Lexus is developing a small hybrid engine to allow its new GS luxury car to compete with more economical European rivals.
Speaking to Auto Express, Koji Sato, deputy chief engineer, product planning said: "We are working on a number of solutions to offer low CO2 emissions and these include a small hybrid."
The new GS launches in the UK in the summer but the only models will be a range-topping GS450h with a 338bhp 3.5-litre V6 hybrid and an entry-level GS250 with a 206bhp 2.5-litre V6.
A small economical and low-emissions hybrid would allow the new GS to compete against big-selling models like the BMW 520d and Audi A6 2.0 TDI, as Lexus has no plans for a diesel version. "Lexus has a strong association with hybrid and we want to continue to develop this," Sato added.
Although there are no details on the new powerplant, it is likely to sit at the entry point to the range and is likely to be a four-cylinder petrol engine mated to an electric motor. Combined power output should be around 180bhp.
Sato said the engine would have to boast fuel economy and CO2 emissions on a par with the BMW 520d, so expect the model to emit around 120g/km of CO2 and return around 50mpg.
With considerable gains in fuel economy and significant savings in tax thanks to low emissions, the new model could open the door to huge sales in the UK and Europe, allowing the firm to attract more company car drivers.
A decision is 'imminent' said Sato on the exact specification of the new hybrid engine, with an announcement expected ahead of the launch of the GS in the UK next summer.
In related news, Sato also said there is a strong desire within Lexus to produce a high performance BMW M5-rivalling GS F model, following in the footsteps of the IS F. "The GS has an all-new chassis with wider tracks, double wishbones at the front and a mulit-link rear set-up. It would make a very good base for a performance car," he added, although admitted that there are no official plans for one just yet.