Future Cars

2009 Sneak Preview: New and Future Lexus Cars

Just like you, we always want to know what’s coming next from Detroit, Tokyo, Stuttgart, Munich, Los Angeles, and all the other places where automotive engineers and designers dream and scheme on our behalf. Car companies, of course, are loath to share information on new products lest their competitors try to copy them–or you decide not to buy the cars they already have on dealer lots. Car companies, though, are simply groups of people, and some of them have a hard time keeping secrets. So, we poke, we prod, we cajole, and we uncover information that becomes the basis for our annual Sneak Preview issue. As always, some of our information is educated guesswork based on hints, insinuations, hunches. Make no mistake, though, these cars are on their way, even though details may change. Ladies and gentlemen: our list of 136 cars coming over the next few years…

2011 Lexus LF-A
Recession or not, here I come!

Did you think that the worldwide economic meltdown meant that Toyota was canceling its long-planned LF-A supercar project? Think again. The LF-A is a pet project of new chief Akio Toyoda and therefore remains very much on track. In fact, we’ll finally see the production-spec car at the Tokyo Motor Show this October, and the V-10-engined coupe will go on sale late in 2010. With the car’s development costs ballooning way beyond initial estimates due to increased use of carbon fiber and other exotic materials, a very limited production run is planned. After the LF-A is introduced, the company will take orders for about a year, deliver a predetermined number of cars (fewer than 1000 units is a good guess), and then cease production, going out on a high note. How much money are we talking? Well over $300,000, which puts the LF-A firmly in Ferrari 599GTB Fiorano and Lamborghini Murciélago territory.

Actual performance statistics remain murky at this point, but we know that the LF-A will look essentially like the front-engine concept from the 2007 Detroit auto show, and it will be powered by a V-10 making in excess of 500 hp.

SOMETIMES IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CASH: Although Toyota will lose huge sums of money on every LF-A it sells, the company clearly figures it’s worth it for enhancing the Lexus brand worldwide and as a test bed for new technologies.

2010 Lexus HS250h

The Lexus HS250h shares its underpinnings with the athletic new European-market Toyota Avensis, so there’s a chance that the brand’s first hybrid-only model could accidentally inject some fun into the lineup. The HS’s hybrid system – pinched from the Camry Hybrid – consists of a 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and two electric motors good for 187 total horsepower. Of course, comparisons with the new-for-2010 Toyota Prius are inevitable, although the cars are essentially unrelated despite an identical wheelbase. The HS250h isn’t as fuel-efficient as the Prius (about 34 mpg combined, against the Prius’s 50), but creature comforts count for something, right? The HS250h, which is longer than an IS but shorter than an ES, hums into Lexus dealerships late this summer.

2010 Lexus IS250C/IS350C

Lexus has finally assembled a rival to the BMW 3-Series convertible. The IS droptop arrives with seats for four and a lightweight aluminum retractable hard top that opens in a brisk twenty seconds. The top eats into luggage space, but Lexus promises the IS convertible’s trunk will still swallow a golf bag with the top down (something that can’t be said for the new Infiniti G37 convertible). The convertible offers the four-door’s 204-hp, 2.5-liter V-6 paired with a manual or automatic six-speed gearbox, or the 306-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 matched only with the automatic. The open-air IS arrives in June, doubtless priced to embarrass the 3-series.

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