Lexus Follows The Crowd
Audi has the A3. Mercedes has the B-class. BMW has the 1-series. And now Lexus is jumping on the small car bandwagon. According to Redbook (the Aussie website, not the thirty-something fashion mag), Toyota's upmarket car brand is dumping plans to build a RAV-4-based SUV in favor of crafting the Lexus of small cars. An unnamed, overly-grammatical Lexus executive claimed "the booming small passenger market in Europe has required us to rethink the situation in terms of the sub-RX entry-level SUV. In response, we have decided to shift from SUV to passenger car, under the project name of C-Premium." The new baby Lexus will be offered in both sedan and hatchback versions. It should arrive just in time to help Lexus meet stricter CO2 and fuel economy standards. Let's just hope the "C" in "C-Premium" doesn't mean "Corolla."
Brian E : October 31st, 2007 at 12:14 pm "NICKNICK: isn’t that called the WRX?" (d'oh!) Yes it is. I'll stop whining now.
Johnster said: "Or way back when Infiniti offered the FWD 4-cylinder G20. The first G20s were decent, but they didn’t sell well." Hey! I used to own a G20. I know, I know, they were small, underpowered, faux-luxury mobiles...and people had a reason to question their existence. The thing is - I live in a city, and my daily commute is not optimized for a) open road driving nor b) gas mileage. So at the time, I was looking for a smallish sedan with nice options and best of all - an efficient engine. The G20 came standard with leather, sunroof, 4 airbags, auto-climate control, blah, blah, blah. I got 27 or so MPG (in town) with that thing - it was a nice little car for those who could appreciate it. The problem with the second-gen G20 was that the venerable SR20 engine still only made 145hp, which was woefully underpowered for a 3000lb "sports" sedan. Take it from me, I'm apparently one of very few adult male Americans that thought that the G20 was "fast" enough - although the handling was impeccable, the acceleration was quite slow (9.5 sec 0-60 if I recall correctly) for most people's taste. Also, thousands of ignorant folks just assumed that since it was similar in size that the G20 = Sentra. It actually was just a rebadged Nissan Primera, a well thought-of sedan in Japan and Europe. Nissan would have been better off bringing it to the US as a Nissan model and pricing it for around $10k cheaper without all the faux-luxury leanings. But that would have crowded out the Altima and Sentra - and they wanted Infiniti to have a A4 and C-class fighter. Obviously Infiniti decided to back out of the compact sedan market and got it right with the G35. I still think an improved engine offering in the G20 (G25 anyone?) would have made it a competent offering. People who haven't driven them write them off as wannabe "luxury" Sentras - but they had some nice qualities about them. They were also bulletproof with reliability. The thing is, I'm also one of very few Americans that likes the idea of a compact-luxury niche. I loved the first-gen IS300 as well. Unfortunately, most Americans equate luxury with 1) excessive power and 2) vehicle size. So a 4-cylinder "luxury" car is somewhat of a joke to most people. Audi and Mercedes Benz have done it for years (note their ubiquity today for folks wanting a status symbol) but I guess they have a brand cachet about them that Infiniti either doesn't have, or at least didn't have at the time. That said, if a Lexus compact looks anything like the Corolla, I don't think it'll go over too well. There's nothing luxurious or sporty about the proportions of that jelly-bean.
Has Lexus announced if the car will hit the US market? Honda only sells the Acura EL (previous gen) and now, the CSX in Canada, while Toyota only sells the 5-door Yaris in Canada as well. It may very well be a "It's not for you!" product wrt the US market.
Lexus (Toyota) has a great opportunity to repair its reputation among sporting drivers. I hope they can deliver something comparable to what the company offered in its I-6 RWD glory days. If they engineer it to the kudos of European drivers, who have deadpanned the brand so far, I think they will have an overall winner on their hands. RWD or FWD drive.