Lexus’ sexy, sporty flagship leads the way

The Lexus LC 500 will start at about $100,000.

Lexus has been busy in recent years with regular updates to its top products while also adding models to fill out its portfolio as it battles mano-a-mano with its German rivals. As such, it has less freshening to do than its more modest stablemate.

That said, several Lexus models will be moving to the Toyota New Global Architecture platform in coming years. Meanwhile, the new RC and coming LC 500 are leading the brand’s shift to a sexier and sportier vibe.

CT: Like its cousin, the Toyota Prius, the CT hybrid will be moving onto the updated TNGA platform as expected. But that full redesign isn’t likely next year. Toyota Motor Corp. has to pick its shots in the supersoft hybrid market, and it just delivered both a new Prius and the plug-in Prius Prime.

The CT got a full refresh for the 2014 model year and a few feature updates for the 2016. That should likely hold it in place at least until 2018.

Indeed, with shifts in consumer tastes, nursing a hybrid car such as the CT may prove less appealing to Lexus than adding a small crossover, like a luxe version of Toyota’s C-HR due out next year. That has led to speculation in some enthusiast quarters that the CT will re-emerge on the TNGA platform in the form of a crossover with a different name.

IS: A well-received 2016 model year refresh gave the sport sedan a heavily creased front fascia that echoes the RC coupe and the upcoming LC 500, along with interior improvements like a bigger multimedia display and the brand’s latest safety systems. The lean and mean look is likely to hold the IS until 2019 or so before it’s time for a redesign.

ES: The sedan received a light refresh for the 2016 model year, as did the Toyota Avalon that it is based on. The V-6 sticks around, and a full redesign is expected in 2019 when it moves to the TNGA modular platform.

RC: The “radical coupe” was new for 2015 and continues in all its over-the-top glory with no immediate plans for significant tweaks.

GS: The midsize four-door received a refresh for the 2016 model year, adding a four-cylinder turbo and the eight-cylinder motor found in the GS F. Look for a redesign in 2019.

LS: The original Lexus luxury sedan is due for a redesign in 2017 as a 2018 model. It’s expected to continue with the combination of a traditional V-8 and real-wheel drive. The LS hybrid likely lives on. A V-6 could be offered as well.

LC 500: The LC 500 was unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, and it will become the brand’s flagship coupe, starting off with the 5.0-liter V-8 from the RC F and GS F. Low-slung and with rwd, it likely will start at around $100,000 and show up later this year.

NX: The RAV4-based crossover was new for 2015 and will probably move to the TNGA platform along with its stablemate in 2018 or 2019.

RX: Lexus’ volume leader was redesigned for the 2016 model year with a huge front grille. The big news for the nameplate is the arrival of a three-row version sometime next year.

GX: The midsize body-on-frame luxury SUV continues on with minimal changes. It was last refreshed for 2014 and is on a longer life cycle than the brand’s car offerings.

LX: Freshened for the 2016 model year along with the Toyota Land Cruiser on which it is based, the full-size SUV is likely to carry on with few changes in coming years.

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