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 |  Nov 23 2010, 8:53 AM

The recent switch to “down-sizing” technologies like turbocharging and direct-injection have allowed automakers like Chevy, Ford and Hyundai to leap past Toyota in the fuel economy race in recent years. During that time Toyota’s focus has been on hybridizing its lineup of vehicles, a move that does allow for more significant fuel economy gains, but which is expensive; a cost that is then passed on to the consumer. Toyota’s hybrid plans also tend to mean a less impressive performance numbers.

Steering the industry over the past decade, Toyota now appears to be succumbing to the pressure of its rivals and will begin to roll out extensive use of turbocharging and direct injection in its vehicles. While not a massive leap, it will allow for significant short term fuel economy gains, with these technologies proving just how much potential is left in the internal combustion engine.

In an interview with Automotive News Toyota’s R&D boss Takeshi Uchiyamada commented that we’ll see this engine technology in everything from the Corolla to Camry, while the company will improve its variable valve timing and begin using start/stop systems to further improve technology.

The move should also help Toyota save significantly on R&D costs. With the automaker already boasting excellent fuel economy numbers, just switching to direct-injection will put Toyota back on top in the fuel economy race, without the need to design and build an entirely new generation of engines.

Moving to turbochargers and direct-injection also holds promise for performance enthusiasts. And with Toyota’s long history of turbocharged performance, perhaps a new generation of sports cars like the FR-S/FT-86 could make use of turbo DI engines in order to achieve impressive fuel economy and fun.

[Source: Automotive News via Motor Trend]