Auto blogThu, 12 Jun 2014 11:31:00 EST
Lexus is ramping up to launch its NX luxury compact crossover. Its international website just launched a teaser page for the CUV that shows off the available models and some nifty new photos of the upcoming vehicle on location. The site also includes an early configurator to allow potential customers to imagine their future NX.
Unfortunately, the configurator is quite bare bones at the moment. It only allows users to choose from 4 trims, 10 colors and 3 wheel designs. You can't do anything to the interior, and there are no options. Pricing is still a mystery as well.
We do know that in the US the NX is offered with either the company's new 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged engine with a six-speed automatic or a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain. The F Sport package is also available with either engine for a dash more sport in your crossover.
Think the only challengers for the title of best-selling luxury brand hail from der Vaterland? Wrong. Lexus outsold the likes of Mercedes-Benz for the second time in 2014 last month. In fact, the Japanese luxury marque's total sales this year are a mere 12,000 units behind BMW.
Lexus was able to move 26,921 vehicles last month, a year-over-year increase of 21.1 percent, respectively. Mercedes, meanwhile, was just barely beaten, moving 26,617 units in April. The difference, though, is that Lexus has made far bigger year-over-year gains than Mercedes, which recorded a YOY increase of just 4.13 percent.
This is particularly troubling for the Germans, as it marks a return to form for Lexus that we haven't seen since before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that decimated Japan. Prior to that natural disaster, Lexus enjoyed nearly a dozen years at the top of the luxury heap.
It feels like there is a secret law in Germany mandating that every domestic automaker there must offer at least one model with a four-door coupe bodystyle like the BMW Gran Coupes, Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7. Several of the German brands even have the swoopy sedans in multiple sizes. So far, Lexus has stayed out of that fray, but maybe not for long, if a recently spotted test car makes it to market.
The brand is known to be testing a highly styled four-door coupe, roughly the size of the GS, under heavy camouflage. Little is known about the new model at the moment, but its existence makes sense. If it really wants to take the on Germans, Lexus is going to have to fight them toe-to-toe with competing models - especially with ones understood to have high margins.
Pictured above is a rendering from artist Theophilus Chin imagining a slightly smaller take on the genre based on the RC coupe, which he calls the RC GT. His design leaves the original shape almost untouched, but shortens the front doors to allow room for a rear doors under the arching roof. His GT would be aimed more against the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and rumored Mercedes-Benz C-Class four-door coupe, rather than the larger models Lexus actually appears to be targeting with its vehicle under development. His concept certainly nails the look, though, and while it might not have a basis in reality, we thought that it's well-resolved enough that you'd want to take a look, if only as a "what could've been" flight of fancy.
The year of the recall continues, but this time it isn't from General Motors. Toyota is announcing two, separate recalls affecting a pair of its models.
First, Toyota is recalling 370,000 Sienna minivans from the 2004 to 2011 model years that are registered or originally sold in cold-weather states. The problem is that the spare tire carrier assembly cable can be splashed by water contaminated with road salt and cause corrosion. There is a splashguard in place to prevent this, but it sometimes gets lost in "normal usage," according to the company. If the cable does break, then "the spare tire may separate from the vehicle."
This is actually the second repair for this problem for some of these vehicles. In 2010, Toyota issued a recall on 600,000 Siennas from the 1998 to 2010 model years. At the time, it installed a new splashguard and sprayed the area with an anti-rust chemical. However, according to Toyota spokesperson John Hanson speaking to Autoblog, the campaign worked for the 1998 to 2003 models but wasn't sufficient for the newer ones. For the latest recall, the vehicles are getting the entire cable replaced with a stainless steel unit and a new splashguard.
Flip through the catalog for most Lexus models and you're bound to see an array of different shades of beige and gray. But even Lexus has its wilder side, denoted by the letter F, and those models can wear brighter hues.
The IS F, for example, offered an electric shade of blue which Lexus called Ultrasonic and a deep red called Matador, along with the usual silver, gray, white and black. But for the new RC F, Lexus is preparing to offer an even more vibrant shade of orange. It just doesn't know what to call it. That's why it's asking fans on Facebook to help it name the color - similar to the crowd-sourcing SRT did for the Viper's bright blue and Chevy did for the Volt's pale green.
Top suggestions currently include Tangerine Flame, Solar Flare, Outrageous Orange and Fiery Orange. Given how similar the shade looks to that which adorned the track-tuned LFA with the Nürburgring package, we can't help but wonder if LFA Blaze or Nordschleife Blur might not be more suitable. Or, if we're being honest, McLaren Orange or Arancia Borealis... though we know some guys in Woking and Sant'Agata Bolognese who might object.
One of the more popular trends in the auto industry is setting up production operations in China. Mainstream manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have done it, and even luxury marques like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have or will soon have manufacturing ops in the People's Republic.
One company that isn't building cars in China, though, is Lexus. The Toyota-owned luxury brand still manufactures all of its vehicles in Japan (aside from a few RXs, which are built at a Toyota factory in Canada). According to Tokuo Fukuichi, Lexus just isn't ready to build cars there yet.
"The German Three have a brand image that they have cultivated over the past century in their long history, but Lexus is not in people's minds like that yet," Fukuichi-san told Reuters UK.
The Lexus LX SUV is a very muscular, old-school vehicle. Based on the Toyota Land Cruiser, it's still a big, body-on-frame SUV, but inside it offers acres of leather and luxury tech. The brand's Kuwaiti distributor is taking it machismo even further for the local market with the new LX 570 Supercharger.
As the name suggests, the upgraded SUV grafts a supercharger onto the LX 570's 5.7-liter V8 to boost it to 450 horsepower, from 383 hp in the naturally aspirated version in the US (or 362 hp in the standard Kuwaiti version), and it uses the same six-speed automatic as the standard model. To signal the improved strength, much of exterior chrome is replaced with black trim. It also wears special 20-inch wheels and a rear spoiler. The interior is fitted with crimson leather seats and red-accented carpet. It also gets an aluminum sill plate that says "Supercharger." Like the standard Kuwait-spec LX 570, it has two fuel tanks with a total combined capacity of 36.46 gallons, which should help satiate the likely thirsty, forced-induction V8.
The LX 570 Supercharger won't be rumbling down streets outside of the Middle East, though. According to Lexus spokesperson Bill Kwong, this is a project by the distributor in the region. The supercharged engine also has "issues with emissions" in the US, especially in California, he told Autoblog. Too bad, it would be an interesting Range Rover alternative.
In case you're thinking, "But Lexus already has a seven-seat crossover in the GX 460," that's actually a proper SUV - the body-on-frame kind with the massive footprint and floaty handling. A report in Automotive News says that Lexus is trying to figure out how to produce a true crossover with space for seven humans, with the options narrowed down to growing the RX (pictured) or sorting out a brand new model.
How badly does the brand want it? Its chief told AN that another row is first on the list of dealer requests, that the offering could be worth 35,000 more sales per year and they don't care if it eats into five-seater RX sales - "We want it." But hey, when 40 percent of monthly sales are made up of the RX, and Lexus moved more than 103,000 of them in 2013, it's understandable that the company wouldn't mind risking a small hit for the chance to increase sales by a third of their current levels.
Toyota applied to trademark the name TX and that's already been mooted in reports as a replacement for the GX, said to end its life in 2016. The latest report, however, suggests that the GX might not go away since it's "highly profitable for the automaker, even at low volumes," and that "TX coding could merely be for a seven-seat variant of the RX 350." AN also wonders if this larger hauler would stay on the recently lengthened Toyota Highlander platform, which offers meager third-row seating, or switch to the rear-wheel-drive platform used by the IS and GS for tauter responsiveness. With Lexus saying it will be at least two years before it could be brought to market, we have a while to wait yet to find out.
The idea of the Lexus CT 200h F Sport intrigues me. A compact, premium, efficient hatchback with an added dose of sportiness? Sign me up. It's why I'm still crossing my fingers for Volkswagen to sell the Golf GTD on our shores (though recent reports on that front are bumming me out). And judging a book by its cover, this Lexus certainly looks like it could be an interesting proposition.
Lexus first launched the CT for the 2011 model year, and for 2014, the little hatch has been given a makeover, now proudly wearing the company's new spindle grille, for better or worse. When we reviewed the CT after its launch, executive editor Chris Paukert called it "handsome, well screwed together," and "one of Toyota's boldest offerings in years." That may have been true, but after a slight makeover and some fresh new F Sport duds, I'm wondering if the CT proposition isn't looking a little more unfortunate than before.
"All show, no go." That's how I described the 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport that you see above, when I reviewed it back in November. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about the new IS, but the 204-horsepower, 2.5-liter V6 in the IS 250 is not on that list. In my review, I suggested that Lexus ought to get on the bandwagon of offering a small-displacement, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine in its base IS (like its rivals), and now the folks at Motor Trend are furthering that discussion.
Lexus pulled the wraps off its new NX 200t crossover at the Beijing show recently, and it'll be the first vehicle in the company's lineup to use a brand-new - you guessed it - 2.0-liter turbo-four. With 238 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on tap, that represents a healthy increase over the 204 hp and anemic 185 lb-ft currently being offered with the 2.5-liter V6, and we imagine the fuel economy gains will be rather significant, too. For comparison, the Lexus' four-pot power numbers are very close to the 240 hp and 255 lb-ft offered in the same-sized engine that BMW uses in the 328i.
Motor Trend also posits that Lexus may consider changing the base IS' name from 250 to 200, or perhaps 200t, to properly reflect the new engine's displacement. Of course, that's assuming Lexus doesn't pull a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and no longer has its alphanumeric names properly reflect the size of the powerplant found underhood.