Lexus launches a sedan offensive
More frequent revisions are part of the plan
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Lexus is reworking its sedan lineup as part of an effort to vault past Mercedes-Benz and BMW and retake the luxury sales lead.
It also aims to add sparkle to the lineup with a coupe based on the wild LF-LC concept and possibly a coupe derived from the GS. The lineup also is likely to expand to include a smaller five-passenger crossover.
And expect Lexus to begin following the BMW routine as far as cycle changes go, with a major re-do every two or three years -- alternating between sheet metal and powertrain -- so there is always something new to brag about.
The ES, GS and LS changeovers for the 2013 model year involve mostly carryover powertrains. Engine and transmission changes likely are several years away.
Here's a look at Lexus' future product plans:
CT 200h: No changes are planned until a redesign in the spring of 2016.
IS: The IS small sedan line will be re-engineered in the spring of 2013 on a shortened version of the shared GS platform. Expect further handling refinements but not much change in the powertrain setup.
New exterior design aims to differentiate the IS from the GS. Both 2.5-liter and 3.5-liter engines will carry over.
And there will be another IS-F, and another IS-C retractable hardtop coupe.
ES: The ES was re-engineered this spring.
GS: The sedan was re-engineered this spring. There have been sketches of a possible GS-F performance version, but as yet no plans for production.
Meanwhile, a GS Coupe is being considered as a possible replacement for the SC, to fit between the IS-C and LF-LC in the $60,000 range.
LS: A redesign of the flagship comes this summer. While the 4.6-liter V-8 and hybrid powertrains will be carried over, expect some big technical leaps in other areas, including interior gadgetry.
New items will include an advanced climate control system, "smart" high-beam headlamps and more precrash safety features.
But underneath, the chassis is only mildly retuned, with the addition of an active roll bar. An F-Sport model will debut for fans of pumped-up luxobarges.
LF-LC: After a rave reception for the concept at the Detroit auto show, Lexus is moving ahead with development.
This 2+2 hybrid-powered coupe, which will be positioned against the Aston Martin Vantage/DB9 and the Porsche 911 Turbo, will be more like an LFA lite than a successor to the portly SC coupe. Expect it in late 2014.
LFA: After the current batch of 500 is built there likely will be a one-year hiatus and then a roadster version will be offered -- probably in mid-2014.
Photo credit: ANDREI AVARVARII
CX: Lexus is testing a smaller, crossover vehicle derived from the RAV4 platform that would compete against the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. The base powertrain could be a new turbocharged four-cylinder, with a hybrid option. Expect it to launch in Europe first, late this year, and debut in the United States next fall.
RX: A redesign will come early in 2014, and the new Camry/Avalon will be used for the underpinnings. The addition of a small crossover in the Lexus lineup means the RX may get a couple of inches longer and possibly add a third-row option.
The hybrid battery may stay nickel-based, rather than lithium ion. Toyota has found packaging benefits with lithium ion but only marginal fuel-efficiency improvement.
GX: The GX was redesigned in the spring of 2010, so no major changes are predicted.
LX: Since the incremental volume of the top-line Lexus SUV helps justify Toyota's investment in the Land Cruiser, the LX won't go away. Expect a stretched cycle, perhaps beyond the expected seven years, to 2015.
VX: After years of study and several concept models, it seems Lexus has killed the idea of a seven-seat car-based crossover.
The next RX with a third-row option could fill the gap.
You can reach Mark Rechtin at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Mark on