Lexus has added a front-wheel drive (FWD) version of its to the hybrid RX 400h SUV model line it sells in the United States.

The all-wheel drive (AWD) model has been on sale in the US since last April and was also launched in Europe a few months ago.

Many domestic and foreign SUVs sold in the US are offered with the choice of front- or all-wheel drive as most are used on-road and there is little need in any case for four-wheel drive in the sunny southern 'sun belt states' where snow and mud are rarely encountered by most owners.

"Consumers in certain parts of the country, mostly in southern markets, told us they don't need the added handling benefits of all-wheel drive and would be more inclined to consider a front-drive hybrid-powered version of the RX," said Lexus US group vice president and general manager Bob Carter.

Like the AWD version, the RX 400h FWD carries the EPA's Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) certification.

Retail price is US$44,660. Production began on November 1 vehicles should arrive at dealerships in late December.

Responding to early customer feedback on standard equipment levels of the RX 400h AWD, the DVD navigation system with rear back-up camera is now an option. As a result, the base price is now $2,350 lower at $46,060 from November production.

Nissan, Honda, Toyota and Hyundai have all tried offering FWD models of some of their popular SUVs alongside 4WD versions here in the UK, but results have been mixed - Toyota dropped its 2WD Rav4 model due to low demand.