The Japanese-market Estima debuted in 2001 as the world's first hybrid minivan, and on Monday Toyota launched a completely redesigned version of the seven-seater hybrid.

The Estima powertrain features the Toyota Hybrid System II (a version of its Hybrid Synergy Drive), a gasoline-electric system optimized for use on a minivan. The Estima Hybrid comes standard with Toyota's E-Four (electric AWD) system, with separate front- and rear-wheel electric motors. The E-Four drivetrain is married with a vehicle stability system, dubbed Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, that "optimally balances drive power, steering and braking."

More after the jump...

The THS II system adds a reduction gear system to the front electric motor, effectively amplifying the torque delivered to the front wheels. The front motor does most of the work, putting out about 140 hp and 200 ft-lb of torque, compared to the rear motor's 66 hp and 95 ft-lb. The second-generation system also features greater peak power, using a booster circuit in the power control unit to boost on-demand voltage to the motors from 245V to 650V, accompanied by a higher output NiMH battery pack tucked under the center console.

The Estima Hybrid's gasoline engine is a high-efficiency 2.4-liter four, good for more than 145 hp and 140 ft-lb of torque. Performance is respectable for a minivan, with a 0-100 km/h time of 10.8 seconds, which Toyota claims exceeds the performance of a conventional FWD gasoline engine vehicle in the same class.

Toyota has launched a minisite for the Estima (in Japanese) here.

[Source: Toyota]

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