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Paris show: Lexus concept points to new IS coupe

Smooth operator: Lexus’ new LF-CC is set to bring full two-door coupe hybrid motoring to IS buyers.

Lexus set to go hybrid with first IS coupe as envisaged in LF-CC concept for Paris

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Lexus logo17 Sep 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

LEXUS today pulled the veil of secrecy from a sleek mid-sized rear-drive hybrid coupe concept car that points squarely at a new petrol-electric sports version of its next-generation IS due out next year.

To go public at next week’s Paris motor show, the LF-CC concept breaks new ground for Toyota’s luxury brand, introducing hybrid technology to the top-selling IS range while also offering a coupe body style for the first time alongside the sedan and convertible of the existing generation.

Even the hybrid powertrain of the concept is said to be new, combining an all-new dual-injected 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor drivetrain to achieve what Lexus claims is class-leading energy efficiency, with more than 1.47kW of power per gram of CO2.

Overall power and fuel efficiency figures have been kept under wraps, although Lexus says the car should achieve carbon-dioxide emissions below 100 grams per kilometre (Toyota’s benchmark Prius emits 89g/km).

Lexus has confirmed that it not only intends to launch the new hybrid powertrain in future models, but also produce a new coupe based on the LF-CC.

Although no launch date has been indicated, the vehicle is a certainty to follow the 2013 sedan to Australia at some point, possibly in 2014.

Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb was quick to weigh in on the Paris concept, saying its reinforced Lexus' ongoing commitment to engaging, inspirational vehicles.

"The Lexus LF-CC is a further example of our commitment to engineering engaging and exciting vehicles that feature the latest in efficient and powerful hybrid drivetrains," he said.

"This concept doesn't just represent thinking for the future, it represents the Lexus of the future.

"Be it a stunning design, engaging driving dynamics, efficient and powerful drivetrains or second-to-none service, Lexus is committed to delivering vehicles that provide owners with a pleasurable experience at every level of the ownership experience.

"We are very excited about what the LF-CC signals for the future of Lexus vehicles." We would be betting that the IS coupe will get the full high-performance ‘F’ treatment at some point, taking the battle up to the new generation BMW M3 and Audi RS5.

Logic says it will be released alongside a new-generation convertible, taking that drop-top into its second generation.

The ‘LF’ in the title stands for L-finesse, while CC is assumed to mean coupe-convertible.

Like BMW and other competitors, Lexus is ready to add a two-door coupe with a permanent hardtop to its 3 Series competitor range, instead of a just a convertible with a folding hardtop that doubles as a coupe.

The LF-CC concept takes the current spindle grille design language that debuted on the GS sedan and LFA supercar and takes it to a new level.

The mesh grille is encased in the front fascia, which is flanked by deep scoops on either side, presumably representing brake cooling ducts.

In the flacks of the smooth-sided two-door machine, more scoops appear to direct air to the rear wheels.

Lexus says airflow is directed from under the side of the car and up through the rear-wheel arch.

“This aerodynamic detail is designed to increase down-force over the driven wheels, further improving traction,” it says.

LED headlights and daytime running lights are encased in narrow headlight clusters, while the rear taillights are also restrained in narrow, angular clusters.

The boot lid finishes in a ducktail spoiler, while the high-mounted stop lamp is encased in the ‘shark’s fin’ radio antenna at the rear of the sloping roof.

Renowned for its high-quality paint finishes, Lexus has cloaked the LF-CC in ‘fluid titanium' – a metallic paint “with exceptionally high brilliance”.

The slightly brownish tinge of the paint is co-ordinated with an amber-coloured interior leather interior, including the instrument binnacle.

Lexus says the dashboard is divided into zones: an upper display with a multi-display screen located at an ideal distance for at-a-glance viewing, and a lower ‘operation zone’ with a “uniquely designed shift lever and an innovative touch tracer display for remote system control”.

“The clear division of zones creates a unique fusion of an airy, spacious cabin and a sporting cockpit which places the emphasis on a snug, highly focused driving environment,” Lexus says.

The parallel hybrid powertrain appears to be an evolution of the Toyota family’s current systems.

However, Lexus says the 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine is all new, so presumeably not a development of the current Toyota Camry Hybrid engine of the same size.

The LF-CC’s petrol engine gets the same D-4S dual fuel injection system – both direct and port – as the new Toyota 86 sports car and other high performance models, enhancing both power and emissions.

The engine is mated with an electric motor, generator and battery, and like the Lexus GS hybrid, the powertrain drives the rear wheels through a set of planetary gears that act like a mechanical continuously variable transmission.

The IS is Lexus Australia’s top-selling model, accounting for 1641 units of its 4386 sales so far this year.

Almost 10 per cent of IS sales are made up by the IS250C convertible, which is sold in three equipment levels, starting at $76,300.

The current IS is due for a total makeover, having been launched globally in 2005.

The IS last received a facelift in 2009, and as the IS model cycle usually follows about a year after the GS, we can expect a new generation before the middle of 2013.

Less than a month after the LF-CC’s debut in Paris, Lexus Australia is set to unveil another new concept in a world premiere at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

This is expected to be an all-wheel-drive version of its LF-LC concept originally shown in Detroit in January.

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