Lexus Forecast: More Power for 2007

If you took a quick guess as to which car is faster, what would you say – the $44,000 Lexus GS300, or the $34,000 ES350? If you guessed the GS, you would be wrong. The ES is more powerful and quicker in acceleration, an awkward fact that can make Lexus dealers nervous, especially with the GS’ more sporty character. This situation is due to the unusually early introduction of the 2007 ES model, which was well ahead of the GS and giving us a glimpse of the power upgrades in store.

Starting with the GS, expect the base 3.0L 6-cylinder engine to be replaced with 3.5L unit that’s already in the ES350 and GS450h, bumping horsepower from 245 to 272. Expect the 4.3L 8-cylinder engine to be replaced by the 4.6L unit, upgrading horsepower from 300 to 380. This should effectively move the sedan from 0-60 mph in the low 5 seconds, more closely matching its German rivals. It will be interesting to see if Lexus will offer another hybrid in the GS line. So far, Toyota and Lexus have resisted offering multiple hybrid powertrains for the same model, but a GS550h using the 4.6L 8-cylinder can slot nicely between the 6-cylinder GS450h and the flagship LS600h. The GS300 will be renamed to GS350, and GS430 to GS460.

As previously noted, the 272 hp 2007 ES350 has already been introduced, replacing the 225 hp ES330. This is essentially the same 3.5 liter unit being proliferated throughout Toyota’s lineup, but due to octane optimization, generates slightly more power than its Toyota counterparts. A hybrid version, if offered, would be called ES450h with virtually identical specs as the current GS450h, generating 340 total-system hp. It could also signal a similar powertrain offering for Toyota’s Camry, which shares the same platform as the ES, and is currently offered only in 4-cylinder hybrid form.

The 2007 RX350, also introduced ahead of schedule, replaces the RX330. Similar to the ES, horsepower moves from 225 to 270. Expect a similar change on the 3.3L RX400h, which goes from 268 total system hp to 340 and renamed to RX450h.

The SC430 and LS430 will follow the same upgrade as the GS430, but to establish its flagship status, the LS hybrid version will get an exclusive 5.0L 8-cylinder unit that will generate at least 410 hp. The LS430 will be renamed LS460 and the 5.0L hybrid LS600h. The LS will have the world’s first eight-speed automatic transmission, and it is unclear if and when this will be shared with other models.

It is doubtful the IS, introduced last year, will have any powertrain upgrades for 2007. As for the GX and LX trucks, they are certainly due for an upgrade, but truck engines typically lag in advanced technology than its passenger-car counterparts. For example, Toyota’s variable valve timing wasn’t introduced on 8-cylinder trucks until model year 2005, although it was available on its passenger cars seven years earlier.

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