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Smith pleased Lexus offering 4cyl in rsquo16 GS sedan Tom Murphy
<p><strong>Smith pleased Lexus offering 4-cyl. in &rsquo;16 GS sedan.</strong></p>

Lexus Targets German Rivals With 4-Cyl. GS

Both Audi and BMW have reached 4-cyl. penetration rates as high as 40% in their A6 and 5-Series sedans, so Lexus hopes to gain ground in the segment by offering a 241-hp 2.0L turbo-4 in the midsize sedan in &rsquo;16.

MONTEREY, CA – After watching the evolving market for midsize luxury cars, Toyota’s Lexus luxury division is following its German rivals by offering a fuel-efficient 4-cyl. engine option in the refreshed ’16 GS sport sedan, on sale this fall.

Both Audi and BMW have reached 4-cyl. penetration rates as high as 40% in their A6 and 5-Series sedans, respectively, Brian Bolain, corporate manager-Lexus product marketing, tells WardsAuto at the recent unveiling here of the updated GS and LX large SUV.

“We’re planning to start out in the mid-20% range with the 2.0L turbo, and we will see what the market calls for,” Bolain says. “We will see if we need to go up as high as (the Germans) have gone.”

Until now, the GS only came with a V-6 or as a hybrid. The new 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. in the GS 200t is rated at 241 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque. The engine debuted a year ago in the Lexus NX CUV with the same torque and 235 hp.

The 2.0L turbo employs both port and direct fuel injection and uses an advanced valve control system to switch between Atkinson-cycle and Otto-cycle operation to boost performance and fuel efficiency.

Meanwhile, German luxury brands have been successfully trawling the 4-cyl. waters in this segment for several years.

The Audi A6 comes available with a 2.0L turbo-4, as well as a 3.0L supercharged V-6, 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 and 4.0L turbocharged V-8. In ’15, the 4-cyl. in the A6 was rated at 220 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, but the ’16 model year brings a more potent 2.0L turbo-4 making 252 hp and 273 lb.-ft. (370 Nm) of torque.

The BMW 5-Series is offered with a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl., as well as a 3.0L turbocharged inline-6, 3.0L turbodiesel inline-6, 4.4L twin-turbo V-8 and a 6-cyl. hybrid. BMW’s turbo-4 makes 240 hp and 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) of torque.

On paper, the 4-cyl. in the GS stacks up nicely, but the German brands offer something Lexus does not with the small engine: all-wheel drive. The GS 2.0L turbo only comes available with rear-wheel drive, which could impede sales in northern climates.

But the 4-cyl. GS is better positioned to compete with the Germans, says Brian Smith, Lexus vice president-marketing.

’16 GS offers new interior colors, trim and leather options.

“A strong small-displacement turbocharged mid-luxury sedan has represented a market opportunity that Lexus has not been able to tap until now,” he says.

Globally, the segment skews even more aggressively toward 4-cyl. engines.

“In China, for example, sales of vehicles equipped with 2.0L turbo or smaller engines represent over 63% of the sales volume in the segment,” Smith says. “We’re excited this new 241-hp engine will allow us to respond to that strong global consumer demand.”

Mercedes Diesel Tops in MPG

On the fuel-economy front, Lexus predicts a highway rating of 33 mpg (7.1 L/100 km). But the Germans already beat that, with a 34 mpg (6.9 L/100 km) rating for the RWD BMW 528i and 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) for the FWD ’16 Audi A6.

The Cadillac CTS also offers a 2.0L turbo-4, rated at a stout 272 hp and 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) of torque, and its RWD highway fuel economy is 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km).

The Mercedes E-Class is the No.2 player in WardsAuto’s Middle Luxury car segment, and its only 4-cyl. offering is a 2.1L turbodiesel that rules the fuel-economy roost, achieving 42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km) on the highway with rear-wheel drive, according to the EPA.

No.1 in the sector is the 5-Series. BMW sold 52,704 5-Series cars in the U.S. in 2014, according to WardsAuto data, and 23,581 through the first half of 2015.

Through June, the GS was the No.4 player, tallying 11,142 U.S. deliveries, up 10% from like-2014.

But the refreshed GS deserves serious consideration because it is one of the few models in the class in growth mode: Through the first half, sales were down 15% for the 5-Series, 36% for the E-Class, 3% for the A6, 40% for the CTS and 42% for the Acura RLX.

Overall, sales in the Middle Luxury car segment were down 14.8% through the first half, according to WardsAuto data.

In addition to the new 4-cyl., the GS will come available with a 3.5L V-6 and as a hybrid. Bolain expects the hybrid to make up about 5% of the mix while the V-6 should continue drawing a majority of customers.

A pleasant surprise for Lexus is the popularity of the GS F Sport, which uses the same 3.5L V-6 but adds track-tuned chassis enhancements and a number of interior and exterior design flourishes. The F Sport now accounts for up to 40% of the mix and is bringing more young males to the brand, Bolain says.

New ’16 GS F offers 467-hp 5.0L V-8.

As a high-output offering for the GS line, Lexus introduced in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit the all-new ’16 GS F with a 467-hp 5.0L V-8.

In 2016, Bolain says he expects GS F sales of about 2,000 units, plus 25,000 deliveries for the rest of the GS lineup.

The GS was all-new in 2012 as a ’13 model, so changes are not extensive for ’16. “We wanted a little more emotion with the car, so we have some new colors in the interior and some new wood trims and a new steering wheel,” Bolain says.

Also new are bi-LED headlamps, redesigned front and rear ends and additional alloy-wheel and interior-leather choices.

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