Monday, January 20, 2014

Lexus coupe returns to U.S.

Toyota's Lexus luxury brand has a coupe in the works and is exhibiting a version at the Tokyo auto show this month.

Called RC and based on hardware and underpinnings from the GS sedan, it could show up in the U.S. in the fourth quarter next year. Lexus hopes it will expand the brand's appeal and draw new buyers.

A lot depends on price, and Lexus is mum on that.

RC is a four-seater and is meant to reclaim the high-style, high-status image of the original SC coupe line, marketed from 1991 through 2000. The SC name subsequently was approrpriated for a folding hardtop coupe-convertible that was introduced in 2001 and now is discontinued.

The only other coupe Lexus has sold is the hand-built, very-limited-volume and now-discontinued $375,000 LFA.

The couple market is tiny. And Lexus' recent bad luck making inroads might have you reasonably asking why Lexus even would bother. Seems that's what the imgage-conscious high-end brands do. Mercedes-Benz has a coupe version of its S-class flagship sedan. BMW has a high-end coupe.

Strictly speaking, a coupe is a two-door car with no rigid roof pillar at the back edge of the door. You can roll down front and back windows in a coupe and leave an uninterrupted empty space, not visually marred by the so-called B pillar.

It's considered a very stylist, sporty, even sexy look.

That meaning has been perverted into near-meaninglessness by automakers' marketing. Saturn years ago tried to sell a "three-door" coupe. More recently, Mercedes-Benz likes to all its CLA four-door sedan a "coupe" because it has the sweeping roofline that often marks true coupes.

The Tokyo exhibit includes the SC 350, which is powered by a 3.5-liter gasoline engine, and the SC 300h, a gas-electric hybrid.

Toyota intends to sell the SC in all markets where the Lexus brand is sold. The hybrid version will be targeted on specific markets and Lexus hasn't identified those.

The only hard data Lexus as disclosed are the dimensions, identica! l for the gasoline and hybrid models: 184.9 inches long, 72.4 in. long, 54.9 in. tall on a 107.5-in. wheelbase.

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