Toyota and Lexus secret hybrid cars revealed | CAR Magazine
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Toyota and Lexus secret hybrid cars revealed

Published: 03 September 2008 Updated: 26 January 2015

CAR Online has compiled a secret dossier of all the hybrid petrol-electric cars under development at Toyota and Lexus. Today we can reveal a new wave of eco-friendly plug-in hybrids – with confidential details of the next Prius and all the new models that will build on the success of Toyota and Lexus battery cars.

There will be a new family of Prius hybrid models, as previously reported in CAR, as well as a new Lexus RX hybrid, sportier batter-powered cars and a top-secret petrol-electric Lexus hatchback. Read on for the full story…

So what is Toyota’s big vision with its hybrid cars?

Never change a winning formula, is the message. The Prius remains the world´s best-selling hybrid passenger car by a huge margin. The Lexus RX400h practically owns the hybrid crossover market. So why mess with the recipe?

Encouraged by this strong demand, Toyota will launch the Prius III at the Detroit auto show in January 2009. A new Lexus RX450h will be unwrapped at the Sema show in November 2008 this autumn. And a new baby Lexus hybrid is tipped to put in a surprise appearance at the autumn 2008 Los Angeles show or at Geneva 2009.

New third-generation Toyota Prius hybrid: the lowdown

Challenged by Honda, which is determined to crack 100,000 annual sales with its next, cheaper hybrid model (scooped by CAR this week), the Prius III offers more of the same: an oddball design, a space-age cockpit and a nickel metal hydride battery pack which costs only €850 plus VAT (£700) should it ever need to be replaced.

Why does the new Toyota Prius retain the old kink-in-the-roof look? Because it shouts ‘I am an environment-conscious driver’. Because it´s the number one customer feelgood factor. And because the Japanese believe the Prius has icon potential just like the Porsche 911. Seriously.

But this time round, there will be a whole family of Prius models. So in 2010 we’ll see an MPV Prius and in 2011 a seven-seater XXL wagon. The Prius people carrier looks like a cross between a VW Touran, Golf Plus and Caddy Maxi; the Prius estate like a Toyota Avensis wagon.

Just how clean will the new Toyota Prius hybrid be?

While the current Prius manages 104g CO2/km, the follow-up model is good for 95g/km in Normal mode and just 89g/km in extra-cost Eco guise. It will – at a stroke – move the green car goalposts again, then.

And if that’s not clean enough, about one year after the base model arrives in Europe in June 2009, Toyota will roll out the even more efficient – and more expensive – lithium-ion version. Then in 2011, all Prius III models will be available in plug-in configuration, allowing a longer range on zero-emissions battery power.

Click ‘Next’ to read about future hybrid Lexus models

Lexus RX450h: the secret new hybrid Lexus

The new RX450h under development gets an all-new chassis, suspension and body architecture, CAR understands. It is lighter, roomier, sleeker and dynamically more appealing than the current RX soft-roader.

Enginewise, the petrol-fed V6 remains the sole option, but displacement and power are up (as reflected in the RX450h badge).

And will Lexus launch other hybrid models?

Even more significant than the new RX is the baby hybrid Lexus intends to launch in the 2009 model year, first in the US and then in Europe. Visually, the five-door hatch bears a certain resemblance to the Concept X show car (first picture).

Codenamed SAI, the latest addition to the Lexus stable shares its modular architecture with the new Prius. While the Prius retains the
uninspiring 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, the Lexus offspring boasts a more powerful 2.5-litre unit.

We’re talking about Toyota here. There must be more hybrids than that…

You bet. Next in line for ‘hybridisation’ is the all-new 2009 Avensis, which goes petrol-electric in time for the 2012 facelift. Again, lithium-ion is the battery pack of choice.

Also in 2012, the Auris replacement and the iQ city car obtain optional hybrid drivetrains. One year later, the follow-up to the RAV4 – which switches to the Auris platform – will offer a similar choice.

By 2020, all Toyota models are scheduled to be available in hybrid form. Let’s not beat about the bush: Toyota is plotting global domination with its next-gen hybrid cars.

Click ‘Next’ to read about Lexus’s new hybrid sports car

The new Lexus SC: yep, another hybrid…

The next new Lexus after the RX450h is the CC which replaces the ageing SC. Based on the smaller and notably less expensive IS, the new
retractable hardtop model will not go down hybrid avenue – at least not until the second-edition IS arrives in late 2010.

Work on the smallest, rear-wheel drive Lexus BS (a BMW 1-series rival) has been stopped, but in view of the critical energy situation, the Japanese may soon return to the drawing boards. We’ll keep you posted.

And the new Lexus GS… It’s a never-ending list!

Hybrid is definitely on the cards again for the new Lexus GS which is also due in 2010, featuring standard four-wheel drive, active anti-roll bars and a bigger cargo deck thanks to downsized batteries.

And although Far East sources keep predicting the LF-A sports car to offer a hybrid option, our informants confirm only the 500bhp V10 engine, but not any kind of electric drive. The production LF-A is expected to debut at the 2009 Nürburgring 24 Hour Race.

A lightweight high-performance 550bhp F version is said to be in the pipeline, too, and Lexus is allegedly also contemplating to build a limited batch of LF-A roadsters.

Will Toyota dominate the hybrid market? Or can Honda close the gap? Click ‘Add your comment’ and let us know

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel