WHAT: This is the new premium-compact crossover from Lexus — in show-car duds. The LF-NX concept predicts the upscale “urban-centric” SUV that’ll slot below the popular midsize RX in Lexus’s lineup. Unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, this five-seater is based on the structure of the Toyota RAV4. But its styling themes lift the curtain on the aggressive look of future vehicles from Toyota’s luxury division. In evidence is the controversial “spindle grille” already seen on Lexus’s latest models. This concept’s bold body, however, suggests an even wilder overall design language in the works. Inside, cabin shapes and materials complement the highly sculpted exterior and include carved metal surfacing and multi-tone leather upholstery. Underhood, the forecast is for hybrid power, courtesy of a gas four-cylinder engine and electric-motor system similar to that found in the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The difference here is that the production version of the LF-NX will come in a choice of front- and all-wheel drive. Toyota’s also working on a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and it may be available in addition to the hybrid in the new Lexus SUV.
WHEN: Probably during 2014 as a 2015 model.
WHY: Lexus needs an entry in the expanding premium-compact-crossover class. Every upscale competitor has one. It’s a profitable segment that includes – in order of U.S. sales volume — the Cadillac SRX, Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Buick Encore, and BMW X3. Add to those the Range Rover Evoque and the coming Porsche Macan, plus a likely Jaguar entry, and it’s clear Lexus is already late to the party. Interestingly, most of these premium-compact crossovers have no direct links to non-luxury corporate cousins. An exception is Acura’s RDX, which is based on the Honda CR-V. Expect Lexus to do all it can to disguise the LF-NX’s RAV4 roots.
HOW MUCH: Lexus likes to set base prices slightly below those of direct competitors. So look for the LX-FS to start under $40,000. How far under depends on Lexus’s ability to offset the expense of the hybrid system; every rival uses a less costly conventional powertrain. Lexus also likes to offer tempting but pricey options. Don’t be shocked at a near-$60,000 sticker on a loaded LX-FS.