Lexus surprised visitors to the North American International Auto Show by unexpectedly expanding its popular 'entry level' IS line-up with the new and more versatile IS300 SportCross, as well as showing the final production version of the SC430 hardtop convertible.
The IS300 SportCross

Both cars will eventually be sold in most Lexus markets around the world.

The IS300 SportCross blurs the lines between body types, offering 'Sportswagon'-style extra space and a tailgate "to address the needs of those with active lifestyles". However, it retains the individual styling that distinguishes it from rivals such as BMW's 3-series line-up.

"We wanted to preserve the image of dynamic performance with the SportCross," said Nobuaki Katayama, chief engineer for the car. "A conventional wagon body would detract from that image, and on the other hand we also knew that IS customers didn't need the full capacity of a conventional wagon. That is why we opted for the innovative cross-over concept that became the SportCross."

The SportCross features a split fold-down rear seatback and a fold-down front passenger seatback to carry long or oddly shaped items and shares its three-litre, six-cylinder in-line engine with the IS300 and GS300 sedans.

The engine is linked to a five-speed automatic gearbox featuring 'E-Shift' steering wheel controls. European buyers will see the new model at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The final production version of the SC430 also debuted at Detroit.

The IS300 SportCross

The car features a retractable hardtop that allows the driver to change from hardtop coupe into convertible in under 25 seconds and the exterior styling was done by Toyota's European design studio, apparently inspired by the "luxurious lifestyle of the French Riviera".

The SC430 includes a climate control system with an 'open mode', to compensate for top-down driving by adjusting airflow and air temperature automatically, and which also takes vehicle speed into account.

The Mark Levinson audio system is designed to overcome the difference in acoustics between open-top and closed driving, and again takes vehicle speed into account.
Lexus says that the car was designed from the start as a cabriolet, allowing engineers to achieve a highly rigid body which, in conjunction with the all-round double wishbone suspension, delivers excellent driving dynamics and comfort.

The SC430 is powered by the new Lexus V8 engine shared with the LS430 and GS430, and has a five-speed automatic gearbox as standard.