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What’s Hot and What’s Not in the 2020 Lexus Lineup

12 févr. 2019 - 15:38

Toyota’s luxury division is one of the most important Japanese automakers in its own right with well-over 600,000 vehicles sold per year on a global scale. Almost half of that figure falls off on the U.S. market which has traditionally been Lexus’ bastion, while the entire American region engulfs around 53 percent of the company’s sales (2017 data). The luxury division’s U.S. sales for 2018 have fallen below the 300,000 mark for the first time since 2013, but not by much. Compared to 2017 when they had marketed 305,229 units, Lexus’ 2018 figures came to 298,302 vehicles which is a meager 2.3 percent loss. The company is expected to rebound in 2019 which will be the all-new UX subcompact’s first full year on the market. This time, however, we’ll focus on the 2020 Lexus lineup and the company’s fortunes from then on.

The Japanese luxury brand is expected to focus on performance in 2020, with the new Track Edition of their luxury RC coupe already announced. They’ll also fully revitalize their smallest sedan and introduce a sporty version of their other coupe offering. However, most Lexus buyers will again opt for one of the now three available crossovers – not counting the boxy GX and LX which draw an insignificant amount of interest compared to the smaller UX, NX, and the company’s sales champion RX which accounted for over one third of Lexus’ U.S. sales with 111,636 units during 2018.

Electrification has become a major buzz word in the auto industry in recent years, and Lexus needs to pay attention to it as well. A number of Lexus hybrids have been present for a long time now, but they might not be enough to move the company forward. Lexus Canada’s director Jennifer Barron has already announced an electrified version of every Lexus vehicle by 2025 – whether by utilizing plug-in or full EV technology. As far as MY 2020 is concerned, however, we’ll see very little of that plan coming into fruition.

Without further ado, here’s what you should pay attention to when buying your next Lexus in 2020.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Lexus Lineup 07. 2020 RC F Track Edition

The compact executive coupe has been with us since late 2014 and is now getting ready for a replacement. The high-performance F version of the 2-door came to market a year later and it took the Japanese almost five additional years to introduce the ultimate Lexus RC F dubbed the Track Edition. This isn’t your average hard-core track version of a sports car, however. The 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition won’t be a stripped-down performance car, but a luxurious performance coupe with all the perks you’d come to expect from a refined Lexus interior. Considering the regular RC F used to tip the scales at more than 4,000 pounds, the Japanese have had have their work cut out for them trying to bring the special edition in shape – especially without stripping it of its heavy equipment. This was achieved by using aluminum suspension components, hollowing out half-shafts, and using numerous carbon-fiber bits all across the body including a full-carbon hood. The more conventional RC F – also in for a substantial makeover – has shed 176 pounds compared to its predecessor. The Track Edition, of course, saved even more as it apparently weighs exactly 3,782 pounds.

The RC F Track Edition will use the same 5.0L V8 mill as the conventional RC F models. One of the last remaining naturally aspirated V8s in the performance car world has been updated and now generates 472 horses and 395 pound-feet of twist – a 5 hp and 6 lb-ft upgrade over the previous iteration. This should be enough to shed one-tenth of a second off the new RC F’s 0 to 60 time which will be 4.2 seconds from now on. The Track Edition, on the other hand, should be able to do the same in just under 4 seconds. The remainder of the new RC F’s powertrain will remain unchanged. The Track Edition will get a few additional unique touches like the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, as well as unique white or matte gray paint jobs with a red interior. Both cars are going on sale in April of 2019 as 2020-year models but their prices still haven’t been disclosed. The regular RC F should be priced north of the outgoing model’s $66,000, while the Track Edition is expected to command a hefty premium on top of that.

06. 2020 UX

The all-new subcompact UX made its debut late in the December of 2018 when the first 453 models found their new owners. The petite crossover is expected to help the brand achieve record-breaking sales when it finally hits full stride in 2019 and during MY 2020. Five inches shorter and lower, and one-inch narrower than the compact NX, the Lexus UX might experience problems when trying to seat larger adults, but Lexus simply had to fill the gap that has existed for years before the smallest of their crossovers finally made its debut. The UX is stylish and well-appointed – much like any other Lexus on the market at the moment. It might not be stacked with the same level of features some of its competitors offer, but at $33,000 or thereabouts, it still offers respectable value for the money. There’s also a hybrid version available straight from the gates which further raises the subcompact’s appeal and functionality score alike.

The base UX rides smoothly but evidently, lacks power – at least for now. The base 2.0L inline-four develops 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, and with a little help from a CVT gearbox, manages to return up to 33 miles to the gallon combined. One wouldn’t even need a hybrid version with those kinds of numbers, but the 250h version raises the bar further by providing up to 38 mpg combined. It pairs the same engine, albeit on a lean Atkinson cycle with dual electric motors and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, for a combined output of 181 horsepower. While the former models ride the front wheels, the hybrid’s dual motors provide an all-wheel drive mode, albeit only at speeds lower than 45 mph. The UX might not be the most feisty of Lexus vehicles – especially thanks to that anemic 4-cylinder engine – but it still ticks more of the right boxes than many of its competitors.

05. 2020 IS

Although it’s lost much of its popularity over the years, the compact IS is expected to become cool again after the proposed makeover in 2020. The IS’ sales have split in half since 2015 and the Japanese are hoping to stop the bleeding with the next-gen model that replaces the outgoing IS which dates back to 2013. The new model is expected to arrive during the Spring or Summer of 2020, possibly as an early 2021-year model. It’s also expected to revive the performance version of the compact sedan which we’ve had the opportunity to buy between 2007 and 2013. Very little is known at this point, but the next-gen IS should definitely sport stylish interior and exterior designs with an abundance of features for around $40,000. The new models are also expected to tackle a number of the current unit’s issues such as the outdated infotainment center, a lack of standard high-tech gear, and the shortage of space in the back seats and trunk.

Complying with the company’s electrification strategy, the next-gen 2020 Lexus IS is expected to field a hybrid model. The ES sedan currently uses a 2.5L 4-cylinder with an electric motor and a small battery pack, and that might be the best option for the IS too. Other than that, the company is apparently thinking about reintroducing the long-gone IS F performance model which could produce more than 400 horsepower. Actually, the Lexus LS’ 3.5L twin-turbo V6 with 416 horses looks like a perfect candidate for the job. Other than that, the base models are expected to retain 2.0L turbo fours, with a possible bump in ratings which currently stand at 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of rotational force. There’s still plenty of time before the next-gen Lexus IS is expected to arrive, so the final product might end up looking a bit different. There’s also a possibility the company will kill off the compact executive car entirely in favor of the similarly positioned ES and a new batch of small crossovers like the aforementioned UX. We’ll have to wait and see how things unfold.

Current-generation model pictured

04. 2020 RX

The best-selling Lexus model in the U.S. hasn’t changed much since it was introduced for MY 2016, but the Japanese have still addressed a few issues the original model suffered from which is commendable. For starters, there’s now a new long-wheelbase version of the luxury intermediate crossover that offers a third-row option. There’s very little room back there, but some families will certainly appreciate it. The RX’s ride has always been silky smooth and its cabin never suffered from subpar materials. After all, it costs at least $44,500 which is a region in which you expect some flair from your car. To top it all off, the RX offers a number of standard electronic safety systems like active lane control, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. That’s a lot more than you’d get pretty much anywhere else.

There are two powertrain platforms to choose from. Both rely on the same 3.5L V6 engine, but that’s where the similarities end. The conventional Lexus RX units squeeze 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque out of it, while the hybrid models draw 259 horses and 247 pound-feet. The latter units also sport a couple of electric motors at the rear axle for a mandatory all-wheel-drive setup and a 1.9-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack for some improvements on the fuel economy part. Speaking of which, the hybrid RX’s return up to 30 mpg combined even with all four wheels engaged most of the time. The base models manage 23 mpg combined at most, while all-wheel drive and long-wheelbase both impose additional penalties. The Lexus RX might not be the most fun-to-drive or striking mid-size luxury crossover on the market, but it does its job quietly and does it well.

03. 2020 LC F

The most expensive of Lexus cars is getting ready for an expansion. The $93,000 grand tourer will get a performance version only three years after its inauguration. The F version of the 2-door coupe should easily break the six-digit barrier when it comes out, and fully stacked models might end up costing upwards of $150,000. Design-wise, the LC F won’t differ that much from the current LC 500 and 500h hybrids. The performance model will boast a unique aero kit, however, which will make it look more aggressive. A number of carbon-fiber bits are also expected to don the personal luxury car. The performance version will also get its own suspension, larger brakes, and unique wheels on a special set of tires.

The current Lexus LC lineup uses two very different powertrains for motivation. The hybrids utilize a 3.5L V6 with dual electric motors and a battery pack for 354 total horsepower, while the regular LC 500 benefits from a 471-horsepower 5.0L naturally aspirated V8 mill. The forthcoming 2020 Lexus LC F will either find its motivation behind an upgraded version of the naturally aspirated engine or a new 4.0L twin-turbo V8 that’s recently been developed. Expect it to provide around 600 horsepower and nearly 500 lb-ft of twist when it finally arrives. It’ll also borrow the regular LC’s 10-speed automatic transmission which should be able to route all of that power to the rear without any difficulties. We should know more after one of the major upcoming car shows in 2019. On a side note, a drop-top version of the regular Lexus LC is also expected to show up by then.

02. 2020 ES

Introduced for MY 2019, the all-new seventh-generation ES is expected to provide some excitement in a dying segment. The mid-size luxury sedan is the company’s oldest nameplate alongside the flagship LS line. They’ve had their share of ups and downs over the course of the three decades they’ve been on the market, and the Japanese will be hoping that the fully redesigned ES can reverse the negative sales trend their sedans have been experiencing as of late. Apart from a fresh and exciting new look, the new ES sedan offers a smooth and comfortable ride and a plushy cabin well-worth the $40,000 price tag. Also, the Japanese have introduced the F Sport version of the car for the very first time in the ES’ 30-year history. This should further enhance the luxury sedan’s appeal among potential buyers. In order to showcase their commitment to following trends, they’ve also fitted the new model with a host of advanced electronic gear like the automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control that’ll all be standard across the board. Apple CarPlay is finally available as well, and so is Amazon Alexa. However, the new ES doesn’t support Android Auto integration.

Most ES models, including the F Sport grade, will be optioned with a 3.5L V6 engine capable of raising 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque which is quite an improvement over the outgoing model that only had 268 ponies and 248 lb-ft. Both the regular ES 350 and F Sport models will be paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, but the latter will throw in adaptive dampers with additional Sport+ driving mode alongside unique interior touches. It’ll be interesting to see how it’ll fare against rear and all-wheel drive opponents considering it’s consigned to a front-wheel-drive configuration. The optional engine is, of course, hybrid. The Lexus ES 350h uses a 2.5L 4-cylinder mill alongside a nickel-metal hydride battery and an electric motor for a net hybrid output of 215 ponies. More importantly, it’s capable of providing up to 44 miles to the gallon combined. The next-gen Lexus ES looks like a much-improved car over its predecessor – it’s certainly more beautiful – but we’ll have to wait and see if it makes a meaningful difference in the end.

01. 2020 LS

The full-size sedan has received a substantial makeover for MY 2018 which has helped it to a great year sales-wise. 9,301 new models were sold during 2018 in the U.S. which is almost a combined total of 2016 and 2017 combined. The fifth-generation LS inspires newfound confidence in the luxury flagship sedan segment but the Japanese mustn’t rest on their laurels just yet. There are some issues that need ironing ASAP. For instance, it’s hard to grasp the fact that a luxury company’s flagship model which costs $76,000 at the very least doesn’t support Android Auto integration, but there you have it. Even Apple CarPlay was unavailable prior to MY 2019. Moreover, the LS’s infotainment system as a whole isn’t exactly the most intuitive, to say the least. Other than that, the 2020 Lexus LS is one refined, beautiful, well-equipped, and comfortable car. Exactly what you’d expect from a luxury flagship sedan.

There are two powertrain choices for prospective Lexus LS owners to choose from. The conventional LS 500 models are motivated by a potent 3.5L twin-turbo V6 mill that easily delivers 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. It can be had with either a rear or all-wheel-drive configuration and boasts a contemporary 10-speed automatic transmission mandatorily. For those in need of slightly better fuel economy (and LS’s figures are far from stellar), there’s the hybrid LS 500h option. It pairs a 3.5L V6 with two electric motors and a 44-kWh lithium-ion battery pack for a combined 354 horsepower. It can also be had in both rear and all-wheel-drive configs and returns up to 28 mpg combined thanks to a CVT gearbox. There’s also the F Sport package for conventional models, but it doesn’t change anything specifications-wise. It does provide a special suspension tuning but one that’s far from being truly sporty, however.

What’s Not in the New 2020 Lexus Lineup 04. 2020 NX

Up until recently and especially since the introduction of the subcompact UX, the smallest Lexus crossover accolade belonged to the NX introduced back in 2014. The compact NX hasn’t been redesigned since which isn’t a usual practice in its segment. Still, the Toyota luxury division has been chipping away at its shortcomings little by little over the years. First it received standard navigation, then the Lexus Safety System became standard alongside a larger 8-inch touchscreen and finally, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa became standard across the board as well. The NX is still good-looking despite being on the market for five full years. It’s also got an interior to match. However, a lack of any real advancements could cost it dearly in terms of sales considering how it’s pitted against some illustrious opposition. Moreover, the NX is one of the dullest compact luxury crossovers on the market, driving dynamics-wise.

Like it is the case with most of Lexus’ lineup, the NX offers both a conventional and a hybrid powertrain to choose from. The regular NX 300 and F Sport models generate 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of twist thanks to a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder mill and a somewhat outdated (especially in a luxury segment) 6-speed automatic transmission. While base models drive via the front wheels, an all-wheel-drive option is also available. The Lexus NX 300h hybrid uses a 2.5L naturally-aspirated four paired with a CVT gearbox, a small battery, and a rear axle-mounted electric motor which provides permanent all-wheel drive. The net system output comes to 194 horses, but more importantly, the NX hybrid returns up to 31 miles to the gallon combined. The Lexus NX is far from being the worst luxury compact option out there, but it does very little to distinguish itself from the colorful crowd.

03. 2020 GX

The full-size body-on-frame SUVs have a longer lifespan than their smaller unibody counterparts, but a full decade without a major redesign is still a long time for the luxurious Lexus GX. Apparently, the luxury automaker is content on letting the GX carry over unchanged for the foreseeable future after giving it its last mild facelift way back in 2014. They’ve sold 26,724 units in 2018 which is the GX’s second best result in almost 15 years, which means they must be doing something right. The three-row SUV definitely boasts the previous generation Lexus’ level of refinement, comfort, and tech, and great off-road capability does little to turn our attention from these problems. Especially considering the entry-level models cost a whopping $53,000 with the Luxury trim commanding an additional $11,500.

There’s only one available powertrain and, as you might have guessed, it also stems from a different time. A burly 4.6L V8 is more than capable of moving the 5,240-pounder around and allowing it to tow up to 6,500 pounds. It makes 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of rotational force which are routed to all four corners via a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Another one of the GX’s apparent issues is its dreadful fuel economy which can’t be fixed the way things are standing at the moment. The large SUV only manages 15 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway and lacks any fuel-saving gear including a stop/start system. The company’s best-selling body-on frame SUV is definitely due for a major overhaul but a lack of any real info on it suggests that won’t be happening during MY 2020.

02. 2020 LX

The largest vehicle the Japanese manufacturer has ever put to market has had a slow-selling 2018, managing to find only 4,753 new owners – a 20-percent drop compared to 2017 when 6,004 units were sold in the U.S. Derived from the current-generation Toyota Land Cruiser which was introduced back in late 2007, the full-size LX is the now the oldest of all Lexus models, taking into account all the major redesigns. It has to be said that the car has aged gracefully, however. Especially when it received the company’s now-signature spindle grille back during MY 2013. Much like its Toyota stablemate, the LX thrives off-road and there are precious few luxury SUVs that can compete with it in that habitat. Still, the LX doesn’t offer the soft and smooth ride of a Range Rover, and it still commands a hefty $86,500 fee in its basic form. What’s more, it fails to provide the cargo space expected from such a large vehicle and its third row can become cramped as well.

Like it is the case with the slightly smaller GX, the Lexus LX also offers only one powertrain choice. Here, however, it’s an even more powerful 5.7L V8; an engine more than capable of providing 383 horses and 403 lb-ft of torque. Needless to say, the LX also offers a permanent all-wheel-drive system and a contemporary 8-speed automatic gearbox to go alongside it. Fuel economy is, as you might expect, horrendous for today’s standards. 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway are low scores even among full-sized luxury body-on-frame SUVs nowadays. One peculiar difference between the Lexus LX and the Toyota Land Cruiser is the fact the former requires premium fuel while the latter manages to save you at least a pittance by running without issues on conventional unleaded.

01. 2020 GS

The mid-size luxury Lexus GS, simply put, isn’t long for this world. It’s been scheduled for axing in order to allow more breathing space to the slightly more affordable ES sedan. The same fate could befall the IS as well, but the latter will likely grow in size and live to see another day. Considering the GS has been a part of the Lexus portfolio since 1991, this is indeed sad news. MY 2020 will likely be the last for the intermediate luxury car with no significant changes expected to take place. The Japanese will let the sedan die on the vine which they’ve been doing for a while now anyway. After all, the last major GS revision took place in now-distant 2011. The entry-level GS models still offer a good value for money, starting from $47,500. They’re not as well-appointed as some newer Lexus models, however, and their tech is slightly outdated too.

There are three engines to choose from when buying the GS which is above-average for Lexus. The GS 300 uses a 241-horsepower 2.0L turbo four, while the GS 350 F Sport utilizes a more potent 3.5L V6 capable of putting up 311 horses. The former can only be had in rear-wheel drive form, while the latter comes in both rear and all-wheel drive package. Both are paired with 8-speed automatics. Sadly, the former also lacks substantial power for GS’s hefty mass. Thankfully, the $85,000 GS F doesn’t suffer from this particular issue. Thanks to a powerful 5.0L V8, it generates a whopping 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. These figures fall short when compared to GS’s German rivals and even money savings are doubtful in this instance which is worrisome. If you’re willing to give the Lexus GS one last bang, this would be the perfect chance.

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
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