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Auto blogFri, 21 Jun 2013
To the untrained eye, these photos might not look like anything more than a Lexus CT 200h undergoing testing, but what we really have here is something pretty significant. According to our spies, this is actually a mule that gives us our first glimpse at the upcoming Lexus NX crossover, a smaller vehicle that will slot below the RX in the automaker's CUV portfolio - presently only one vehicle.
Look closely, and you'll note that this mule has a much higher ride height than the normal CT hybrid hatchback. The upgraded wheels with crossover-spec tires are another dead giveaway that something more robust is being tested in this CT's shell.
Late last year, we learned that Lexus had reportedly trademarked the names "NX 200t" and "NX 300h," which provided a glimpse into the powertrain offerings for the new CUV. Lexus will finally make use of turbocharged power with this new NX - a 2.0-liter turbo-four fitting of the 200t nomenclature. A hybrid variant will almost certainly be available - the 300h - probably using the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor combination found in the ES 300h. Our spies report that a naturally aspirated, four-cylider version should also be available.
Lexus has had a minor success on its hands with the CT200h, a funky, five-door, sport-luxury hybrid that burst onto the scene in 2011, and managed just over 17,000 US sales in 2012. Worked out to a monthly average, that's nearly 50 percent more units per month than Lexus initially targeted when the car went on sale.
Though it's done well, the CT has been left behind while designers and engineers have reworked the rest of the Lexus lineup, bringing out fully revamped versions of the GS, IS and LS over the past few years. According to a report from Down Under, though, the little CT will get some attention soon.
Speaking to Sean Hanley, boss of Lexus Australia, Aussie site The Motor Report picked up a telling quote about the execs affections for the CT, when he said, "We see the CT200h as our greatest opportunity." Hanley added that a refresh of the CT could happen early in 2014, while a clean-sheet reworking would happen around 2016.
On the sidelines of a press drive for the 2014 Lexus IS, the company's vice president of marketing in the US told Ward's Auto that the honchos in Japan have approved the Lexus LF-LC concept for production. He wouldn't offer any other details on how the luxury coupe might be transformed into a vehicle for the buying masses, and that has led to a bag full of speculation.
The show car was hybrid-powered and rear-wheel drive, a beautifully executed stab by Toyota designers in Newport Beach at redefining Lexus, but even with the concept, the point was to keep it "within reach for premium buyers." The report says the odds are on limited production and higher pricing than Lexus' "mainstream products," and other sites have speculated on what kind of powertrain it might end up in showrooms with.
GT Channel posits that the LF-LC will be the inspiration for a coupe in the Lexus LS price bracket with a choice of either the 4.2-liter V8 or the hybrid powertrain from the LS 600h, further speculating it will be called LC 550 and cost more than $100,000. It then says that there would be another coupe created beneath that one to replace the SC 430. Lexus Enthusiast, however, calls those "warmed-over rumors" and says that the marque probably won't deviate from its engine-capacity-naming scheme - labeling a car with a 4.2-liter V8 an LC 550. Nor does it think Lexus will use the letters LC after the company has trademarked "RC" in the US and Australia.