The new model is known internally as SAI but will be renamed before it goes on sale and will be based on the next generation Prius, also being shown for the first time in Detroit. The Lexus though will be a plusher, more comfort orientated model with unique and sleeker styling.
According to company sources it will bear some similarities to Toyota’s Concept X shown at the Geneva motor show last March. Most commentators wrongly believed this heralded the design of the next Prius but our sources indicated that it was really designed to showcase themes for the junior Lexus hybrid.
The SAI is likely to get a more powerful version of the Prius’ hybrid powertrain, which will be mated to either a 2.0 or 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. At launch it will probably have a nickel-hydride battery, but be upgraded to lithium-ion technology by the end of 2010.
I’m not sure I see the logic in Toyota to mixing concepts with Lexus, especially when it concerns the Prius. Really, that’s what I find so confusing with the idea of a Lexus “Prius” — the hybrid is practically a brand all on its own, why risk diluting it?
Lexus may be on the verge of releasing a Prius-sized sedan using an identical powertrain, but I have strong doubts there will be any more than a slight resemblance between the two cars.