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Lexus IS Compact Sport Sedan to Join U.S. Product Line-Up

5 January 1999

Lexus IS Compact Sport Sedan to Join U.S. Product Line-Up

DETROIT, Jan. 5 -- In response to the continued demand for dynamic luxury vehicles in the United States, Lexus today announced plans to bring the European compact sports sedan IS to the U.S. market in mid-2000.

The Lexus IS will be positioned as an affordable performance sedan and is in line with Lexus' efforts to expand its owner base and attract younger buyers. The new sedan will offer exceptional performance, superb ride and handling, and a high level of comfort.

"This is a key product for Lexus," said Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Bryan Bergsteinsson. "With our sporty GS sedan series and successful RX 300 SUV attracting younger, affluent buyers, the IS will further help Lexus reach its full potential."

The U.S. version of the Lexus IS will have a six-cylinder engine featuring Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), but the displacement is still under consideration. It will be positioned below the GS series to compete with the BMW 3-series and Audi A4. Engine specifications, as well as standard and optional features, still are undecided.

Marketed as the Altezza in Japan, the IS was designed for Europe and will go on sale there this spring. The sports sedan will be built in Japan, and initial production will be focused toward the European and Japanese markets. After the additional time needed to modify the sedan for the American market, the IS will be offered in the United States.

The Lexus IS is an international, individualistic and athletic sedan which is aimed at customers who want to stand out from the crowd. The sharply wedged-shaped silhouette of the IS emphasizes the sporty nature of the car. Overall, its appearance and performance mirror the qualities of a true athlete -- strength, power, control and response.

"We think people will be amazed when they experience the driving capabilities of the IS," said Bergsteinsson. "We proved Lexus could offer a car with outstanding performance and first class luxury when we introduced the GS 400. The IS has the same winning formula with a lower price. People who may have never considered buying a Lexus will now give us a closer look."

Like the GS, the IS will feature a front engine, rear-wheel drive configuration which offers the best overall package of driver control and performance. Lexus engineers designed the sedan with the best possible weight distribution, placing heavy components, such as the battery and fuel tank, toward the center, and moving the engine back behind the front axle line. A highly sophisticated double wishbone suspension system is fitted in the front and rear to achieve an optimal balance between comfortable ride and precise handling.

The center of gravity on the IS will be low, while the small, angled headlamps, low slung air dam and built-in fog lamps add to the sports effect. Additionally, the strong horizontal lines of the four-bar grille will reinforce the Lexus feeling and sports image.

Aerodynamic shielding on the undercarriage will improve airflow and create a virtually flat-bottom ground effect similar to that of a race car. Front and rear fairings, just ahead of the wheels, also will improve aerodynamic performance and stability at higher speeds.

The innovative exterior design of the IS will be carried over to its spacious interior. A chronograph-style, combination gauge will dominate the instrument panel, enhancing its sports appeal and providing excellent visibility. Other interior highlights will include matte chrome-like accents, supportive and comfortable sports seats, lightweight aluminum drilled pedals and a three-spoke steering wheel. The sweeping center console will house audio and air conditioning controls, while other major controls will be located conveniently around the steering wheel.

The IS will join Lexus' complete line-up of cars and SUVs including the LS 400 premium luxury sedan, the GS 400/300 luxury sport sedans, the ES 300 entry-level luxury sedan, the SC 400/300 sport coupes, the RX 300 mid-size luxury SUV and the LX 470 premium full-size luxury SUV.