Despite all of the news coming out of Detroit recently, the rest of the automotive world is pretty much “business as usual.”
Case in point, Lexus recently rolled out a pair of new models to the automotive press – a convertible version of IS sport sedan and a new entry-luxury hybrid sedan.
The first vehicle we will look at is one that Lexus hopes will further its position against the European luxury sport market and comes just in time for summer. Lexus is rolling out a hardtop convertible on its IS lineup, offering droptop versions on both 250 and 350 sport sedan models.
Marketing has already begun for the new convertibles, with TV commercials leaving more questions than answers as Lexus attempts to follow its new tagline of “Live a little, a lot.”
The new IS C models actually fill a void in two segments for the luxury division of Toyota, that of convertible and coupe. The new C cars are built with only two doors and feature power three-piece roofs that fold neatly into the trunk in about 20 seconds. This does not leave a lot of trunk space for storage (nor does Lexus’ other hardtop convertible SC) but the rear seat space of the cabin can substitute as cargo space as seating is very, very limited back there.
Audio and climate control systems offer compensation for top-down driving conditions and we found wind turbulence in the convertible cabin to be very minimal, even at highway speeds.
Powertrain choices have not changed with the new C models, the 250 model features an anemic 204hp 2.5-liter V-6 under the hood while the 350 designates a 308 hp 3.5-liter V-6 powering the vehicle. And the 250 is still the only one offered with a manual gearbox or all-wheel-drive.
Lexus brags that the new C models were designed and built as convertibles from the ground up – more than just sedans losing their roof and rear doors. In fact, the automaker claims that the hood is the only carry-over body panel from sedan to convertible models.
New options available on the IS C models include run-flat tires, F-Sport appearance package and XM Nav/Traffic/Weather technology. The 2010 IS250C will have a MSRP of $38,490 when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. The IS250C with a six-speed automatic transmission will be $39,660 and the IS350C will have a MSRP of $43,940.
The new convertibles are arriving in dealerships now.
On the flip side of fun comes Lexus’ first hybrid-only sedan, the 2010 HS250h. Lexus is quick to point out that the new HS model is not a luxury version of the Toyota Prius hybrid. Our experience in the vehicle showed it more of a luxury hybrid Corolla – and that disappointed us.
Road noise and vibration was abundant in our onroad driving experience, and while we did enjoy some of the new amenities of the vehicle we found the total Lexus experience falling a bit short.
From the outside, the vehicle is somewhat nondescript, blending itself into the compact sedan segment. Inside, the first thing that stands out (OK, jumps out) is the slalom ski slope of the center console complete with a joystick gearshift lever and computer mouse-like interface for the electronics. The new HS250h dash and console appear more “Windows” friendly than motorist-friendly.
Lexus expects to sell some 25,000 units in HS’ freshman year, with pricing info being held off until just before launch which should be around mid-August. EPA figures are said to be 35 mpg city and 34 mpg highway from the hybrid powertrain borrowed from the Camry hybrid save for a new CVT/power split unit.
The HS250h is a full hybrid sedan, meaning it is capable of running on electric or gas propulsion only, or a combination of the two. A host of displays indicate which system is being utilized at any given time.
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) is still the battery pack of choice for the high voltage system although there is a race going on globally for the first reliable, commercially-available Lithium Ion cell pack.
Some of the new “green” innovation being used in the HS include a new ECO mode on the drive system, ecological plastic in some interior components and Infra-red reducing front windscreen.
The HS also showcases some new technology from the manufacturer including dynamic radar cruise control, LaneKeep Assist to advise drivers of lane deviation that adds subtle steering assist and wide view front monitor in addition to the rear view camera system.
Lexus also takes the wraps off of Lexus Enform driver assistance technology which is very similar to the OnStar technology currently used by GM. Enform offers emergency assistance, collision and airbag deployment notification, vehicle location, destination assist and eDestination where drivers can download travel info to their vehicles.
With the caliber hybrids Lexus already has on the road today, I think I would have preferred they let Toyota put its badging on this new sedan. It works very well for me as a fully-loaded Toyota – much less so as an entry Lexus.