Lexus builds very good cars, but they can be pretty boring. That’s why Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda ordered Lexus to build more exciting products, ones that were not just Toyotas with “L” badges glued on. Lexus applied that new philosophy to the 2013 GS, a car that was almost cancelled, and is now winning magazine comparison tests. Still, a midsize sedan is not the best platform for excitement, which is why Lexus officials are craving a coupe.
Earlier this year, Karl Schlicht, Lexus’ head of global product planning, told Automotive News that Lexus needed a sporty coupe to complement its revamped sedans. Lexus’ top man in the U.S., Mark Templin, also endorsed the idea, saying that he wanted a coupe in the $60,000 to $70,000 range.
Looking at the competition, it is easy to see why Lexus officials want a GS Coupe. Several luxury brands already offer coupes based on their bestselling sedans, straddling Templin’s target range of $60,000 to $70,000. BMW has the 6 Series, which starts at $74,475, and Mercedes has a two-door E-Class, starting at $50,675. In addition, Audi has the slightly smaller S5, which costs $56,075.
With its new attitude, and near $60,000 price when fully optioned, the GS is the most likely candidate for the coupe treatment. Its rear-wheel drive layout will also provide the sporty handling necessary for the car’s mission.
However, simply removing two doors will not magically reinvigorate Lexus. The company has not sold a sporty two-door since the SC430 convertible was discontinued in 2010, and with good reason. Despite its two-seat layout, the SC was more like a Buick than a sports car. The same was true of its 1990s predecessor.
A coupe is a good starting point, but Lexus will have to imbue it with sportiness and style. The above rendering from Edmunds shows a GS sedan minus two doors, which doesn’t have the sex appeal of the 6 Series or S5. A production coupe may require more unique sheetmetal to liven things up. It also wouldn’t hurt to give the GS Coupe a sportier chassis tune, or a GS-F model that can compete with the BMW M6.
If the GS Coupe makes it to production, the earliest it could arrive is next year, probably as a 2014 model. A rear-drive sporty coupe is unusual for Lexus, but not for its German rivals. For that reason alone, Lexus should build it. Whether the GS Coupe can reinvent Lexus’ image remains to be seen.