Lexus lineup aims for younger buyers
More high-performance vehicles on way
Lexus has taken an adventurous product direction, splitting its offerings into a traditional luxury channel for its older buyers and a new-product silo of performance-based vehicles to attract Gen X and Gen Y consumers. The next several years largely will involve the latter category, including several high-performance vehicles.
Lexus also will jazz up its engine offerings by following Audi and BMW in having a 2.0-liter turbo engine in several of its entry-luxury vehicles, and as a base engine for mid-sized vehicles with powertrain options. The Lexus turbo is expected to be in the 235 hp to 260 hp range, depending on the application.
Parent Toyota Motor Corp. is hinging much of its future platforms on the Toyota New Global Architecture, which will debut in the next-generation Prius. But the Prius' delay to December 2015 could push back the launches of Lexus vehicles that will share the platform, such as the ES sedan and CT hatchback.
Here is a look at Lexus' future product plans.
CT: A freshening came for the 2014 model year with more telematics features. Because the CT uses many components from the Prius platform, it will follow the Prius' delay by at least six months. That means a spring 2017 arrival as a 2018 model.
IS: The sedan was re-engineered in summer 2013. One possible midcycle change in mid-2016 would be the installation of a 2.0-liter turbo with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission to replace the aging 2.5-liter V-6 as the base engine. The IS-C coupe goes away with the introduction of the RC nameplate.
ES: Re-engineered in summer 2012. Should follow a five-year cadence, meaning the redesign arrives in summer 2017. It could have a base 2.0-liter 240-hp turbo engine and an optional V-6.
GS: Re-engineered in spring 2012. A concept GS-F high-performance sedan will make an auto show appearance in 2015 -- with the production version to have the same 460-hp V-8 as in the RC-F -- and arrive in late 2015. Lexus has filed a trademark application for GS 200T, meaning a 2.0-liter turbo could join the lineup.
LS: Re-engineered in summer 2012. How will Lexus up the ante when a true redesign occurs in summer 2017? Sources say the V-8 engine will make incredible performance strides to try to pull the flagship out of the "appliance" category and into the "enthusiast" one. But the hybrid version may go away with the redesign.
The RC-F is positioned as a BMW M4 killer.
RC: The coupe will go on sale in late 2014, using the IS/GS platform as its underpinnings and powered by a 3.5-liter, 306-hp V-6 engine. Lexus also has filed a trademark application for RC 200T, meaning a 2.0-liter turbo could join the lineup. The RC uses a double-wishbone front suspension and a multilink suspension at the rear. Perhaps more thrilling is the RC-F -- positioned as a BMW M4 killer -- that will arrive at the same time, powered by a 460-hp V-8. The RC-F was styled not by Lexus' studio, but by Tecno Art Research, an outsourced Toyota design hub. Also, a concept RC convertible, which would bring open-top driving back to Lexus, will appear on the auto show circuit. Expect the convertible to come in spring 2016.
LF-LC: Lexus' flagship coupe concept has gotten the green light from Toyota President Akio Toyoda. Likely to cost about $120,000, this 2+2 hybrid-powered coupe will be more akin to a high-performance LFA "lite," competing against the Mercedes-Benz SL, than a true supercar such as the LFA. Toyoda has fast-tracked it to arrive in early 2017 as a 2018 model. It will share considerable underpinnings with the upcoming Toyota vehicle based on the FT-1 concept and is being co-developed with BMW. Who will provide the engine is unknown, but both automakers are experimenting with turbocharging in a big way.
NX: The NX compact crossover is derived from the Toyota RAV4 platform, but 90 percent of the parts are different, including the 2.0-liter, 235-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The turbo engine is mated to a six-speed automatic. A 194-hp, four-cylinder hybrid also will be offered. With a 104.7-inch wheelbase and a 182.3-inch overall length, the NX is slightly smaller than the Acura RDX and slides between the BMW X1 and X3. It goes on sale in November.
RX: The 2012 midcycle sheet metal freshening was so extensive that Lexus pushed the RX redesign to fall 2015. The RX's five-seat Toyota Camry/Highlander-based footprint will stay the same because it will be a global model. To pacify European and Japanese clients, a turbo-four engine will be offered, although maybe not in the United States. It likely will be unveiled at the 2015 New York auto show.
TX: Toyota has applied for a trademark for the TX nameplate. Lexus division General Manager Jeff Bracken has said a seven-seat car-based crossover is being thoroughly studied, although whether it will be an extended-wheelbase RX from the Highlander platform, or a separate, larger platform has yet to be announced. It's likely to go on sale a year after the RX redesign, meaning a late 2016 arrival.
GX: Midcycle change happened in early 2014. Although its low volumes would seem to make it a candidate to get cut from the lineup, its gross profit margins are huge. And since it comes from the global Toyota Land Cruiser Prado platform, it's not that hard to rebadge the GX for this market. Expect a spring 2017 introduction for the redesign.
LX: Because the incremental volume and huge profits of the top-line SUV help justify Toyota's investment in the Land Cruiser, the LX is a keeper. Expect a stretched cycle, well beyond the normal seven years, to at least calendar 2016.
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