More stories related to Geneva Motor Show GENEVA – Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus Div. chooses the auto show here for the world debut of its all-new Lexus IS for one very good reason – it doubles as the introduction of the first-ever Lexus diesel engine.

The ’06 IS compact sports sedan goes on sale at the end of this year.

It will be powered by a new, all-aluminum, 2.2L common-rail diesel engine. At 172 hp, Lexus claims it is the most powerful engine in its displacement category. It also provides the most torque, developing 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) between 2,000 and 2,400 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

A new 2.5L direct-injection gasoline V-6 also is available and can be mated to the 6-speed manual or a new 6-speed automatic transmission featuring sequential paddle-shift control.

"Our first diesel engine will open the market to us and it will put Lexus on a level playing field," says Karl Schlicht vice president-Lexus Europe.

In anticipation of increased IS sales in Europe, Lexus says it will instigate the growth of a dedicated dealer network to some 340 Lexus outlets throughout Europe. By 2010, the auto maker anticipates a three- to four-fold increase in European sales.

The IS is the second production vehicle for Lexus created under the L-Finesse design philosophy that first spawned the new Lexus GS. The look has been tested in the LF-S and LF-C concepts and is part of an overall effort to give Lexus a distinctive face.

The new IS is 3.5 ins. (9.0 cm) longer and 3.0 ins. (7.5 cm) wider than its predecessor. Combined with short front and rear overhangs, the sedan achieves a low center of gravity.

Twin-barrel headlamp clusters are positioned above the vertically latticed grille, a new signature look for the Lexus brand.

The interior has center console switchgear and an engine start button. Gearshift paddles are mounted directly on the steering wheel.

The longer wheelbase translates into extra rear-seat legroom.

The Lexus Smart Keyless Entry allows the driver to open any door by touching the handle, as long as the key is nearby. The engine then can be started with the touch of a button.

The sports sedan boasts a radar-controlled Pre-Crash Safety System that detects objects in front of the car and, if it decides a crash is unavoidable, activates seatbelt pretensioners and prepares the emergency Brake Assist system. The IS also has adaptive cruise control, intelligent adaptive front lighting system, 10 standard airbags including knee airbags for both driver and passenger, and Lexus’ Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system for better traction control and vehicle stability.

apriddle@primediabusiness.com