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Detroit show: Lexus confirms new IS hybrid for Oz

Q3 arrival for expanded Lexus IS sedan range in Oz, including thrifty hybrid

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Lexus logo16 Jan 2013

LEXUS Australia has confirmed that the first production hybrid IS sedan will make it to Australian shores when the range arrives here in the third quarter of this year.

The new IS300h variant, revealed at the Detroit motor show overnight, packs a petrol-electric drivetrain with target fuel consumption of less than 4.3 litres per 100 kilometres and CO2 emissions of less than 100 grams per kilometre.

It is based around a 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection that combines with an electric motor to send total system output of 162kW to the rear wheels via a planetary gear set to provide a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

According to overseas reports, the hybrid drivetrain is shared with the Japanese market Toyota Crown sedan, in which the petrol engine produces 220Nm of torque and the electric motor 299Nm.

For comparison, the most efficient BMW 3 Series sold in Australia, the turbo-diesel 318d sedan, consumes 4.5L/100km with engine outputs of 105kW and 320Nm, while the most frugal Audi A4 uses 4.8L/100km and produces 130kW and 380Nm.

Outputs of the 2.5-litre IS250 and 3.5-litre IS350 variants remain at 154kW/253Nm and 233kW/378Nm respectively.

More technical firsts for the new IS range include an eight-speed automatic transmission for the IS350 (previously exclusive to the high-performance V8 IS F), adaptive suspension damping and a pyrotechnic pop-up bonnet that improves pedestrian safety.

Electro-static switches that enable the climate-control system to be adjusted with the swipe of a finger are a Lexus first and the new IS will also become the first Lexus sold in Australia to be offered with a safety-enhancing lane departure warning system.

Fun and engaging driving dynamics are promised, especially from the F Sport variants that now feature greater cosmetic differentiation, with handling having been track-tuned at Fuji speedway in Japan and the Nurburgring in Germany.

In addition to increased body rigidity through the use of new laser screw welding and bonding techniques, a revised double-wishbone front suspension arrangement is said to provide 20 per cent more roll rigidity, while the rear multi-link suspension set-up is adapted from the larger GS model.

The GS also lends its electric power steering system, while the IS350 F Sport additionally picks up specially tuned, variable-ratio steering. Lexus has also increased the rigidity of the steering box to “create a lighter, smoother, more accurate steering feel”.

For the first time, adaptive damping will be available on the IS and standard on F Sport models, and enables a new Sport S+ setting on the Drive Mode Select controller for sharpened handling to go with the heightened response to driver inputs of the sportier models.

Naturally, F Sport models receive their own suspension calibration, a more aggressive take on the Lexus ‘spindle grille’ frontal styling to go with the body kit, and sporty interior accents including special extra-supportive seats and a digital instrument display inspired by the LFA supercar.

With a 70mm-longer wheelbase, 10mm-greater width and a thinner seat design, the IS is claimed to provide class-leading rear seat space, with knee room increased by 85mm.

Luggage capacity is also increased, while the rear bench now has a 60/40 split-fold facility.

Much of the design of the new IS was previewed by the two-door LF-CC concept shown at the Paris motor show last year.

That coupe is also almost certain to make production – along with a follow-up to the IS C drop-top – providing Lexus with its first real competitor to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, Audi A5 and the new BMW 4 Series that also debuted at Detroit.

However, in response to a hint dropped last week on the global Lexus Facebook page in the run-up to the Detroit show, Lexus Australia PR manager Tyson Bowen described a possible comeback for the IS Sport Cross wagon as “a non-story” arising from a poorly worded post.

The Sport Cross formed part of the first-generation IS range in some countries between 2001 and 2005 as a quasi-wagon hatchback body variant.

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