Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

Toyota Motor Corp. will try to grow demand for its GS mid-luxury sedan by tweaking its interior and exterior styling and squeezing a bigger V-8 under its hood for ’08.

Lexus is slated to give the public its first glimpse of the new GS lineup at this week’s Frankfurt auto show.

In the U.S., where the car debuted in 2005 as an ’06 model, sales have been disappointing.

The GS 350 tally so far in 2007 is 10.7% below year-ago at 14,058 units, Ward’s data shows. Still, the V6-equipped GS 350 has weathered the competition better than the GS 430, with sales down 51.4% through August to just 1,364 units.

At launch, Lexus had intended to sell a total of 33,000 GS cars annually.

To give the GS a boost, Lexus has borrowed the 4.6L V-8 from its LS flagship for the ’08 model, making 342 hp and 339 lb.-ft. (460 Nm) of torque, up from 290 hp and 319 lb.-ft. (433 Nm) of torque for the 4.3L in the ’07 GS 430.

The new GS 460 also gets the LS’ 8-speed automatic transmission, replacing the GS 430’s 6-speed automatic (retained in the GS 350).

Lexus says fuel economy declines just 1 mpg (0.4 km/L) to 17/24 mpg (13.8-9.8 L/100 km) city/highway, while the GS 460 qualifies as an Ultra Low-Emissions Vehicle, according to Environmental Protection Agency standards.

All GS models, including the hybrid-electric GS 450h, receive styling changes, including a revised front fascia featuring a new chrome grille surround and lower front bumper with revamped air-intake vents.

The GS instrument panel is redesigned, and a new interior trim combination, light gray leather with dark gray bird’s eye maple trim, is added to carryover choices of cashmere leather with brown bird’s eye maple trim or black leather with dark walnut trim.

Also new is a brushed aluminum shift plate over the center console and turn signals that are incorporated into the side mirrors.

The GS 450h gets new blue badging, as well as blue-hued headlights to signify it is a hybrid.

Lexus says 50% of the GS models it sells in Western Europe are hybrid-electric vehicles. Lexus also sells the LS 600h and RX 400h hybrids in Europe, adding it has delivered more than 30,000 HEVs there since 2005.

“Customer interest in the premium segment for hybrid technology has exceeded our expectations,” Lexus Europe Vice President Karl Schlicht says in a statement. “Enthusiasm for the recently launched LS 600h has surpassed our initial forecasts.”

Also on Lexus’ stand in Frankfurt this week is the new IS-F sport sedan, with a 5.0L V-8 engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and capable of 0-60 mph (100 km/h) acceleration in 4.9 seconds, Lexus says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com