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Lexus Wants "Performance Hybrids" Because Driving Fun Matters

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Is that conservative image finally done and over with?

From its inception until quite recently Lexus has played it safe. Its designs were nice but failed to attract anyone under the age 60. That's not the best business model to have, as we learned firsthand from now-former Lexus of North America vice president Jeff Bracken last January at Detroit. Along with its controversial design language, Toyota's luxury brand is continuing to reinvent itself in the performance department as well. According to Australia's Carsguide, Lexus sees a "performance hybrid" lineup in its future. Speaking with the Lexus UX chief engineer, Chika Kako, "performance hybrids" like the LC 500h will play a key role over the next decade.

"I think everybody's preconception of the hybrid with Lexus has always been about fuel efficiency, but as we move forward we would like to add more value to that and have more focus and emphasis on the sportiness and dynamics that the hybrid technology can offer," she said. "We want to have the performance and sporty advantages that the hybrid technology can offer. Of course, we cannot talk about what's next. But that's something we want. Having the hybrid motor and how you tune it can really change the level of dynamics in the car itself. We're really studying right now what is the optimum way to do that."

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Remember, it was Toyota that launched the first mass-market hybrid, the Prius, back in 1997, and it has since earned a reputation for blandness. Some have even compared a Prius to driving like a washing machine. No personality, but it does move. That obviously won't work for Lexus going forth, but what we'd really like to see are performance hybrids that don't cost nearly as much as the $190,000 LC 500h.

For example, the next IS sport sedan, which is expected to arrive fairly soon, would make a great candidate to display hybrid performance. Even the all-new UX crossover has potential. The sky's the limit on this one but it really boils down to whether Lexus can make its hybrid performance cost less than $40,000, give or take a couple of grand.