Special Coverage

Paris
Auto Show

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus Div. will take the wraps off a convertible version of the IS sport sedan at the Paris auto show next month.

The IS 250 C is a 4-seat, 2-door hardtop convertible that is expected to go on sale in Europe next year.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. spokesman Curt McAllister declines to say whether the car will be sold in North America, but dealer sources tell Ward’s the model is U.S.-bound.

“People have been dying for a coupe or a hardtop convertible” from Lexus, one source says.

Lexus has lost sales to BMW and Mercedes brands by not having a drop top other than the pricey, aging and cramped SC 430 that starts at $66,805 not including $825 for shipping and handling for ’09, he says.

BMW AG offers the 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz AG sells the SL and SLK hardtop convertibles, while Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is due to retail a drop-top Infiniti G37 coupe soon.

A second dealer source, who recently viewed the IS 250 C, calls it “beautiful” and predicts it will make the IS lineup more competitive with the 3-Series models, which offer a wide range of engine sizes and body styles.

Both insiders agree the model will debut in the U.S. next year, with one expecting a starting price in the $50,000-range, on par with Lexus IS-F performance models.

Sales of the IS series, which also includes the IS 250 all-wheel-drive and IS 350 sedans, are nearly flat with year-ago. U.S. deliveries were down 1.6% to 37,228 units through August, Ward’s data shows.

Toyota has not released performance specs for the model to be unveiled in Paris, but the IS 250 sedan in the U.S. makes 204-hp from its 2.5L V-6 engine.

Lexus also will display the LF-Xh concept hybrid-electric cross/utility vehicle, first unveiled at the 2007 Tokyo motor show. The HEV is powered by a V-6 gas engine mated to a high-output electric motor, Toyota says.

The concept widely is believed to hint at the next-generation Lexus RX hybrid CUV, which McAllister says is due in the U.S. next year.

Additionally, Lexus will show the all-wheel-drive version of its LS 460 flagship sedan, available in the U.S. for ’09.

Toyota will display at the Paris show its third-generation Avensis, the brand’s European flagship model. The new 4-door will showcase “an athletic and sleek design,” and be equipped with more powerful but less polluting engines, Toyota promises.

Also on display will be the production version of Toyota’s iQ minicar, which was shown as a concept at the Geneva auto show in March. While the iQ is less than 118 ins. (30 cm) long, it has premium features, in contrast to Toyota’s more practical but equally small Aygo.

The iQ promises reduced carbon-dioxide emissions of 99 g/km and the world’s first “rear-window curtain-shield airbag.”

The third model Toyota will showcase is the Urban Cruiser, a variation of the Scion xD subcompact sold in the U.S. However, unlike the xD, the Urban Cruiser will boasts a 1.4L diesel engine and AWD. Emissions levels are 133 g/km, the auto maker says.

Toyota in March said it hoped the Urban Cruiser and iQ would help it reach a sales goal of 500,000 small cars in Europe by 2009.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com