Energized by the intense competition in the luxury segment, Lexus has taken the initiative to broaden the brand identity with two new show cars which are rumored to closely presage soon to come production models. Lexus success in defining its own unique niche with the introduction of the original LS 400 and broadening that segment with the subsequent release of the ES300 mid size sedan, the GS300 sport touring sedan, the SC 300 & 400 coupes and most recently the LX450 Sport utility has not left the company complacent. The fairly conservative redos on the LS 400 and recently introduced new version of the ES 300 have firmed up product offerings in Lexus established markets, the new show cars point toward new markets.
Seen by many as the replacement for the slow selling GS 300, the HPS show car offers a completely new package with a decidedly more sporting emphasis. Packaging takes a big step in the cab forward direction to provide outstanding interior space within a very compact footprint while retaining the front engine rear drive architecture favored by enthusiast drivers. The HPS has extremely short overhangs and a truly large cabin and trunk within the 189. in. overall length.
Answering the oft heard requests for more power from GS 300 owners, the HPS features a 32 valve all aluminum V8, in 4.0 liter trim, introducing a new continuously variable valve timing system which provides outstanding low end torque and serious top end power. Coupled to an experimental 5 speed automatic with Formula 1 style steering wheel mounted push button manual operation, this transmission promises to offer enthusiasts the best of both worlds, full automatic and optional manual control. This idea has been shown before, but given Lexus expertise in automatic transmissions, I'd expect this version to really perform well, unlike most of the others, which have yet to prove satisfying in the manual mode.
The HPS also incorporates VSC, Lexus version of electronic stability control, an integrated system of g and yaw rate sensors, computer engine management, anti-lock brakes and traction control. Stability systems sense potential spins and skids and intercede to bring the vehicle back under control before things get out of hand. The best systems can make a better driver out of anyone, without taking away the precise control and enthusiast demands. We'll have to try this one before we rate it.
The last tasty bit in this new age sports sedan is a latest generation satellite navigation system with a color touch screen display integrated into the dash.
The overall package promises truly exhilarating performance, excellent handling and control, a spacious interior and compact exterior packaging, all tossed with a liberal dose of high tech. If the production car debuts with the feature set intact, it will launch a new class of sport sedans for the millenium..