Our previous Front Page story
suggests that Lexus' newest sports coupe concept, the LF-CC, is "a look not just at the next generation IS models, but also at a new coupe for the brand – something Lexus desperately needs to compete with the likes of the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series." While our previous story touches upon this, and on the other significant revelation the LF-CC brings us, namely the "'all-new' 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid powertrain using both direct-injection and the Atkinson cycle (that) will find its way into production soon", here we'll go into more detailed analysis, discussion and informed speculation on the clues we can glean insofar as Lexus' future plans.
A new 2AR-FXE with D-4S engine variant?
The topic of whether the 2.5-liter engine for the upcoming IS 300h
and GS 300h
hybrids would be the 2AR-FXE 4-cylinder from the new Lexus ES 300h or a 4GR-FXE variant of the IS 250's V6 has led to some lively discussion between yours truly, Club Lexus
editor Ryan (flipside909) and Lexus Enthusiast
editor Kevin Watts (krew). In essence, Kevin ultimately figured it would be the 4-cylinder, citing its superior fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions numbers. Ryan, in contrast, noted that it would be far more straighforward to hook up the smaller V6 to the existing GS 450h's rear-wheel-drive CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) and powertrain than to engineer a previously nonexistent rear-wheel-drive 4-cylinder hybrid powertrain combo. And this author? He remained on the fence weighing the pros and cons of both arguments. Ultimately, though, a couple of sentences on Lexus' official press release
settled the argument in favor of 4 cylinders.
And the reengineering goes beyond just mating the existing 2AR-FXE 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle hybrid engine to a rear-wheel-drive CVT that may or may not be identical to the current Lexus GS 450h's L110 unit, for the aforementioned news release also reveals the Lexus brand's first application of D-4S (dual direct+port injection) technlogy to an inline 4-cylinder engine. Engine output is only hinted at with a coy "low CO2 emissions, targeted below 100 g/km (and) more than 2 hp produced per gram of CO2". The current port injection-only 2AR-FXE is already producing the 200 total system horsepower that statement suggests, and with D-4S injection boosting horsepower by just over 10% in the dual-injected 2GR-FSE 3.5-liter V6 versus its port injection-only 2GR-FE sibling, we suspect that total system horsepower for the new 2AR-FXE with D-4S 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid engine should be around 220-225 hp, a notion seconded by Lexus Enthusiast commentator MT
. And, yes, we suspect that the D-4S-endowed 2AR-FXE will retain the same engine code as its port injection-only brother in the Camry and ES 300h hybrids. After all, Lexus considers its direct-injection V6s to be FSEs, whether or not they have supplementary port injectors.
More of an interior than exterior-predicting concept?
Although the official Lexus press release is accompanied by a bare-minimum 5 exterior renderings, Car and Driver's LF-CC photo gallery
contains a far more comprehensive 26 shots, including 7 interior shots. These reveal a curious paradox: whereas many a contemporary concept is a realistic, barely-disguised look at an upcoming production model exterior with a fanciful, futuristic and unrealistic interior to indulge the designers' creative whims, the opposite appears to be the case with LF-CC. Its exterior is chock-full of concept car touches that will probably need serious toning down for production, from the monster, Predator
esque spindle grille without a central horizontal bumper bar to the exposed triple LED-projector headlamps to the front bumper/front fender sculpturing to the attractive yet impossibly elaborate 20-inch wheels on 245/35 tires up front and 285/30 in the rear (per Motor Trend)
to the triangular outside rearview mirrors to the super-clever high-mounted rear brake light on the shark fin antenna face to the somewhat overwrought rear decklid sculpturing and LED taillight inserts.
Look inside, on the other hand, and the beautiful interior appears to be production-ready apart from a few details such as the graphics on the steering wheel-mounted controls, the shift lever and lower (Operation Zone) screen graphics. The instrument graphics, as previously rumored, appear to be strongly LFA-inspired, and this author loves the black and amber interior color scheme (most reminiscent of the 2009-10 IS F's Terra Cotta/Black or, perhaps, its 2011's Orange/Black iteration or the current GS F Sport's Cabernet interior). Sadly, we suspect that the amber dashboard top won't make it to production, due to potential issues with distracting windshield reflections from such a bright color.
The luxury carmakers' divergent sports coupe strategies
Might studying rival luxury brands' sports coupe strategies shed some light on what space, precisely, a production version of LF-CC would occupy in Lexus' lineup? Probably not, given how divergent their philosophies are. Audi, Cadillac, Infiniti and Lexus currently make do with a single coupe (or convertible coupe IS C in Lexus' case). Whereas the Japanese and the Americans utilize the same series nomenclature for the sedans as for their coupe offshoots and share the same wheelbase in both body styles, Audi considers the A5 coupe and convertible a separate line from its A4 sedan and Avant (wagon) progenitor and uses a 2.3" shorter wheelbase for the A5 than for the A4.
In contrast, BMW and Mercedes-Benz use a multitude of strategies within their expansive niche-upon-niche model lineups. Whereas the BMW 6-Series coupes and convertibles are considered a separate series that sits on a shorter (by 4.5") wheelbase than its 5-Series sedan parent, at this point the brand's 1 and 3-Series coupes share their wheelbase with their 4-door siblings. This may change going forward, however, with persistent rumors that BMW will echo Audi's strategy – not to mention its own 5/6 Series – in making their future coupes and convertibles 2 and 4-Series.
Mercedes, curiously, went the opposite route. Whereas their coupes once had separate nomemclature (CLK and CL), they now bear the names of their C, E and S-Class sedan parents. Yet, all is not as straightforward as it seems, for both the C and E-Class coupes share the same 108.7" wheelbase as the C-Class sedan, whereas the E-Class sedans sits on a longer (by 4.5") wheelbase. In fact, other than pricing and equipment levels, the main difference between Mercedes' C 350 and E 350 coupes is whether you prefer a Honda Accord Coupe-like greenhouse with a B-pillar or a pillarless hardtop.
IS C, GS C or SC? What are we looking at here?
Given what we've noted above, it would appear that anything is possible regarding what badge a production version of LF-CC would wear. Lexus' press release provides a single size clue in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of its press release when it refers to LF-CC as a D-segment
vehicle, which is precisely where the Lexus IS sits. Wikipedia's Car Classifications page
suggests that the GS is more of an E-segment (or Executive) car
. While most pundits seem convinced that we're looking at a concept version of the next IS C (available, for the first time, with a fixed roof), we can't discard the possibility that this will be badged a GS C (much like Mercedes' E-Class coupe is C-Class-sized) or that it might bring back the hallowed Lexus SC badge. Forget a CC badge, though. That's now too closely associated with Volkswagen's Passat-derived CC 4-door coupe.
Lexus reveals some dimensions at its official Paris Motor Show unveiling, we might be able to make more educated guesses.