Lexus' sales lead in the luxury wars is under threat from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, in part because of aging products in crucial segments. But several new or redesigned Lexus models are due to be launched in the next year.
Besides replacing the slow-selling GS series and the volume-leading ES 350, Lexus will move into the entry-luxury segment with the CT 200h hybrid hatchback.
CT 200h: The five-door hybrid debuts in early 2011. At 170 inches long, it's about the same size as the BMW 1 series and Audi A3. The CT 200h rides on a double-wishbone rear suspension. The hybrid powertrain works with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine.
IS: The BMW 3-series competitor will be redesigned for the 2013 model year on a shorter version of the shared GS platform. With the CT 200h arriving, the IS needn't go smaller.
HS 250h: The Lexus sedan version of the Prius went on sale in mid-2009. If the Prius changes midcycle to a lithium ion battery pack in 2012, the HS 250h will get the same change.
ES: The midrange sedan, which uses Toyota Camry underpinnings, is due to be redesigned for the 2012 model year, arriving in late 2011 or early 2012. Expect more angular and active styling than the current version, which has grown stale. A hybrid version could be added.
GS: The next GS will be the lead vehicle of a new shared platform when it arrives in the spring as a 2011 model. It's the shortest vehicle in its competitive set, which includes the BMW 5 series and Mercedes-Benz E class, so expect a lengthened wheelbase.
The design of the GS will feature a long dash-to-axle ratio and a reprise of its signature stubby trunk, while the roofline will be a constant-radius swoop. Expect a continuation of the V-6, V-8 and hybrid engine offerings.
Lexus built a prototype of a GS-F performance edition, using the LFA's V-10 engine, but the cost is prohibitive.
LS: The range-topping sedan will be redesigned for the 2013 model year. The car has grown heavy with gadgetry and safety features, so weight-saving technology that uses premium materials is high on the priority list.
SC: Production stopped in June. The SC hardtop convertible will not be renewed, leaving Lexus with the less expensive IS convertible.
LFA: The high-performance rocket was launched this year. After the current batch of 500 coupes is built, there probably will be a one-year hiatus. A roadster version then will be offered, perhaps in larger volumes than the coupe. Judging by production schedules, that will occur in January 2014.
RX: The crossover was redesigned in early 2009. No major changes are predicted.
GX: The seven-passenger SUV, based on the Toyota 4Runner, was redesigned this year.
VX: A seven-seat, car-based large crossover above the RX 350 is possible. Owners have told Lexus that towing is not as important as driveability and seating capacity. Lexus is studying a competitor to the BMW X6 crossover based on the next generation of the GS/IS platform.