Two years ago, we stated our case for Lexus building a smaller-than-SC roadster rivalling the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Boxster.
Subsequent events and rumo(u)rs since that article appeared have made the arguments for this addition to the Lexus lineup even more compelling.
On 19 June 2008, Edmunds Inside Line
reported that Infiniti was preparing a baby Infiniti coupe based on the upcoming Nissan 370Z debuting this coming Fall. Tipped to debut as a concept car at either the January 2009 Detroit Auto Show or the Geneva show in March, and to go on sale by late 2010 in North America and early 2011 in Europe, it would be essentially a gussied-up, more luxurious, quieter, more softly-sprung and rebodied Nissan Z. As such, the Nissan 370Z and the upcoming Infiniti sports car would relate to each other much as the Chevrolet Corvette and the Cadillac XLR do, or as the nearly-defunct Chrysler Crossfire and Mercedes-Benz SLK do. Say what you will about Nissan, but they have definitely been masterful in maximizing the potential for variations of both their FM (front-mid-engined and rear-wheel-drive-centric) platform and the VQ family of V6 engines. Plus, further rumo(u)rs point to a revival of the Nissan SX/Silvia sports coupe.
Meanwhile, the Japanese "rumo(u)rs-and-renderings" car magazines are reporting that Honda will create a 2nd-generation Honda S2000
to debut in 2010 and go on sale the following year. That report states that Honda's new roadster will offer a choice of engines, including "a 3.5-litre V6 VTEC unit with about 350 hp." If Honda is aiming that high, wouldn't it make sense to play with the sheetmetal a bit and badge this variant as an Acura, marketing it as a smaller, less-expensive sibling to their upcoming Lexus LF-A-rivalling V10 supercoupe?
Admittedly, the Honda story seems less credible than the "Infiniti Z" rumo(u)rs, but the end of this article's second paragraph and the rumblings of a revived Nissan SX/Silvia are, essentially, a response to the upcoming so-called "Toyobaru coupe". To the uninitiated, Fuji Heavy Industries, makers of Subaru cars, found its automotive division in a bit of a precarious financial situation. A combination of possible behind-the-scenes Japanese government prodding (to prevent one of the country's carmakers from going under), plus Toyota's interest in both FHI's expertise in lithium-ion battery technology and their half-empty assembly plant in Lafayette, Indiana (surely a quick and cheap way to help Toyota meet rising demand for their Camrys) led Toyota to invest in Subaru. Their initial 8.7% stake was nearly doubled to 16.5% in April, along with confirmation that the two automakers were jointly working on a sports coupe, due to go on sale in late calendar year 2011 (in other words, 2012 model year). This "Toyobaru coupe" will sit on the latest Subaru Impreza platform with the front-wheel-drive componentry removed, leaving it with lighter rear-wheel-drive underpinnings. It is expected to first be offered with a 2-liter, naturally-aspirated version of Subaru's legendary flat-four engine, and initial talk of its being a revived AE86 Corolla or Celica has given way to rumo(u)rs that it will be sold as a Toyota only in Japan, with all export versions wearing the Subaru badge. And, of course, hopes are high that the 2.5-liter high-output turbo flat-four from Subie's WRX STI will find its way into the sports coupe, be it with or without all-wheel-drive.
Leave it to this author's fevered imagination to see in all this a third possible platform (after the cut-priced LF-A and cut-down IS possibilities suggested in our original story) for a smaller-than-SC Lexus roadster. Does a four-cylinder engine seem too prosaic for a Lexus? No problem, Subaru offers a flat six. This configuration, while perhaps lacking the ultimate buttery smoothness of the late and lamented 2JZ-GE inline-6 from the 1st-generation Lexus IS 300, is naturally smoother, quieter and more balanced than the current GR-FSE V6s, which, with their somewhat noisy direct injectors, need lots of accoustic insulation and that huge underhood black plastic shroud cover to deliver Lexus-worthy levels of quietness. Plus, if a flat-six is good enough for Porsche, why shouldn't it be good enough for Lexus? Contrary to popular belief, the latest Subaru EZ flat-six is NOT one-and-a-half of the flat fours, but, rather, a purpose-built engine whose components aren't interchangeable with those of its flat-four brethren. It is currently available in two naturally-aspirated iterations: the 3-liter EZ30, producing between 212-250 hp, depending on its application, and the 3.6-liter EZ36, which, being tuned more for optimum torque than absolute power, produces 256 hp. Not especially stellar numbers, granted, but higher Lexus levels of research-and-development resources (read: money) could produce better numbers.
Picture, if you will, that Subaru Impreza/Toyobaru coupe rear-wheel-drive platform with the Subaru EZ flat-six placed low and back, perhaps approaching a front-mid-engined configuration (after all, there's no need for even token back seats), a power retractable hardtop (although this author wouldn't be bothered in the least by a soft-top) in a stylish L-Finesse body that skews much closer to the LF-A than to the current SC's bloated blob styling, with SR 300, SR 360 and turbocharged SR F variants, and, of course, proper six-speed manual options...
Lexus, will you at least think about it?