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Lexus plans F Sport spree

Show time: The Lexus GS350 F Sport made an unexpected appearance at last week’s Johannesburg motor show and will be previewed in Australia next month.

GS350 F Sport breaks cover as Lexus Australia gears up for seven new models in 2012

Lexus logo13 Oct 2011

By DAVID HASSALL

LEXUS is preparing to launch an avalanche of new F Sport-branded models in Australia in 2012, including SUVs and hybrids.

Among seven new arrivals will be the GS350 F Sport that made a surprise appearance earlier this week at the Johannesburg motor show in South Africa and should make it to Australia by the middle of next year.

However, full details of the GS350 F Sport will not be revealed until the car makes its official debut at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas on November 1.

Just hours later, the car will make its first Australian appearance at the Spring racing carnival at Flemington, where Lexus Australia is a major sponsor.

Lexus Australia corporate manager Peter Evans revealed at this week’s media drive for the LFA supercar – the company’s ultimate F Sport model – that the F Sport models released in Australia next year will cover the full spectrum of the Lexus range, including hybrids.

“Australia is the leader in the world for F Sport models,” he said, adding that Australia was now being used as a test case for the introduction of the performance variants around the world.

31 center imageMr Evans said that, although the V8-engined high-performance IS F was launched here in 2007, the proper introduction of F Sport – designed to “run, stop and turn” – came with the IS F Sport in 2010.

The CT200h F Sport arrived here in February priced at $49,990 – $10,000 above the base hybrid hatch – featuring more aggressive front and rear styling, tuned suspension, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, sports seats, steering wheel and pedals, sat-nav and a reversing camera.

According to Lexus, the two existing F Sport variants have been successful in Australia, accounting for 30 per cent of CT200h sales and 48 per cent of IS sales.

Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb said the CT200h had helped Lexus sales remain close to last year’s, despite the effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March.

Without the supply problems caused by the natural disaster, Mr Cramb said Lexus would have posted a sales record this year, but will now likely achieve that milestone next year on the strength of the CT200h and an anticipated surge for the forthcoming GS range.

Mr Evans said each F Sport model would feature visual differentiation and extra comfort features.

This was evident on the GS350 F Sport at the South African show, which showed off larger 19-inch grey alloy wheels, a black mesh grille, a remodeled front bumper and side air intakes, larger brakes and sporty trim upgrades in the cabin. Underneath, it is believed to feature retuned suspension including adaptive control.

Based on the all-new GS due here in the second quarter next year, the 3.5-litre V6-engined GS350 F Sport is also likely to be joined by an F Sport variant of the V8 hybrid-powered GS450h later in the year.

We expect F Sport variants of the RX-series SUV, based on both the V6-engined RX350 and the hybrid-powered RX450h, and even the range-topping LS saloon.

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