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Lexus steams ahead with future models

Full throttle: The V10 Lexus FF-A Roadster is unveiled at the Melbourne International Motor Show.

Economic downturn has not hindered new-model development at Lexus

2 Mar 2009

THE current economic downturn has not seen a slowdown of new-model development at Lexus, according to Lexus Australia chief executive John Roca.

Mr Roca told GoAuto at the Melbourne International Motor Show last week that development programs inside the Toyota-owned luxury marque, such as the V10-powered LF-A Roadster, which was unveiled at the show, and others including the much-anticipated micro-car model, were still running full steam ahead.

“In terms of R&D, that’s something that, at this stage, Toyota Motor Corporation isn’t considering – there’s been no delay nor (any program) put aside,” Mr Roca said.

The Lexus chief said he hoped the LF-A would be built in right-hand drive and made available for Australian sales. Lexus Australia has also put its hand up for the HS250h hybrid and the still-to-be-named forthcoming compact car, while the next-generation ES could also mark the return of the medium sedan series to these shores.

31 center image Left: Lexus HS250h concept.

According to Mr Roca, the sub-RX SUV program was shelved after the small-car program was given the green light. But he held open the option of plug-in hybrid variants of the RX and other models in the future.

“We would consider anything for the future,” Mr Roca said. “ES was a very good vehicle for us and (we’ll) look at maybe the next generation. Whatever the rounds are done in terms of new product, we’ll always put our hand up if we think it’s something that would be good for our market.” Well aware that its standing as the luxury marque leader for hybrid vehicles will come under pressure with new rival models, in particular from Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche, Mr Roca said the company was looking forward to a more competitive landscape.

“We welcome it,” he said. “It’s a little bit difficult when you’re out on your own. But once it’s launched with other makes and models as well – and some of that technology has been passed on from Toyota Motor Corporation, to encourage it – I think it will increase (sales).

“It’ll increase the awareness (of hybrid), because at the moment everybody is talking about diesel.” The new wave of luxury hybrid SUVs will go head-to-head with the new-generation RX450h, which makes its European debut at the Geneva motor show this week ahead an Australian arrival mid-year.

Ahead of its Geneva preview, Lexus revealed that “extensive revisions” to its petrol-electric all-wheel drive system - including the fitment of a 10 per cent more powerful 220kW version of the 3.5-litre V6 found in the Aurion, Kluger and RAV4 - have helped make the RX450h's CO2 emissions lower than any other competitor in the “premium crossover class, including the best-performing diesels”.

While the Australian version will be slightly up on the European model in terms of both exhaust emissions and fuel economy, the RX450h will still be super-efficient with a CO2 output of 150g/km and average fuel economy of 6.4L/100km.

Despite its ability to sprint to 100km/h in a claimed 7.8 seconds - making it quicker than many V8 SUVs - the RX450h is therefore 23 per cent more efficient than the RX400h it replaces.

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