Information about the BEAMS
The BEAMS 3SGE from the Altezza was the 5th generation, often referred to as “blacktop” due to the valve cover shroud color, and is the OEM rear wheel drive configuration of the 3SGE. It is equipped with Toyota’s Dual VVT-i technology. VVT-i stands for “Variable Valve Timing – Intelligent”. Older VVT technology functioned off of a switch and was either on or off, providing only two positions for the valve timing to vary between. The “intelligent” can be controlled to be anywhere between the two extremes of the camshaft phaser’s adjustment range instead of just being at either end of it. This means that as you accelerate from lower RPMs, the valve timing can be tuned to stay in a better position for power, giving a substantial torque bump in low RPM, as well as more power in higher RPM, similar to Honda’s VTEC. There are 5 different “generations” of the blacktop BEAMS itself, delineated by a marking of “G1-5” on the timing cover, that also have some differences. G1, G3, G5 are manual transmission engines, and G2 and G4 are automatic transmission engines.
Manual Transmission Engines
The different “generations” have some different parts such as coil packs and ECUs, but other than that they are mainly the same (the important part about the difference in parts is that you are aware there are differences, and make sure you source the correct parts for your engine). The manual transmission engines came with titanium valvetrain, 11.5:1 compression, and revved slightly higher than the automatic engines.
Automatic Transmission Engines
The automatic transmission engines are something that I don’t personally have a whole lot of experience with. Some of the major differences when compared to the manual transmission engines are steel valvetrain that have different sizes (valvetrain can’t be directly swapped between MT and AT engines), slightly lower RPM limiter, and 11.1:1 compression.
The manual transmission that comes in the SXE10 Altezza is a J160. It is a version of the AZ6 transmission that can be found in other vehicles, such as the S15 Silvia. It’s power handling ratings seem to vary, some people still run it behind a turbocharged BEAMS 3SGE, and I’ve seen them last well into the 400hp range. It really depends on the driving habits and abilities of the person behind the wheel.