Should Lexus Build A Luxury Hydrogen Car?

Opinion / Comments

Or is the Toyota Mirai already luxurious enough?

A recent rumor out of Japan claims Lexus will revive its GS nameplate, this time as a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle based on the 2021 Toyota Mirai. Lexus killed off the midsize GS sedan after the 2020 model year with no direct replacement planned. This news got us thinking about the viability of such a car. Every fuel cell vehicle currently and previously offered in the United States has worn a mainstream badge from Honda, Hyundai, or Toyota; no luxury automaker has sold one here in the US. Would Lexus break new ground by offering a more luxurious FCEV, or is there a reason why no other automakers have attempted it? Let's go over the pros and cons of a hydrogen-propelled GS.

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Why It Makes Sense

With the GS gone, Lexus now has a massive gap between its rear-wheel-drive IS and LS sedans. The ES somewhat fills the midsize sedan roll, but even in F Sport guise, its front-wheel-drive Avalon platform leaves a lot to be desired. Former GS owners who want a rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan are now orphans, who may jump ship to another brand. Though it may not bring back the performance elements from the GS 350 F Sport and GS F, a rear-drive model based on the Mirai platform would offer balanced handling and a unique selling point as the only luxury FCEV on the market.

The Toyota Mirai already feels luxurious enough to wear a Lexus badge, so transforming it into a GS would be an easy task. Our rendering artists have grafted a Lexus front end on the Mirai's body to show what such a vehicle might look like, and we think it's a pretty handsome vehicle. The Mirai uses the same TNGA-L platform as the Lexus LS and LC, so it has the pedigree required for the GS.

Straight-Ahead Angle Toyota
Rear Angle View Toyota
Dashboard Toyota
Oddball Cars With Front-Wheel-Drive V8 Engines
Oddball Cars With Front-Wheel-Drive V8 Engines
7 Outstanding Rotary Engine Swaps
7 Outstanding Rotary Engine Swaps

Why It Doesn't Make Sense

Starting with the Mirai is a good base, but we aren't sure Lexus could do enough to differentiate the GS. This isn't a dig on Lexus, but rather a compliment for how luxurious the Mirai already feels. Lexus could throw in more sound deadening and more premium leather but this would make the car heavier and hurt the range. There's another problem too; tacking on a Lexus badge would certainly increase the price and the Mirai is already quite expensive at just under $50,000.

Not only would a fuel cell GS be pricey, it would have a limited market. FCEVs only make sense in California, where there is a hydrogen fuel network. Even in California, the hydrogen stations are scarce and there are often shortages and tech glitches that make refueling trickier. Unless Toyota and Lexus take control of hydrogen distribution to improve these issues, the GS would be a tough sell for average buyers.

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How We'd Build It

If Lexus did build its own version of the Mirai, it would need to have larger motors. The Mirai only produces 179 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, meaning it takes 9.2 seconds to hit 60 mph. We'd like to see Lexus double the electric motor count, giving the GS all-wheel-drive and drastically improving the output. By adding a second electric motor to the ID.4, Volkswagen increases output from 201 hp to 302 hp. If Lexus could post similar gains, the GS would produce around 269 horsepower. With a range of 350-400 miles on a tank, the GS could be a unique alternative to an EV.

2016-2020 Lexus GS Three Quarter Front Right Side View Lexus
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2016-2019 Toyota Mirai Fuel Tank Cap Open Toyota

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