GENEVA -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus Division takes another step toward shedding its sensible-shoes image - reliable but unexciting - with the IS 300 sports sedan replacement.
Like the larger GS series, which reaches the market next month, the next-generation IS includes elements of Lexus' new "L-finesse" design theme, says Wahei Hirai, Toyota's chief of global design.
Those features include a small, back-slanting trapezoidal grille with headlights that flow outward in a sweeping shape and a "signature luxurious long cabin," Hirai says.
Lexus introduced the IS at the Geneva auto show.
The LF-A concept sports car Lexus unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January reflects the design theme most dramatically.
The IS shown at Geneva attracted strong industry interest. Recently installed Volkswagen head Wolfgang Bernhard stopped by with an entourage for a long look.
The IS has Lexus' first diesel engine, a 2.2-liter common rail. It will be offered in Europe, where the automaker seeks to duplicate its U.S. success.
Lexus has no plans to offer a diesel in the United States.
The automaker will offer a 2.5-liter, 208-hp V-6 in the United States and Europe.
Top-end power for the IS will come from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the United States. Lexus has not disclosed its horsepower.
A Lexus spokesman says the division anticipates that 20 percent to 25 percent of IS buyers in the United States will opt for the larger engine.
Lexus seeks a substantial increase in IS sales in the United States from last year's 9,972. The automaker would not offer a specific annual sales target. The IS had U.S. sales of 13,559 in 2003.
Who designed it: Kengo Matsumoto, general manager of global Lexus design
Engine: In the U.S., a 2.5-liter, 208-hp V-6 and a 3.5-liter V-6 that Lexus officials say will be substantially more powerful. In Europe, the IS offers the 2.5-liter, 208-hp V-6 and Lexus' first diesel, a 2.2-liter common-rail engine.
What's interesting: Lexus progresses with more expressive design theme seen in the GS
When does it go on sale? It goes on sale in U.S. and Europe in October.
Show reaction: Lexus is gaining credibility for design. But it is behind the curve with a single diesel if it expects to challenge European luxury brands in their home markets.
Lexus also will showcase technology in the IS. Features include keyless entry, push-button start and a Bluetooth system for compatible mobile phones.
The vehicle also includes Lexus' new Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System, which blends antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and steering.
The IS goes on sale in the United States and Europe in October.
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