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Why didn’t Lotus use the direct injection GR-FSE V6 on the Evora?

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Anyone who has followed British sports car maker Lotus knows that its current model lineup (with the exception of the never-sold-in-North America and about-to-be-discontinued Europa) is powered by Toyota engines. As pundits pondered and pored over every detail and future variant rumor (such as upcoming convertible, automatic transmission and supercharged versions) of Lotus’ just-launched latest model, the Evora, it struck this author as odd that Lotus would use the more pedestrian port injection-only 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 rather than the more powerful 2GR-FSE V6 of the same size, but with port and direct injection and almost 35 additional horsepower. And I certainly wasn’t alone. Motor Trend‘s First Drive of the Lotus Evora, published back in May 2009, saw author Arthur St. Antoine ask, “‘Doesn’t Toyota also make a more potent, direct-injection version of that engine?’ It does — but the DI motor is set up only for longitudinal applications, and won’t fit in the Evora’s transverse bay”. While the latter part of the answer may be a bit suspect, the former makes some sense. After all, Toyota has, to our knowledge, used direct (or dual direct and port) injection only in conjunction with longitudinally-placed rear-wheel-drive layouts with a conventional transmission, whereas the Lotus Evora uses a transverse engine and transaxle powertrain that usually powers the front wheels and moves it rearward just ahead of the rear axle.

Still, a number of us remain puzzled and mildly skeptical, and, in Motor Trend‘s July 2010 Lotus Evora road test author Ron Kiino rhetorically asks, “If you’re wondering why Lotus didn’t opt for the 2GR-FSE direct-injected 3.5-liter from the Lexus IS 350 (306-horsepower, 277-pound-feet), a Toyota insider tells us it could be for any or all of the following reasons: The DI motor would represent a considerable surcharge; its specific and high-tech engine-management system would require significantly more tuning and, thus, more development time and money; its high-pressure fuel plumbing would necessitate costlier (and heavier) hardware; and, well, maybe Toyota just said no”.

Yet another factor could be at play here, however: Lotus’ recent reliance on supercharging to create more powerful “S” or “SC” versions of its Elise and Exige models. As noted at the beginning of this story, an eventual Evora S is a fairly safe bet, and Toyota’s Australian outpost has already laid out the groundwork and done much of the engineering with the Aurion TRD. For the uninitiated, Toyota Australia offers the current, 6th-generation Toyota Camry only with a 4-cylinder engine. The V6 version wears a different nose, tail and name: Toyota Aurion. In a bid to compete against sporty V6 versions of the GM Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and late Mitsubishi 380, Toyota launched a TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Aurion, which saw the first production application of Eaton’s Twin Vortices Series supercharger atop the 2GR-FE port injection-only 3.5-liter V6. Unfortunately, early blown engines, prodigious torque steer and the worldwide economic meltdown saw Toyota shut down Aurion TRD production after selling barely 537 units in a 15-month period between August 2007 and November 2008. Still, if Lotus were to build a supercharged Evora, it would make all the sense in the world to build upon the Aurion TRD’s boosted V6 experience.

Photo Credit: Brian Snelson via Wikimedia Commons

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