Locals push Lexus for IS rear steer

words - Bruce Newton
But even with a green light it's years away from Australian on-sale

Lexus Australia is negotiating with parent Lexus International to access rear wheel steering capability for the popular IS 350 F Sport compact prestige sedan.

Dubbed Dynamic Rear Steer (DRS) by Lexus, it has just been added to the new generation IS in Japan after first being fitted to the GS 350 F Sport in 2012.

If DRS, which is expensive, does get the green light for Australia it probably wouldn’t become available for some years.

That’s because it would most likely be rolled out as part of a midlife update of the third generation IS, which went on-sale last July.

DRS is part of a package of handling features dubbed Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH), which also includes active steering, variable suspension and the VDIM family of electronic driver aids such as stability control. All these features apart from DRS are already fitted to the IS 350 F Sport.

Lexus says DRS turns the rear wheels the opposite way to the front wheels at speeds up to approximately 80km/h, for “tighter turns and increased cornering performance”.

Above approximately 80km/h, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction for claimed increased high-speed stability and “a more natural-feeling vehicle posture in high-speed corners.”

Lexus claim DRS reduces the tendency for cornering oversteer, or rear wheel slides.

A short drive of a DRS-equipped IS 350 F Sport on a tight handling course at Fuji Speedway in Japan gave some indication that Lexus wasn’t making hollow claims. The car did feel very controlled in the rear-end and turned into tight corners neutrally.

IS chief engineer Junichi Furyama told motoring.com.au DRS provided added security to orthodox rear-wheel drivetrain’s without the disadvantages of all-wheel drive favoured by Audi.

“All-wheel drive tends to be heavier and the behaviour tends to be understeer,” he explained via an interpreter. “Also in the cornering, the vehicle doesn’t respond to the driver’s intention.

“So I think FR (front-engine rear-wheel drive) base is better and with this system you can turn the steering wheel at the corner more naturally.”

Intriguingly though, while DRS and LDH was judged suitable for F Sport models, Furyama said it wouldn’t feature on future higher-performance cars such as the next IS F.

“The objective of LDH is for a certain level of drivers who are enthusiastic drivers, but not necessarily professional rivers, and they should be able to drive well with LDH. On the other hand the drivers of F like to do the drifting while driving on the circuit. So what we are targeting is different.”

Four wheel steering is by no means a Lexus invention with Honda and Mazda rolling out the technology as far back as the 1980s. Porsche has also added it to the 991 generation 911 GT3.

Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley told motoring.com.au that DRS had been well received in the GS lineup in Australia and he expected it to provide a boost for the smaller, cheaper IS as well.

“We are keen to evaluate the vehicle. We haven’t sought to get this car at this point, however, we see it as an important inclusion into the model life cycle of the IS.

“It gives us an innovative technology in the marketplace. And the other thing is it is significantly well developed now, so we are bringing to market a very credible technology, great safety and great performance.”

Hanley said LDH incorporating DRS worked best with F Sport in image terms. F Sport now accounts for 35 per cent of all IS sold in Australia ad 70 per cent of all 350s.

Lexus International product and strategy general manager Matthew Callachor, an Australian, was cautious about the prospects of the technology heading our way.

“It’s one of the things we are looking at. It’s not to say it won’t come but it’s a model by model thing and we have to look at the cost as well. It’s not a particularly cheap thing so it’s a case of what the market is prepared to pay.”

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Published : Monday, 18 November 2013
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