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Lexus lays out its future

Coming: The IS350 is just one of several Lexus new models and updates in the pipeline for Australia.

New model rollout continues from Lexus as it methodically plugs its product gaps

4 Aug 2009

LEXUS Australia plans to renew its entire model line-up inside four years, but it is additional models culminating in the brand’s first sub-$50,000 vehicle that represent the biggest sales growth potential for the Japanese luxury car-maker.

As previously revealed, the first Lexus hatchback is due to make its global premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September and should become Lexus’ volume-selling model in Australia within two years.

The replacement for the brand’s current top-seller, the mid-size IS250 sedan, which was to have been released in 2011 and is also expected to be available with both petrol and hybrid powertrains, has now been delayed for up to two years by the development of the all-new model, codenamed C-Premium.

Long before both models arrive, however, the IS range will be bolstered from this month by the addition of the new IS250C coupe-convertible, which kicks off a bevvy of new model activity from Lexus.

31 center image Left: Lexus LF-A, Lexus LS, Lexus SC, Lexus GS.

Model year updates for the IS sedan (September), large GS sedan (October), SC430 convertible (November) and LS limousine (December) will follow the IS250C this year, with the all-new LF-A super-coupe to arrive in 2010 after its Tokyo show production reveal in October (see separate story).

Each MY2010 update will bring a number of detail changes. In the IS sedan’s case, items such side mirror-integrated indicators and a limited-slip differential as standard, replacing the current model’s ABS-based electronic device – a move that is said to improve the car’s performance at Toyota’s Fuji raceway by two seconds a lap.

At the same time, Lexus will introduce a sports version of the IS to bridge the gap between the IS250 and the 311kW V8-powered IS F sedans, but problems with Australian Design Rule certification mean it will not come with the aftermarket F-Sport upgrades initially planned.

Instead of more modified suspension, wheels, brakes and a bodykit, the sportier IS250 will feature cosmetic revisions including a new grille, plus IS F-sourced interior enhancements such as a steering wheel and gear-shifter.

The revised GS line will get items such as iPod/Mp3 connectivity, but the biggest minor upgrade is reserved for the LS flagship, which will be the first Lexus model to finally receive a one-touch indicator now common on many less expensive cars.

Due to emerge on the 2010 LS sedan, the new convenience device will gazump similar systems by giving drivers the option to program it to flash either three, five, seven or nine times.

Also expected here at the end of this year is an upgrade for the aged SC430 coupe-convertible, which should receive wing mirror-indicators, new wheel designs and the same new lime blue exterior paint colour that debuted on the IS250C. Lexus sells about just 10 examples of its original convertible a year in Australia, where all dealers are required to display the special-order-only SC430.

The next significant addition to the IS range will be in 2010, when both the rumoured lightweight ‘R’ version of the IS F performance sedan and the long-awaited IS350 sedan are finally expected to bolster the compact rear-drive IS line-up here.

The IS F-R, which some reports refer to as the IS F ‘Evolution’, is expected to weigh at least 100kg less than the current IS F, thanks mostly to the same race-based material that will form the chassis of the $500,000-plus LF-A supercar: carbon-fibre.

Just 500 examples of both the LF-A and IS F-R, which aims directly at BMW’s M3 and could emerge as soon as this year’s Tokyo show, are expected to be built for the world – all likely to feature items such as carbon-ceramic brakes and perhaps an even more powerful 5.0-litre V8.

Meantime, Lexus Australia chief executive John Roca has confirmed that the 3.5-litre V6-powered IS350 sedan will be a belated replacement for the previous IS300, after the engineering of a version for Japan.

“(A) Right-hand drive (version of the IS350) wasn’t an option (for Australia), but now they’re telling us the domestic market want back in, so it is back in the picture,” said Mr Roca, who added that the IS350 would arrive here in about 18 months.

Unlike a V8-powered F version of the topless IS-C, a more powerful IS350C is also believed to be in the works, but could be a LHD-only proposition.

Mr Roca said he has also requested an Australian version of the Camry-based HS250h dedicated-hybrid sedan, which will also now been engineered for Japan after being limited exclusively to the US. But he said it was unlikely either the HS250h or Europe-only IS220d diesel would ever be sold here.

Redesigned versions of the GS, LS and IS are due to emerge in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.

What’s coming from Lexus:
IS250C August
IS update September
GS update October
SC update November
LS update December
LF-A 2010
IS350 2010
IS F-R sedan 2011
Small car 2011
GS 2011
LS 2012
IS 2013

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