With the CT 200h F Sport, Lexus tried to convince us that its Prius in a Lexus costume could also be a sports car. Critics mocked it and sales have been poor to say the very least. But now Lexus is trying again with a relatively low-cost sporty hybrid, and if the rumors prove to be true, then this one might actually be quite good. The car is the IS 300h, and it will based on an actual Lexus this time around. Green Car Reports say that the IS 300h is expected to produce 240 horsepower, nearly double that of the CT 200h, and will be able to sprint to 60mph in 7 seconds.
The drivetrain will be derived from that of the LF-CC hybrid coupe concept car, which certainly gives its sporting credentials an extra boost. The IS mainly competes with the BMW 3-Series, and the hybrid version will add an interesting new dimension to this rivalry. On the downside, there will be a CVT transmission, and this is distinctly non-sporty. There is also the issue of weight, which is apparently expected to come to about 3,900lbs. But Lexus is still trying hard to improve its sporting image, so there might be some more details about this which we aren’t getting yet, and all should become more clear when the car officially debuts at the Detroit Auto Show next month.
Sport hybrids are a difficult concept to get nailed down, and Lexus is hardly the only company to have missed the mark in the past. Honda’s CR-Z was, in truth, a better attempt than the CT 200h, but it still seriously suffers in the performance department. Porsche has quite a nice sport hybrid in the 918, but with a price north of $1 million, that can barely be considered the same kind of vehicle at all. But hybrids are still a relatively new thing, and on top of that, most hybrid owners have no interest in sports cars. There is still no doubt that, small as this niche may be, it will continue to improve. And maybe the IS 300h will be as big a breakthrough for mainstream sport hybrids as the Prius was for hybrids in general.