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Detroit show: Lexus uncovers IS sedan

Nose job: The new Lexus IS adopts the now familiar ‘spindle’ grille from the GS and the LF-CC concept from last year’s Paris show.

Lexus IS sedan gets more aggressive design, GS-style cabin and hybrid powertrain

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Lexus logo10 Jan 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

LEXUS has released the first images of its crucial next-generation IS sedan ahead of next week’s Detroit motor show, revealing more aggressive front styling and confirming the introduction of a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain in the 2013 BMW 3 Series rival from Toyota’s luxury arm.

The latest iteration of Lexus’ top-seller in Australia is due to go on sale here in the second half of 2013, where it is expected to be available with tweaked versions of the existing V6 petrol engines and the four-cylinder hybrid option.

Seen here in F Sport guise, the new IS contains a similar side profile to the current model but picks up the distinctive styling themes laid down by its GS big brother, including the aggressive ‘spindle’ grille.

The sportier front design is accentuated by L-shaped daytime running lights.

The sharper tail-light design closely mirrors the LF-CC coupe concept that appeared at the Paris motor show last September, while F Sport-specific styling cues include more aggressive bumpers, larger lower grille intake and unique black-and-silver interior detailing.

The GS theme carries over to the all-new cabin design, which features a more driver-focused instrument fascia and – thanks to the larger dimensions, wider track, stretched wheelbase and thinner seats – improvements in interior space, including “best-in-class” knee room.

The lowered seat hip-point and sportier new steering wheel (with greater reach adjustment) are said to give the new IS a sportier driving position than before.

Lexus claims the mass of the cabin is “concentrated rearwards”, increasing weight to the rear tyres to “enhance the perception of traction”.

Other new additions to the cabin include 60:40 split-fold rear seats, a single prominent digital gauge inspired by the LFA supercar, central ‘electrostatic’ switches and a Lexus Remote Touch toggle that controls ancillaries, next to the gear shifter as on the GS.

The large dash-top touch-screen features more advanced HMI (Human Machine Interface) technology and a central analogue clock as per the GS. F Sport versions get special seat foam that removes gaps between the leather and the padding, improving lateral support.

As with the current model, the IS is expected to be offered in 2.5-litre IS250 and 3.5-litre IS350 guise, while a new addition – called the IS300h – brings Lexus Hybrid Drive to the IS for the first time.

Hot F Sport versions will be available with all three powertrains.

Full powertrain details are yet to be revealed, although the hybrid is expected to use a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine, hooked up to an electric motor driving the rear wheels via a set of planetary gears that act like a mechanical continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Few mechanical details are known, although Autocar last year reported the double-wishbone front suspension set-up will get stiffer anti-roll bars and softer spring rates to improve the ride without sacrificing handling, and that the multi-link rear suspension is new.

The chassis is believed to feature electronic-controlled driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+.

As reported, the IS sedan is expected to be joined by a second-generation cabriolet – it is unclear if the current folding hard-top design will continue – and, for the first time, a two-door coupe variant.

Previewed by the stylish LF-CC, the two-door coupe will give the Toyota-owned brand a direct rival to coupe versions of the 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and would provide just the sort of emotive, youth-focused design the brand has previously said it will prioritise.

The current IS, which dates back to 2005, remains Lexus’ top-selling model in Australia, narrowly eclipsing both the CT 200h hatch and RX SUV in 2012. However, combined 2012 sales of 2349 units represented a drop of more than 20 per cent over 2011.

The IS unveiling on January 16 will beamed to the world via the Lexus website.

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