Lexus is rumored to add a performance model to the IS lineup with a coupe body style and sufficient enough performance to challenge the E90 BMW M3. The new 2006 IS 250 and IS 350 sport sedans are already highly appreciated on the US market and for the next NAIAS Detroit show Lexus is expected to showcase a production-close prototype of the future IS Coupe, due to hit the showrooms in 2008.
Toyota has an extensive range of cars in Japan from ultra compact models to high-end luxury limousines. However, only recently has it presented the Lexus brand in the Japanese market, where the luxury cars were previously sold under the Toyota brand. As part of Lexus’ new introduction, the company will present an ample range of new models over the next few years to support the Lexus name both in Japan and abroad. The latest Lexus models point that the company’s traditional high luxury approach will also be directed towards high performance.
In 2005 at Geneva’s International Motor Show Lexus debuted with the replacement for the IS compact sports sedan. At the moment, the Japanese car manufacturer is known to be developing a high performance coupe version, rumored to be called the IS 500. Most likely, it is powered by a 5 liter V8 32 valve engine delivering approximately 420 bhp the car is meant to become a rival against the German notoriety BMW M3 and Mercedes CLK 55 AMG.
Spy photographers have caught this past summer a mule prototype of a high-performance Lexus, produced using body components of the Toyota Crown Royal Japanese market model, cut down and sliced into a suitable mule on which to trial the new technical components, such as the V8 engine and the new brakes and suspensions.
Lexus official sketch
Articles that were recently presented in Japanese motoring magazine point that the test vehicle is an engineering mule for a supercar car based on the IS platform. The new IS coupe is expected to equip a detuned version of the 5.0 liter V8 currently in development for the LF-A supercar production version. As first information show, for the IS 500 coupe the V8 engine will produce 420 bhp @ 5800 rpm and 405 lbs/ft of torque @ 3800 rpm from 5.0 liters of displacement. The new Lexus V8 will be a bored out version of the 4.6 L engine from the new Lexus LS460 saloon. This is a slower engine than those used by the Audi and BMW competitors (the RS4’s reaches 8250 rpm and the M3’s is expected to rev up to 9000) and is closer to the engine used by the Mercedes CLK 55 AMG.
The new engine will feature the usually Lexus “goodies”, such as the “drive-by-wire” ETCS-i, (Electronic Throttle Control System intelligent), which will control the throttle based not just on pedal position, but also on data from vehicle speed and engine rpm. This system will team up with the engine’s intelligent Variable Valve Timing (VVT-i), which will ensures unmatched tractability and smoothness by optimizing valve overlap throughout the engine’s speed range. As a result, more torque will be available across a broader engine speed range, making the vehicle more reactive under all driving conditions and providing the driver with confidence in effortless passing power.
We expect an extensive use of lead-free alloys in components such as valve-seats and connecting rods, which will contribute to preserving the environment. An enhanced cylinder head cooling will increase combustion efficiency and contribute to lower emissions.
Because a complete actual prototype of the new Lexus IS 500 Coupe has not yet been photographed, our artists have prepared for you two computer-generated images that give you a glimpse on how the future car will look when it will be launched, in two years from now.
The Lexus IS 500 coupe should be searched for in showrooms not earlier than 2008
The concept car that is most likely to influence the design of the new Lexus IS Coupe is the 2004 LF-C. Although this vehicle is a retractable hardtop cabriolet, certain features such as the front lights and front spoiler influenced the design of the current IS sedans.
The styling of the concept vehicle was produced by the Calty Design Research Center, featuring a unique hardtop design that allows the car to transform itself at the touch of a button from a coupe to a convertible, to a targa or to a speedster, depending on the driver’s mood. The powered top diagonally stowed neatly into the trunk through an amazingly negligible rear-deck opening.
The vehicle’s large rear wheel drive platform utilized a high-output, front-mounted V8 engine, mated with a six-speed sequential automatic transmission. With a wheelbase expanded with 5 inches, the LF-C was only slightly longer overall than the current IS. Appreciably, the LF-C sat about 2 inches lower and was 5 inches wider than the current IS. The wide stance and small overhangs stroke an aggressive pose with generous dimensions that accommodated four adult passengers.
"We used a combination of convex and concave surfaces to control the balance of light and shadow on the car which creates this beautiful contrast of having sharp lines within the sculpted exterior surfaces," said Kevin Hunter, vice president of Calty Design Research, Inc. "The idea was to create a sense of strength and softness at the same time, adding an air of mystery." Calty used long, integrated lines to simplify the overall form of the LF-C. The individual roof rail tapered as it moved forward from the rear, mimicking the sculpted theme of the main body. The tremendous tapering of the main body shaped from front to rear, which was then wrapped and interlocked by the rear fenders, was designed to show strength and power from every angle. The interior communicated performance with drive-by-wire steering and Formula One inspired shifter and steering wheel with the gauges stacked along the steering column axis, ascending toward the base of the windshield. The gauges were transparent, with needles moving from the ring, rather than the center.
The dynamic and flowing center console, in a solid tapered form, ran the length of the interior. Displays and controls were hidden beneath this transparent console surface that was multi-layered, which created a sophisticated, high-tech look and feel. The console was flanked on each side by arched, wing-like instrument panels situated low in front of the driver and passenger to create a feeling of openness.
Four lightweight individual bucket seats used slender shapes inspired by modern stemware to produce a contrast of sport and elegance. The effect provided roominess along with a snug and secure feeling.
The definition for the mid-size luxury sports coupe has been in the past decade the BMW M3. Therefore, this is the car the new IS 500 coupe will have to beat. The M-version of the BMW’s E90 3-Series is scheduled for launch next year. The new M3 will be produced as coupe first, but a convertible and a sedan will be also available one year after production start. The first intention was to call the new car M4, as the new coupes were about to get even names (as the 6-Series is). However, that decision was finally dropped, and we could see that the new mid-size coupes are also called 3-Series (325i and 330i respectively). On this basis, both the Motorsport coupe and sedan will be called M3. Rumors are that the new coupe-cabriolet (with folding hardtop) BMW is developing will get to be called 4-Series. If that will happen, clearly an M model based on the coupe-cabriolet will be named M4. A concept for the regular 4 Series is slated for Frankfurt in September.
Whatever the body or the name all of the mid-sized Ms will be powered by the same V8 power plant (for the first time on a 3-Series), deriving from M5/M6’s and expected to deliver around 420 bhp. New engine building technology and lightweight materials are suppose to make the engine amazingly weigh the same as the outgoing 195 cui in-line 6 cylinder from the current E46 M3 but with considerably more power.
The M3 coupe will feature a 6 Series like glasshouse with the possibility of a new distinct interior. The front will sport a new aggressive yet subtle bumper while the rear will display quad exhausts like the new M5.
Click here to read our extended E90 BMW M3 preview.
Mercedes CLK 63 AMG
Another vehicle the Lexus IS Coupe will have to come against is the Mercedes CLK 63 AMG. With a huge 6.3-liter V8 engine under the bonnet the top model, CLK offers a truly memorable driving experience. The CLK 63 AMG eclipses the power and torque figures of any other model in this segment with a maximum output of 481 hp and 465 lb-ft of peak torque.
The AMG 6.3-liter V8 engine offers a truly explosive performance: the CLK 63 AMG Coupe sprints from standstill to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The electronically limited top speed is 155 mph. The majestic power delivery of the Mercedes-AMG V8 engine permits either electrifying acceleration or relaxed cruising in a high gear with ample power reserves. This unique 6.3-liter V8 engine from AMG is the first in the world to mix the high-revving concept and a large engine capacity. Developed exclusively by AMG, this high-performance engine offers 20 % more torque than comparable naturally aspirated engines with a similar power rating.
This exclusive mixture of a fast-running design and a large displacement accomplishes the best of both worlds: exhilarating high-revving flexibility accompanied by high pulling power at low engine speeds. The decidedly sporty character of the CLK 63 AMG manifests itself in the form of tremendous agility and dynamic responsiveness across all engine speed ranges. The new AMG V8 delivers 350 lb-ft of torque to the crankshaft as low down as 2000 rpm, while the maximum of 465 lb-ft is on tap at 5000 rpm.
Click here to read our complete Mercedes CLK 63 AMG review.