Lexus concept a reality for NZ

September 9, 2013, 8:40 am Richard Bosselman Yahoo! New Zealand

Beyond the enhanced styling of the LF-NX concept taking the stage at this week’s Frankfurt motor show is an exciting Lexus crossover that’ll be on New Zealand roads by late 2014.

Lexus concept a reality for NZ

Up to seven variants including a performance F-Sport, front as well as four-wheel-drive – and, oh yes, in addition to a familiar hybrid drivetrain there’ll be a new sizzling performance engine, with everything wrapped in a head-turning shape.

Interested? Lexus New Zealand really you will be. While we’re going to have to wait around nine-12 months for the NX200t and NX300h - respectively the turbopetrol and petrol-electric production versions of the eye-catching concept LF-NX crossover here - the brand has already begun to plot its market assault and has been happy to share its thinking with Yahoo! NZ Autos.

The Palmerston North-based brand believes a vehicle that is determining to deliver in cheapest form for a premium of perhaps only $10,000 above the present priciest Toyota RAV4, the $62,790 limited diesel automatic, could be easily as popular as the next-size-up RX soft-roader – the best-selling Lexus here last year, with 170 sold, and also set for a major update in 2014.

“We’re quite excited about the NX and what it can offer us,” says Lexus/Toyota New Zealand new product go-to Neeraj Lala.

“The luxury sports utility segment has really grown quite dramatically, it’s more than doubled in size in the past 10 years.”

While the SUV sector is a boom zone, Lala says the luxury sector does present singular challenges. It doesn’t break into the same easily-defined sub-segments – mini, small, medium, medium-rugged and large – categories as the mainstream sector. “For luxury it’s all lumped into ‘SUV’ so we’ve had to dissect it out.”

But, yes, Lexus sees potential in the playground favoured by the Audi (Q3 and Q5), BMW (X1 and X3), Range Rover Evoque and incoming Mercedes Benz GLA. It’s not just that luxury car buyers are enjoying these models; quite a few buyers are aspirational types. “They are looking at an entry-level, luxury car and we see some migration occurring here.”

That’s why the brand is intending a max attack. “We are looking at probably having one of our largest model lineups available with this NX lineup.” There will be front- and four-wheel-drive petrol and hybrid NX variants in standard, Limited and F-Sport guise.

“We’re looking at at least seven derivates with at least three additional option packages available.” These will focus on safety enhancements, he says.

As the LF-NX indicates, this is no shrinking violet. The design study has been created for this week’s Frankfurt motor show and while some of the lines are clearly accentuated, Lala says he has seen the still-secret production car based on this concept and can assure it is as bold as other recent products created to L-Finesse principles.

“What we’re trying to do is get our concept cars as close to the product cars as possible,” says Lala.

“They were probably more similar that what people had initially given Lexus credit for. Having said that, I think the LF-NX is probably more aggressive than the product car, but broadly speaking it (the NX) will follow very similar lines to the concept.”

The design intent is all about being noticed and admired; it seems a safe bet to assume the concept will relate most closely to the F-Sport. However, Lala assures, all derivatives are going to stand out in the increasingly crowded small-medium SUV sector. It’d be safe to assume the huge spindle grille, sharp creases, L-shaped LED running lights and large air intakes will be offered to owners.

“The car is fractionally longer than a RAV4 but considerably lower, so it’s going to have that crossover appeal rather than a traditional SUV style.”

The car will be presented in NX 200t and NX 300h form. The first has a wholly new 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and the NX300h has the 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine and nickel-metal hydride battery-fed electric motor from the IS300h.

Lexus has not yet disclosed outputs or performance data for either engine but it would seem reasonable to assume the NX300h would be in the same vein as the IS300h, which has 164kW and combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions 113 grams per kilometre – about on par with entry European diesels.

It’ll be sporty too; Lala remind that NX stands for ‘nimble crossover’ in Lexus-speak. Nobuyuki Tomatsu, the design manager for the NX, described it as inspired by bodybuilding, featuring “no useless excess fat”.

The concept’s cabin probably reaches well beyond current production reality. Lexus says it is a glimpse at the future of Lexus interiors, including what Tomatsu describes as the “backbone of the car” – the raised centre console. It features far fewer buttons than any Lexus currently on sale and gets a touch pad control system.

Meantime, the refreshed RX will come about the same time as NX; it’s an interim based on the current platform – the next-generation RX, while likely spawned off the all-new Toyota Highlander coming (and yes, this is where confusion is likely to start) in early 2014, is almost certainly going to be a 2015 car here.

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