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Where next for Lexus IS?

Hot stuff: The LF-CC concept stunned Paris show-goers in 2012, and points to the design of the expected IS coupe.

Lexus IS chief engineer points to hot coupe and wagon spin-offs


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15 Jul 2013

LEXUS is looking to revive the IS wagon and spin a sexy coupe off the same platform but must work within the confines of limited resources, according to the model line’s chief engineer.

Speaking at last week’s Australian IS sedan launch, Lexus’ global IS chief engineer Junichi Furuyama said there were “many jobs on the shopping list for us” – including an SUV – but admitted the company had to “manage the priorities” of the new series.

He also made it clear that Lexus did not have the budget within Toyota Motor Corporation to match the vast number of offerings from its key German rivals.

“As chief engineer, I want to have all variants like a BMW, Mercedes and Audi,” Mr Furuyama said.

“They all have sedan, wagon, coupe, convertible and also (in BMW’s case) the GT.”

This statement is in reference to Audi’s A4 and A5 range, BMW’s 3 Series and 4 Series model range, and Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class line-up. The rear-drive IS sedan is targeted right at the three-box versions of each of these model lines.

“I can’t believe they have so many variants,” said Furuyama-san. “And they also have engine variations, five diesel and petrol, also the hybrids. Unbelievable for us we don’t have such resources.”

Speculation has been rife that the company would release an image-changing coupe since it tore the covers from the show-stopping LF-CC two-door design concept at the 2012 Paris motor show.

The company also previously sold a wagon body style, relatively popular in Europe, between 2000 and 2005, but dropped it in favour of a folding hard-top convertible variant when the IS entered its second generation.

Lexus has never offer more than two IS body styles simultaneously, meaning it has historically covered only half the bases of its German arch-rivals.

In lieu of more substantial resources, Furuyama-san said the company had to prioritise its development timeline by speaking to its major regions and coming to consensus on where to go first.

“You have to concentrate on which model is more efficient for total planning,” he said. “There are many jobs on the shopping list for us, so how to manage the priorities of the new vehicle?“Coupe, we need a coupe. And wagon, there’s strong request for that from Europe. But then there’s strong requests for a bigger SUV from the US.

“We now are gathering opinions from our global teams and discussing which is number-one priority for Lexus globally.”

Asked by GoAuto if we could expect to see the full suite of IS offerings – sedan, wagon and coupe/convertible – within two years, Mr Furuyama said “that is ideal”.

He said another variant that must not be forgotten is a hardcore follow-up to the IS F – the 311kW/505Nm V8-engined firebrand that has proved enduringly popular in Australia, and which will continue to sell alongside the new-generation regular sedan range for a few months yet.

“I think an F model, a hot model, definitely lacks from the current Lexus line-up. It would create a more ‘emotional’ image for Lexus, which is very important,” he said.

“I understand that IS-F model for the Lexus is very important. I will carefully investigate how to create the next F model. I cannot say exactly when right now. At least I can say right now that the current IS-F (will) continue to sell for a while. But in future, I don’t know.”

Furuyama-san also said it would be his preference to put more emphasis on the coupe than the convertible, as the fixed-roof design added a crucial performance edge for a company desperate to shake up its image.

“Convertible also very emotional, but I believe in my personal opinion, a coupe is more pure than compared to a convertible. If you want very beautiful styling, the coupe is number one,” he said.

“The convertible you have to accommodate the collapsed roof, so in case of IS convertible, it affects the styling.”

Mr Furuyama’s comments suggest the next few years will see a flurry of activity from the Japanese luxury brand, with the company already known to be deep into the development of a much-needed small SUV to slot in beneath the RX – its global best-seller in 2012.

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