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New Lexus out to muscle its way into compact SUV market

on July 15 2014 | in Industry news, Latest news | by | with Comments Off

Lexus might have been the first to bring hybrid drivetrains to the softroad SUV market – but it is the last to bring them to the one that matters most, the compact segment. Its new NX, sort of a scaled-down version of the RX, will be here in October, chockablock with whizzbang bits and pieces like a wireless phone charger (Apple iPhone users will need a special adapter), and a Harman Kardon sound system that audiophiles say reproduces almost original quality music files.

Wireless phone charging tray

Wireless phone charging tray

The late arrival of the NX isn’t because Lexus had to engineer an all-new car – the NX is based on a modified version of the Totota RAV4 platform. It is slightly longer overall than the RAV4, has exactly the same width and wheelbase, but its body gets more sharp angles and a wide-mouthed Lexus family face. Get the picture? US cialis

analysts say the delay in bringing the NX to market was partly due to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, when Lexus’ parent Toyota shelved development of many new models, and partly because of the US$3 billion or so fallout from vehicle recalls and unintended acceleration lawsuits Toyota was hit with in the US between 2009-11. The lawsuits are cialis 20mg

still being filed. Lexus says it designed the NX to straddle the gap between the main players, the Audi Q3 and Q5, BMW X1 and X3 and Range Rover Evoque. If it believes there’s a gap in that market, it must ask itself if there’s a market in that gap. It has been conspicuous by its absence and now it is trying to make up for lost time in New Zealand by bringing in seven – seven! – of 10 variants Lexus builds for the global market.

NX chockablock with whizzbang bits and pieces

NX chockablock with whizzbang bits and pieces

In doing so it is aiming to literally bulldoze its way into a sector that is has been running hot for some time, last month accounting for more than 30 per cent of overall sales. Lexus has some catching up to do – at the end of June it had sold 273 passenger vehicles against Audi’s 1089 and BMW’s 1127. Lexus NZ isn’t saying what variants will make up the seven, but Automotive News has been told the range will mix front- and all-wheel-drives and consist of three petrol-electric hybrids running a 2.5-litre engine, and four petrol-only models using a turbocharged 2.0-litre unit. No word on pricing yet, but the line-up is expected to start somewhere in the plus-$60k region and top out in the high $80k, early $90k. Don’t expect prices to be unveiled before the NX arrives in October. All Lexus NZ product chief Neeraj Lala will say is: “There’s an NX for every lifestyle, ensuring an entirely new audience will discover the Lexus brand.”
NX is based on a modified version of the Totota RAV4 platform

NX based on a modified version of the Toyota RAV4 platform

Lexus is an old hand at hybrids but is new at turbocharging, another reason why the NX is late to the gathering. Once, it scoffed at European carmakers using turbochargers to boost the power output and torque delivery of small capacity engines. Now it has joined them, having a few bob each way with the different drivetrains. The hybrid drivetrain is a Lexus and Toyota favourite, pairing a 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine mated to a high-powered electric motor and hybrid battery pack, which automatically online cialis

charges when the car is on the move. Output is 145kW/210Nm. The boosted 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit makes its first appearance in the NX, but it will go into other models. It uses a twin-scroll turbocharger to deliver 175kW between 4800-5600rpm, and 350Nm between 1650-4000rpm. Both engines are mated to six-speed transmissions. An eight-speed unit will follow later in the production cycle.

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About the Author:

Alastair Sloane has been a newspaper journalist for 50 years this year. He has had all sorts of newspaper roles along the way, including editing two dailies. He was the motoring editor of the New Zealand Herald for 16 years from 1996 until 2012. He owns a 1968 VW Beetle. Best days at the wheel include doing part of the Land Rover Camel Trophy route in Papua New Guinea, driving a Nissan Patrol over earthquake-hit roads in Guatemala, and a Ferrari Italia 458 on Enzo’s old hill-climb road in Italy.

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