with serial number 86290354.
We have not, however, found a U.S. equivalent for the fourth “200t” trademark filed in Australia: RX 200t.
TX: Seemingly the badge of choice for Lexus’ 5th crossover/SUV line
As Lexus sought to grow its crossover and SUV lines from RX, GX and LX, it trademarked and then discarded VX (most closely associated with performance models from GM’s UK Vauxhall outpost) and JX (snapped up by Nissan for its Pathfinder-based Infiniti JX35 before morphing into the QX60) trademarks. On 20 October 2009, Lexus filed for a TX trademark, which we predicted would grace the long-rumored Toyota RAV4-based, sub-Lexus RX crossover. Other pundits predicted a CX badge more closely associated with old Citroëns and current Mazda crossovers (and one that Toyota never trademarked). It turns out we were all wrong, as Lexus ultimately went with NX instead. Yet, the TX trademark for Toyota/Lexus remains very much live and active, so the predictions have now shifted to TX as the prefix for a new 3-row crossover line – essentially a stretched RX.
Again, a caveat
As we did in our previous story, we remind you that registration of a trademark is not a guarantee that a model bearing that name will reach production. Besides the aforementioned VX and JX, other Lexus-centric badges that have died unused include CT 300h, CT 400h (we’re particularly bummed out about those two), IS 300C, RX 440h, LX 520, LX 550, LX 590, LX 600 and JX 470.