2004 Detroit Show, Part IX

January 6, 2004

2004 Detroit Auto Show Coverage (1/4/2004)

2006 Lexus GS

2006 Lexus GS

2006 Lexus GS

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Jim Press, the head of U.S. Lexus operations and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales USA Jim Press revealed the 2006 Lexus GS sport sedan, which forges a new design direction for Lexus described as sculptural and more passionate.

While the basic shape and dimensions of the new GS are very similar to those of the outgoing car (it’s only a half-inch longer than the outgoing GS, with a two-inch-longer wheelbase), the new GS looks very different from the outgoing car, foregoing its Giugiaro-influenced styling in favor of a swoopier shape and softer edges on the outside. The interior has been reconfigured for a more airy feel, and seating — a frequently criticized aspect of the outgoing car — has also been redesigned.

The new GS will be powered either by a 300-hp, 4.3-liter V-8 carried over from the current GS or a new 3.0-liter V-6, making 245 hp. An all-new close-ratio, sequential six-speed automatic with manual mode will be offered with either engine.

Also featured on the sport sedan will be a new version of the company’s stability control system, called Vehicle Dynamic Management (or VDM). Lexus touts the system as better in anticipating handling problems or situations where it will be needed, making the system much less obtrusive than the VDC system that precedes it. And, although components are made by Denso, development of VDM was done completely in-house. For the first time, the GS will be available with a full-time all-wheel drive in addition to the rear-wheel-drive models.

Press estimated annual sales at 24,000 to 30,000 per year, about on par with the current car. Considering the all-wheel-drive option, that seems like an easy target.

2005 Lexus RX400H

2005 Lexus RX400H

2005 Lexus RX400H

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Lexus also introduced the production version of its gasoline-electric hybrid SUV, to be called the RX400H. Appearance changes are minor on the outside, barely hinting at the hybrid powertrain within. Tail lamps are an LED design, while the front air intake is larger.

The hybrid RX has an all-new battery with double the power of that in the Prius, while its electric motor can operate at 12,000 rpm — double the speed of the motor in the Prius. For short bursts, the 3.3-liter V-6 combined with the permanent-magnet motor can provide 270 hp, delivered through an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT). The RX hybrid will be the first vehicle offering the division’s VDM (vehicle dynamic management) system, combined with electronic braking.

The RX400H promises a 0-60 acceleration time of under eight seconds, with substantial gains in 30-50 mph passing performance where the hybrid system posts the strongest advantage. The SULEV-rated hybrid will offer a driving range of more than 600 miles, and fuel economy is expected to be better than the current EPA average for four-cylinder compact sedans. Production and sales volumes have not yet been announced. —Bengt Halvorson

Rolls Royce Promises Surprise

A year after the introduction of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom at 2003’s Detroit show, company chairman and CEO Tony Gott reported that after a slower than expected ramp-up the company is now up to a production rate of several cars per day. R-R has produced 481 Phantoms so far, Gott said, with most of those made in November and December and 300 delivered by the end of the year. Each Phantom takes 260 hours of labor to assemble, many times more than a typical mass-market vehicle. Beginning in calendar year 2004, Gott said that the company’s goal of 1000 cars per year is in reach.

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