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Lexus downsizes GS

Up in the air: The entry-level Lexus GS250 mid-sized luxury sedan is not yet a lock for the Australian market.

Small-bore GS250 might allow Lexus Australia to compete with $80K German sedans

22 Nov 2011

LEXUS has revealed a new downsized 2.5-litre version of its new GS large sedan that might allow the Japanese luxury brand to compete directly with the cheapest four-cylinder variants of Audi’s A6, BMW’s 5 Series, the Mercedes-Benz E-class and Jaguar’s XF.

Unveiled for the first time at Auto Guangzhou 2011 in China this week, the new GS250 was primarily conceived for the Chinese and Eastern European markets and is powered by a slightly more powerful port- and direct-injection version of the smaller IS sedan’s 2.5-litre petrol V6.

The GS250, which goes on sale in Japan at the beginning of next year, will like the GS350 come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission – this time with “optimised” gear ratios.

It returns European-test combined fuel consumption of 8.9L/100km, which is less than the GS350 but more than GS450h hybrid (6.3L/100km), and accelerates to 100km/h in 8.9 seconds – two seconds longer than the hybrid (5.9) and 1.8 seconds more than the GS350 (5.7).

In China, the most affordable version of the third-generation GS range will produce 154kW at 6400rpm and 253Nm of torque 3800rpm, but the Japanese version will offer a livelier 158kW and 260Nm. The GS250 weighs 1640kg and like other non-F Sport GS models rides on 18-inch alloy wheels.

31 center imageLexus Australia marketing chief Peter Evans confirmed the local subsidiary’s interest in the new entry-level executive sedan, which will be launched here in 3.5-litre V6-powered GS350 and GS350 F Sport guises in April next year, with GS450h and GS450h F Sport hybrid models to arrive in showrooms a month or two later around mid-2012.

“The GS250 is under serious consideration for Australia,” he told GoAuto at last week’s Los Angeles Auto Show. “It would give us an entry point to the GS range that we haven’t previously been able to offer.”Mr Evans said the GS250’s Australian future would be known within weeks, but depending on a variety of factors including pricing, specification and production allocation from Japan.

He would not be drawn on pricing, which is yet to be revealed for any new GS models but is expected to be reduced, although the GS250 would almost certainly be priced under $80,000, undercutting the outgoing GS model’s entry price of $97,814 (plus on-road costs, for the GS300 Sports), by around $20,000.

As such, the GS250 would be the Toyota premium brand’s first direct competitor for entry-level versions of large executive sedans from the dominant German brands.

E-class and 5 Series sales – which number at least 130 per month each, compared to a handful of GS models – are dominated in Australia by four-cylinder turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel variants, with more than half of Mercedes and BMW sales in the segment being fours, while Audi’s has just released new 2.0 TFSI and TDI versions of the A6.

The GS250 would compete with both the A6 2.0 TFSI and BMW’s new 520i petrol fours (both of which cost $77,900), Audi’s new A6 2.0 TDI and Jaguar’s new XF 2.2D diesel fours (both of which cost $78,900), the reduced-price 520d ($80,700) and Mercedes’ E220 CDI ($83,300), as well as sub-$80,000 base versions of Volvo’s S80 and Saab’s 9-5.

However, Mr Evans stressed that no matter what its price, the GS250 would continue the Lexus tradition of being fitted with an extensive standard equipment list, including many that are optional extras on its three key German rivals.

“Versus the Germans our customers know the RRP (recommended retail price) is irrelevant because our metallic paint, alloy spare wheel and many other features are included in the price,” he said.

Lexus is also developing another entry-level version of the new GS – this time a lower-output hybrid version which could be called the GS200h.

According to reports, the new Lexus GS hybrid – details of which are expected by mid-2012 – will employ a four-cylinder petrol engine linked to an electric drive system to provide a combined output of around 134kW of power and fuel consumption of about 5.6L/100km.

The low-blow hybrid would bring the total number of MkIII GS powertrain derivatives to four, including the 250’s 2.5 V6, the 350’s 233kW 3.5 V6 and the 450h’s 3.5 V6/hybrid powertains. There will be no V8 version of the GS this time round, but a V10 engine could power the GS F flagship – the first M5 rival from Lexus.

However, there will still be no diesel version of the new GS.

Lexus says will be a watershed model for the brand thanks to improved handling dynamics, more aggressive styling and upgraded performance for the GS450h hybrid, which also boasts a 45 per cent larger boot than before, at 464 litres.

Non-hybrid GS models will also grow in boot size, by 20 per cent to a substantial 532 litres, and the latest GS will also debut a host of new technologies for Lexus, including Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS), Radar Cruise Control with all-speed tracking and Night View.

As we’ve reported, the new GS rides on the same wheelbase as the outgoing model (2850mm) and matches it for overall length (4850), but the structure is all-new. Its body architecture is claimed to be 14 per cent stiffer than the old model, yet 30kg lighter thanks to the increased use of laser welding, ultra high-strength steels, aluminium and hot-pressed metal.

GS sales in Australia are down by a third so far in 2011, thanks largely to Japanese earthquake-related production delays, with just 100 sold to October this year.

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