Lexus Future Plans to Include GS-F Hybrid & LFA Roadster?

Lexus Lineup

Automotive News has served up a full set of rumors today, touching on almost every model in the Lexus lineup — let’s take a look at each of them:

IS: The small sedan line will be re-engineered in late 2012, based on a shrunken version of the GS platform. Expect handling refinements, but not much change in the powertrain setup. Styling will be more youthful and expressive.

The next generation is expected to get a soft-top convertible to avoid the cost and weight of the hardtop.

With the the IS & GS models currently built on the same platform, it’s no real surprise that the next generation IS would see the same kind of benefits that have been seen with the early reviews of the fourth-generation GS — nor would it be all that shocking to see the IS retain its 2.5L & 3.5L V6 engines, as both of these powertrains to be used in the new GS as well.

HS 250h: Although the plug-in Prius is moving to lithium ion batteries, the HS will stick with a nickel-metal hydride for its midcycle change in 2012. Lithium may arrive with the 2015 redesign.

I’m very interested to see what Lexus does with the HS for its midcycle change — after a decent run in 2009 & 2010, the HS 250h has essentially disappeared with its near 80% drop in sales, and it’s the model most in need of a shakeup.

ES: The midrange sedan will be redesigned in the summer of 2012. Engineers have worked on tightening the ES’ handling so that it doesn’t wallow so much when pushed. A hybrid option will be offered, and there’s talk of a 40-mpg combined mileage. In terms of styling, the ES will get the big grille of the GS, and much more visual differentiation from the Camry platform it shares.

An ES hybrid with a 40-mpg rating would essentially be a license to print money for Lexus, even if it means a 4-cylinder and what will likely be a serious lack of top-end power.

GS: A re-engineered version arrives in early 2012 on an updated platform shared with the IS. But it will retain the same wheelbase and width and will be barely longer overall. The suspension has been modified for a sportier ride.

Engine offerings still will include a 3.5-liter V-6, with a six-speed transmission, and the 4.6-liter V-8, but with faster acceleration and better fuel economy. A four-wheel steering system will be optional. Lexus is considering a GS-F performance edition but using hybrid power instead of a hulking V-8 to make it happen.

I would think it’s pretty clear that Lexus won’t be releasing a GS 460, and will instead be replacing it with the GS 450h, which makes it hard to believe the idea of a hybrid GS-F. The current GS 450h powertrain, which is reportedly being carried over with the new generation, is plenty powerful and more than capable of replacing the GS 460 in the lineup — but I wonder if anyone looking at a GS-F would be happy with anything less than a V8, especially if it was to come with the extra weight of the hybrid system.

LS: A redesign is due in the spring of 2013 for the big flagship sedan. Weight-saving technology using premium materials is high on the priority list. As for the range-topping LS 600h, Lexus will place more emphasis on fuel economy than performance, but it will stick with a V-8 hybrid, not drop down to a V-6.

Sounds about right, though I’m convinced that we’ll see a LS hybrid with the same powertrain as the GS 450h, perhaps as a second hybrid option.

LFA: After the current batch of 500 is built, there likely will be a one-year hiatus before a roadster version is offered, probably in mid-2014.

As much as we would all like to see the LFA roadster reach production, I’ve been told more than once that part of the LFA sales pitch was that only the sedan would be built — and this rumor would go directly against that. A new model, perhaps similar to the LFA Roadster but with a different name, or even a convertible SC-F using the LFA V10? That I could believe.

RX: A redesign is planned for early 2014. The crossover currently rides on an ancient platform that will be updated with the new Toyota Camry/Avalon underpinnings. The hybrid battery may stay nickel-based, rather than use lithium ion, since Toyota has found packaging gains but only marginal fuel efficiency improvement from lithium.

With the RX yet to receive even a mid-cycle refresh, I have some difficulty buying into a fully redesigned model in 2014.

LX: Since the incremental volume of the top-line SUV helps justify Toyota’s investment in the Land Cruiser, the LX won’t go away. But expect the current version to stick around longer than planned, perhaps beyond 2015.

While I don’t imagine a full redesign of the LX is a top-priority for Lexus, it is certainly in need of a refresh — though when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

VX: After years of study and several concept models, Lexus has delayed the idea of a seven-seat car-based crossover.

Strange that this is the only rumor to address a model that’s not currently in the Lexus lineup, as I expect a smaller CUV is much more likely to reach production than another large Lexus.

Lastly, the article gives some insight into Lexus’ future development plans:

As far as cycle changes go, expect Lexus to follow BMW’s example with a major change every three years, alternating between sheet metal and powertrain. That way there is always something new to brag about.

This would certainly explain why we’re not seeing any new powertrains with the GS, and if true, it’s a great move by Lexus, as it should prevent the product slowdown that’s been happening over the last couple years.

[Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)]