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Detroit show: Lexus eyes Porsche with LF-LC

Red devil: The sleek Lexus LF-LC concept hybrid coupe makes its public debut at the Detroit show.

Sleek Lexus LF-LC V8 hybrid concept could morph into a Porsche 911 rival by 2015

11 Jan 2012


LEXUS has revealed a stunning LF-LC concept that could morph into a rear-drive super-coupe to challenge the Porsche 911 Turbo by around 2015.

It would be much more affordable than the similarly styled LFA but would still have 911 Turbo-rivalling performance, potentially with a 368kW V8 petrol-electric hybrid system that emits a Camry Hybrid-like 150g/km of CO2.

If the wild new sub-LFA coupe reaches production – and if Karl Schlicht, the general manager of the company’s new product and marketing planning division, gets his way – the LF-LC will also be priced well below the 911 Turbo at between $US100,000 and $US130,000 in North America.

“We’re looking for a sport 2+2 GT, not an LFA sportscar – clearly we’ve got one already (so) we don’t need another ultimate supercar,” Mr Schlicht told GoAuto following the LF-LC’s global debut at the Detroit motor show this week.

“We want it to be in a price band in the US that’s, let’s say, $100-$130,000. We’d like to be in that range, to the point that we actually sell some volume so people actually see them, because you don’t see a lot of LFAs.

“It’s a similar ballpark as 911. At that level it’s still very premium but obtainable. LFA is extremely premium but unobtainable.”

Lexus released few technical details for the LF-LC, saying only that it will drive its rear wheels with a “next-generation” hybrid-drive system that will deliver greater performance and efficiency than either the V6 or V8 hybrid systems it currently offers.

31 center imageHowever, Mr Schlicht said the LF-LC, which will ride on either the new platform under the upcoming GS or all-new underpinnings, is currently powered by a V8 hybrid drivetrain, but could be fitted with V6 hybrid power if it reaches production.

“There are a couple of developments we’re looking at,” he said. “One is improved hybrid feel and greater efficiency and, of course, probably by then improved battery technology.

“I can’t say today, but it’s obvious that as a company we’re progressing toward lithium-ion (battery technology) and once we think it’s stable enough for our reliability requirements then I think we’ll move towards that.

“We’d like to improve the feel of the hybrid for that sort of car, so I think that’s the most important aspect of this next generation of hybrid.

“It would be front-engined, rear-drive.

“We’re targetting – in terms of the ideal horsepower – 500hp (368kW) and in terms of CO2 we’re targetting 150g/km. That’s part of our goal.

“V8 as a base. It could be a V6 by then – the world’s changing, right? – but today’s thinking is eight. We don’t know yet.”

Those sorts of specifications would see the LF-LC match the performance of the current 911 Turbo – which also produces 368kW but emits 275g/km of CO2 – while approaching the efficiency levels of Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, which emits 142g/km.

Porsche’s new 991-series 911 coupe, which arrives in Australian showrooms next month, is the first 911 to emit less than 200g/km of CO2.

At a price of less than $US130,000 in the US, where the 911 Turbo currently costs $US137,300, the LF-LC would also be more affordable than its most direct rival, which costs some $363,700 in Australia.

Asked if the LF-LC will reach production and when, Mr Schlicht said: “Depends what you write about it. Mid-decade, best case.

“It’s very hard in our environment when we have to make decisions on future models.

“If people say in a meeting or from a market point of view they want a coupe – and a lot of markets have said that to us – the people that have to make the decision can’t grasp that so clearly.

“What happens in our world is that everyone’s asking for stuff, so prioritising is pretty hard.

“The amount of energy and engineering resource in that car is obviously significant, so it’s not a decision taken lightly and the volumes are usually small, so it’s easy to say, ‘let’s not do it’.

“In the past, that would have been the Lexus decision – we’d rather take volume than this kind of a coupe – but we’re trying to now, in this third phase, change that whole emotional feeling about Lexus. You can see that with the spindle grille on GS and the way it drives – it’s a completely different feel.

“And we want coupes, right? So our strategy was, ‘we’re going to build a concept coupe’. Normally we build a concept car and it’s kind of a guarantee it’s going to be built. That’s because we’ve built the car already and we do the concept after.

“This time we haven’t built the car – this is a concept – so we’ll see what the reaction is.

“We already know the dealer reaction. Their comment quite clearly is ‘build it’.

Now we’re gauging reaction from the media and also the public – we’re going to find out.”

Mr Schlicht said the LF-LC – which was the highlight of a range of future products shown recently to the largest ever gathering of Lexus dealers in Las Vegas – was not a direct successor for the Toyota premium brand’s SC coupe-convertible.

“There’s no SC thinking, per se,” he said. “It does fit in terms of a hole in the line-up and portfolio management, but when people say this is an SC replacement, there’s no intention to look at SC and make sure there’s a history of SC included. It’s a clean sheet of paper.”

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