UX concept shows the general outline of a future SUV below the NX

UX concept shows the general outline of a future SUV below the NX

The second feature in a series which looks at the future models of brands under the Toyota Motor Corporation umbrella is all about Lexus. This follows part one, which concerned Daihatsu, and will be followed by features on the next generation of Toyota cars and light trucks.

Major markets

The brand has steadily become ever more popular in Japan, its sales over the nine months to the end of September being 30,957 units.

Many are surprised to learn that Lexus' global sales spread is as wide as it is. The brand has steadily become ever more popular in Japan, its sales over the nine months to the end of September being 30,957 units. Compared to the 51,083 registrations for the number one premium make, Mercedes, this is obviously not a great result, but there again Lexus doesn't have the model range and powertrain choices to compete equally with the German big three. BMW (38,832) is also ahead of the Japanese brand, but Lexus now easily outsells Audi (20,916) due in part to the brand's role in the Volkswagen Group's emissions cheating scandal.

Lexus has had many ups and downs in Europe and this pattern continues. Where once the main issue was a lack of diesel engines, now it's really just brand awareness and many people simply not understanding what a hybrid is, the presumption often being that you have to plug the vehicle in. Sales for the year to the end of September are flat, with Lexus' market share being just point three of a percent. In pure numbers that's 34,460 vehicles compared to 34,606 for the same period of 2016.

Comprehensive data for China isn't available for the entire nine months to 30 September, only the half year period. A Lexus vehicle was the local market's top selling import in June (4,872), the RX was number five (2,565) and the NX took the final position in the top ten (2,141). Even with the brand doing around 100,000 units a year, Toyota still either doesn't want to build Lexus vehicles locally or else cannot get either of its JV partners - FAW and GAC - to agree to the right terms.

Things continue to be good for the brand in North America, with Lexus selling some 18,000 vehicles in Canada (quite a way behind Mercedes, BMW and Audi) for the year to date and 219,659 in the US. The top seller in the brand's number one market continues to be the RX (75,880), and this is followed by the NX (41,987), ES (39,075), GX (19,343), IS (19,275), GS (5,560), RC (5,023) CT (4,663), LX (4,051), LS (3,102) and LC (1,698).

Cars

Even though Lexus' smallest model is now seven years old, it still has a year or two to run. The CT C segment hatchback, has only ever been available as a hybrid, something which continues to limit its sales potential. Toyota says the car is capable of running in EV mode for up to 1.2 miles at speeds not exceeding 28mph.

The CT 200h had its global debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2010. It entered production in late 2010 and was launched in Japan in January 2011, with sales in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia/NZ following two months later. The North American-spec car (2012MY) also premiered at the New York motor show in March 2011.

The car is effectively a rebodying of Toyota Europe's first generation Auris Hybrid. A concept version, the LF-Ch, had its world premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2009. The concept used the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor powertrain as the Auris Hybrid. The production model has the same system.

Toyota Motor Sales USA will drop the CT at the end of North America's 2017 model year.

A facelifted CT 200h had its world premiere at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2013. A second facelift for the CT was announced by Toyota in June. Its motor show debut took place two months later in Chengdu and sales are now underway worldwide, with one exception: Toyota Motor Sales USA dropped the CT at the end of North America's 2017 model year.

The CT replacement is due for release in 2019. Its platform will be TNGA-K, and it is likely to be offered as both a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan. The latter is considered to be needed in the US, and should be useful for the Chinese market too. A non-hybrid powertrain might also be offered. This could be the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine from the NX 300.

The HS is one of Lexus' lesser known models. This sedan had its world premiere at the Detroit motor show in January 2009. It was the world's first premium brand hybrid-only model but it failed to do well in the key US market and was withdrawn from there during 2012. Now, it's mainly available in Japan. The HS 250h is based on the third generation Toyota Prius and as such, its batteries are of the nickel-metal hydride variety, not the more advanced lithium-ion type.

The HS went on sale in Japan in July 2009 and then two months later, in Canada and the USA. Possibly because its styling was so similar to that of the Toyota Avensis sedan, the HS 250h is not sold in Europe. Meanwhile, a related model, the Toyota Sai, was released in Japan in October 2009. The HS 250h isn't expected to have a direct replacement. Production will likely end within the next six months.

While the HS is front-wheel drive, the IS, which is around the same size, has always been a RWD model. For the present generation, it comes only as a sedan.

The third generation IS had its world premiere at the Detroit motor show in January 2013. It was launched as the IS 250 (152kW/204hp 2.5-litre V6, engine codename: 4GR-FSE) and/or IS 350. There is also a hybrid derivative, the IS 300h.

Japan was the first market for the current generation IS sedan. It went on sale there in May 2013. The IS hybrid followed soon after.

Lexus announced the IS 200t to the media in June 2015. It became available to order in relevant countries from September 2015. Powering it is the same 8AR-FTS 1,998cc four-cylinder petrol turbo as features under the bonnet of the NX 200t and RX 200t. Obviously in the case of the IS sedan it is instead mounted north-south. The IS 200t replaced the IS 250 in some markets. Power is 180kW and torque is 350Nm. Drive is to the rear wheels only via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The addition of the 200t was the main news for North America's 2016 model year IS range. A facelifted IS premiered at the Beijing motor show in April 2016. North America's 2017 model year car has the styling update. No more changes are expected.

Job #1 at the Tahara plant in Japan for the next IS sedan is set for July 2020, sources claim.

Due to potential sales in European markets, there may be a return to offering a wagon bodystyle for the fourth generation IS. A five-door hatchback to challenge the Audi A5 Sportback is another possibility. One or both of these would be in addition to a successor for the sedan. Job #1 at the Tahara plant in Japan is set for July 2020, sources claim. The platform will be TNGA-L, which is RWD and AWD.

The current ES, which is similar in size to the Toyota Avalon sedan, had its global debut at the New York auto show in April 2012. In North America, the only variant, apart from the hybrid ES 300h, is the ES 350, which is front-wheel drive and powered by a 3.5-litre V6. Unlike the previous ES, the latest model is built in RHD form.

The US is the car's main regional market but Lexus Europe also sells the ES and ES 300h in three of its markets: Russia, Ukraine & Kazakhstan. The car is offered in South Korea, Brazil, the Middle East and Australia too. It was also launched in China in July 2012 as the ES 250 and ES 350 (no hybrid).

Toyota would build the ES 350 at its Georgetown plant in Kentucky (TMK) from "summer 2015" at the rate of 50,000 cars a year, the company announced in April 2013. Production got underway in October 2015. TMK continues to produce the ES 250, ES 300h and ES 350.

A facelifted ES had its world premiere at April 2015's Shanghai motor show. The ES 250, ES 300h and ES 350 were all updated, while the ES 200 was added as a new derivative. This is powered by the same (non-turbo) direct injection 2.0-litre petrol engine that powers the NX 200. The ES 200 is sold in China, Russia and Taiwan.

In spite of being purely an importer, Lexus sells on average around 10,000 vehicles a month in China.

China overtook the USA as the ES' number one market during the first half of CY2017. In spite of being purely an importer, Lexus sells on average around 10,000 vehicles a month in the PRC with the ES being its number one vehicle during the first half of 2017.

The GS, the 4,850mm long sedan which sits above the IS and ES and below the LS, is a curious model. Curious in that it really ought to sell well but never has done.

The styling of this, the fourth generation model, was previewed by the LF-Gh concept at the New York auto show in April 2011. The production model had its global premiere in GS 350 form at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August 2011.

Japan was the first market for the GS. It went on sale there in February 2012, available with 2.5-litre V6 (GS 250) and 3.5-litre V6 (GS 350) engines as well as the petrol-electric hybrid GS 450h. The GS 250 was subsequently replaced by the GS 200t.

In an interesting move, Toyota did not, at launch, replace the V8 engine that was available in the previous two generations of the Lexus GS. In the US, for example, only 10% of sales of the old-shape car were of the V8-powered GS 460. However, the GS F, the fastest GS yet, had its world premiere at the Detroit auto show in January 2015. It is powered by a 368kW 5.0-litre V8 engine. The styling of this rare car also previewed a facelifted GS range. This had its global debut in August 2015 at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance/Monterey Week. The GS F went on sale in Japan, its first market, in November 2015.

A GS 200t was a new variant for North America's 2016 model year. It is powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engine as in the IS 200t.

Production of the GS series shifted from the Tahara plant in central Japan to the nearby Motomachi plant in August 2014.

The GS 450h, the hybrid version of the GS sedan, had its global debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2011. The car's chief engineer, Yoshihiko Kanamori, told just-auto in June 2012 that the car brought with it a new platform ('N'). The engine, however, is an evolution of that in the previous generation model. This is a 213kW (290hp) 3.5-litre petrol V6 and there are two electric motors. The batteries use nickel-metal hybride chemistry, and Toyota Motor Europe quotes the CO2 number as 145g/km. The car's transmission, meanwhile, is an e-CVT.

Japan and the USA were the first countries to offer the GS 450h, sales commencing in March 2012. Cars for Europe and other regions followed from the second quarter of 2012.

A smaller-engined GS hybrid would be launched during 2013, just-auto was also told by Lexus GB in June 2012. This was expected to be powered by the engine from the Lexus LF-CC concept, which premiered at the Paris motor show in September 2012. This was a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, with one electric motor.

The GS 300h had its global debut at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013. This car does indeed have a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, as had been suspected. Its global roll out began in October 2013. It is sold in Europe, Japan, China, certain other markets in Asia, plus Australia and New Zealand.

For North America's 2015 model year, the GS 450h gained 18" wheels as standard and a new infotainment display. There was also a new F Sport variant. The 2016 model year GS 450h was facelifted. The car was carried over for the 2017 model year.

The GS will reportedly be reinvented with the look of a four-door coupe, in the style of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class.

Lexus is or had been expected to drop the GS in 2018 due to the car's low sales worldwide. However, there have been rumours that a development programme - 300B - has been restarted and that a GS replacement is now due to enter production in April 2019. It will reportedly be reinvented with the look of a four-door coupe, in the style of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class.

The basic shape of the RC, a 4,695mm long coupe, was previewed by the LF-CC concept at the Paris motor show in September 2012. This car saw the first application of Toyota's 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid powertrain in a rear-wheel drive configuration.

The RC Coupe is intended to be a rival for the BMW 4 Series. It was previewed at the Tokyo motor show in November 2013. The RC 350 Coupe and RC 300h Coupe were the first cars to be shown. The hybrid is sold mainly in Japan.

Another version, the RC F, is a challenger for the BMW M4 Coupe. Its engine is a 5.0-litre V8. The RC F had its global debut in January 2014 at the Detroit auto show. The RC 350 F Sport premiered at the Geneva motor show in March 2014. It has the same engine as the RC 350 but some interior changes, as well as a bodykit. The RC and RC F went on sale in Japan in October 2014.

The RC 200t was added during 2015. It was powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. The RC 200t and the RC 300h AWD were new for North America's 2016 model year. The RC 200t changes names for North America's 2018 model year but there is some confusion over this and other variants' latest badging. The RC 200t became the RC 300 but this is odd as there was already an RC 300. The latter was powered by a 255hp version of Toyota's 3,456cc V6. So too was the RC 350 but that variant's power had been 306hp (now 311hp).

The US importer's 2018 model year RC range is as follows:

  • RC 300 RWD: 241hp, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with eight-speed automatic transmission
  • RC 300 AWD: 260hp 3.5-litre V6 and six-speed automatic transmission
  • RC 350 RWD: 311hp 3.5-litre V6 and eight-speed Sports Program Direct Shift (SPDS) transmission
  • RC 350 AWD: 311hp 3.5-litre V6 and six-speed automatic transmission.

A convertible had reportedly been under consideration by Toyota but now seems unlikely to be launched. Such a vehicle was hinted at by the Lexus LF-C2 concept at the LA auto show in October 2014. This gold-painted roadster was the same width as the RC Coupe and 20mm longer (Toyota's own figures for the concept were 4,715mm x 1,840mm x 1,385mm).

The next generation RC is due out in the second half of 2021. It will use the GA-L architecture.

A facelift for the RC should be released during 2018. The next generation RC is due out in the second half of 2021. It will use the GA-L architecture.

Production of the new LS begins in a few weeks' time. A prototype of the fifth generation of this big sedan had its world premiere as a concept at October 2015's Tokyo motor show. The production model was revealed in January at the Detroit auto show.

The new LS uses the same platform as was introduced by the LC 500 and also has the Aisin-supplied 10-speed automatic gearbox which first featured in the LC 500. A 3.5-litre biturbo petrol/gasoline V6 is a new engine for the LS and replaces the previous model's V8. This produces 310kW (415hp). This car is badged LS 500 even though its two-door equivalent, the LC 500, has a different engine: a 5.0-litre V8. The LS 500h, a petrol-electric hybrid, had its world premiere at the Geneva motor show in March 2017. It too, is powered by a 3.5-litre V6, but this is a different engine.

The new model is longer and lower than the fourth generation car, while at 3,125mm, the wheelbase is 35mm lengthier than that of the outgoing LS long wheelbase model. The overall length of 5,235mm means this huge car is available in just the one body style.

TMC is also expected to build a hydrogen version of the LS. Such a car was previewed by the LF-FC concept. The Lexus LS fuel cell is said to be part of a range of cars which the firm wants to have ready to showcase in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Its on sale date for Japan and the USA is expected to be in 2020.

All versions of the LS will be manufactured at the Tahara plant in Aichi prefecture. US sales will not commence until February. The outgoing LS had an especially long life (more than 11 years) but the new car should only be built for seven or eight years, which would mean a facelift in 2021.

The LF-LC concept at January 2012's Detroit auto show previewed the LC. This big coupe is the effective two-door version of the fifth generation LS, thus the model name.

The production model had its world premiere at the Detroit auto show in January 2016. It is intended to be a rival for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. The LC, which is 4,760mm long, was the first vehicle for Toyota's RWD/AWD GA-L architecture. The LC 500 is powered by a 467hp 5.0-litre V8 and was the world's first car to be fitted with Aisin Seiki's 10-speed automatic transmission. Drive is to the rear wheels only. The engine code is 2UR-GSE.

In contrast to the ten-speed torque converter automatic in the LC 500, the LC 500h has a CVT with semi-manual shifting.

The LC 500h, which has a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, had its world premiere at the 2016 Geneva motor show, two months after the LC 500's debut at the Detroit show. In contrast to the ten-speed torque converter automatic in the LC 500, the hybrid derivative has a four-speed automatic gearbox with a semi-manual shifting system. Lexus says the car has what it terms a Multi Stage Hybrid System. The 8GR-FXS petrol engine is a 3.5-litre V6 and there is one electric motor as well as the lithium ion battery.

Koji Sato, the LC series' chief engineer, told the media in March 2016 that the LC 500h has a CVT with two electric motors. These are paired with the four-speed automatic transmission which in turn modulates the output of the CVT. Under acceleration, the transmission is able to simulate an extra six shifts as well as the four shifts of the automatic gearbox. The effect is said to be seamless, making the driver believe there are in fact ten ratios.

Aluminium is used for the bonnet/hood, front wings/fenders, door skins and front suspension's strut towers of the LC. The car's basic platform is carbon fibre and the roof can also be specified in this material at extra cost. Carbon fibre, combined with fibreglass, meanwhile, is used for the boot lid/trunk lid.

The first deliveries of the LC commenced in November 2016. Cars for Japan became available in March, followed by the USA three months later. In EU and EFTA countries, 80-90 per cent of cars are expected to be the LC 500. Deliveries to European dealers commenced in July.

All-wheel drive, a convertible and an LC F should follow in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.

All-wheel drive, a convertible and an LC F should follow in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively. A facelift should then take place in 2020. The life cycle should be eight years.

SUVs

A rival for the Audi Q2 seems likely after Lexus showed a design study for an SUV in this size class at the 2016 Paris motor show (see image). The UX concept had only two doors but a possible production model for the segment would naturally have the same body style as the Q2. Production should commence in 2019. Toyota has reportedly filed patent applications for the following variant names: UX 200, UX 250 and UX 250h.

Lexus is said to be staying away from PHEVs and instead planning to offer electric vehicles, hybrids and in higher price brackets, hydrogen fuel cell powertrains. That being the case, a fully electric UX may be added to the line-up in 2021 or 2021.

The current smallest Lexus SUV is 715X, the first generation NX. This SUV shares much, including the wheelbase dimension, with the fourth generation Toyota RAV4. It is 4,630mm long, 1,845mm wide and 1,630mm high (1,645mm with shark's fin antenna). The NX competes globally with the Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 and others in that class.

The NX had its global debut in April 2014 at the Beijing motor show. The launch versions were the NX 200, NX 200t (2.0-litre petrol turbo) and NX 300h (petrol-electric hybrid). Depending on the market, all three were originally available with front- or all-wheel drive. There is also an F Sport variant. This has a unique grille, lower front bumper, specific alloy wheel designs, sports seats and bespoke interior trims.

The direct-injection 1,998cc turbo engine - 8AR-FTS - has what was the world-first (as at April 2014) combination of a cylinder head with an integrated water-cooled exhaust manifold and a twin scroll turbocharger. There was also a new six-speed automatic transmission for this engine. The 2.0-litre turbo NX was the first Lexus to be fitted with an idling-stop system. The 8AR-FTS engine produces a claimed 175kW/238PS and 350Nm.

The hybrid NX is powered by Toyota's 2AR-FXE 2,493cc four-cylinder petrol engine, plus one electric motor. System power is a claimed 145kW and the standard transmission is an E-CVT.

The NX 200t and NX 300h went on sale in Japan in July 2014. New for North America's 2015 model year, the NX went on sale there from October 2014. All versions of the NX are manufactured at Toyota Motor Kyushu's Miyata plant. Production commenced in August 2014.

A facelifted NX had its world premiere at April 2017's Shanghai motor show. This is North America's 2018 model year NX. As well as the styling changes, this was the first Lexus to drop the t suffix: the former NX 200t became the NX 300.

The second generation NX, 600X, is due to enter production at Toyota Motor Kyushu's Miyata plant in July 2020.

The second generation NX, 600X, is due to enter production at Toyota Motor Kyushu's Miyata plant in July 2020. Its architecture will be (TN)GA-C. There should again be four-cylinder gasoline and gasoline-electric powertrains, as well as front- and all-wheel drive variants. There might also be an EV variant.

The fourth generation RX is again manufactured in Japan and Canada. The V6-engined RX 350 and RX 450h had their world premieres at April 2015's New York auto show, followed a few days later by the debut of the RX 200t at the Shanghai motor show. The latter is powered by a 170kW (228hp) 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine. The launch range for North America consisted of the (2016 model year) RX 350 and the RX 450h. Each has an output of 300hp.

Long-wheelbase seven-seat versions of the RX are due to become available in late 2017. These will reportedly be sold mostly in North America. The model names are expected to be RX 350L and RX 450hL. Expect these to premiere at the LA auto show at the end of November.

The next RX, which is codenamed 760X, should again be built in Canada and Japan. There will be standard and long-wheelbase bodies, and there will probably also be a plug-in hybrid or even a fully electric variant. The fifth generation model should become available from the final quarter of 2021.

Along with the HS sedan, the GX, a body-on-frame 4x4, is one of Lexus' oldest models. The world premiere of the current shape GX took place at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2009.

Just as was the case for the previous GX, this five-door SUV and the Toyota Land Cruiser/Prado are more or less the same basic vehicle. The only available engine is a 301hp 4.6-litre V8 and the only model variant a five-door GX 460.

Because of the live rear axle, the rear-most seats of the former GX 470 would not fold flat, something Toyota addressed in the current shape (seven-seat) GX by raising the floor some three inches. Another novelty for this GX is an opening window in the tailgate.

There should be another facelift in early 2018 and a new GX in 2020. This will be twinned with the next Land Cruiser Prado.

A facelifted GX was announced by Toyota Motor Sales USA in August 2014. This, the 2014 model year GX 460, went on sale in the US and Canada from the following months. There should be another facelift in early 2018 and a new GX in 2020. That will again be twinned with the next Land Cruiser Prado.

The LX, Lexus' largest SUV, is sold mostly in North America, Australia, Russia, the Middle East, Japan and certain other countries in Asia. It replaced the Land Cruiser-based LX 470, debuting at the New York motor show in April 2007 before going on sale in North America in early 2008.

In many markets, the sole engine is a 283kW (381hp) 5.7-litre V8 and the standard transmission was originally a six speed auto. The wheelbase did not change and the vehicle itself, though four inches longer and an inch wider, uses the same platform as the LX 470 that it replaced. The right hand drive premiere was at the Sydney motor show in October 2007, with the LX 570 going on sale in Australia in early 2008.

A facelift for the LX had its global debut at the Detroit auto show in January 2012. The LX 570 Supercharger, a special edition model for the Middle East, was the next news. It was launched in Kuwait in April 2014. Thanks to forced induction, the standard 286kW (383hp) 5.7-litre V8 instead produces 335kW (450hp).

There was a second facelift for North America's 2016 model year, which could be described as dramatic. This had its world premiere at August 2015's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. As well as the restyle, an eight-speed automatic gearbox replaced the six-speed transmission and power of the 5.7-litre 3UR-FE engine rose slightly to 383hp. The LX went on sale in Japan for the first time in September 2015. Also in 2015, Lexus launched the LX 450d in certain markets, such as South Africa, Russia and New Zealand. It is powered by a 4.5-litre biturbo V8.

The LX 570 Superior is a variant with a blacked out grille and other changes. It went on sale in Russia in July (2017), followed a month later by its motor show debut in Chengdu. This might well be the last news for the current model before the arrival of the next LX in 2019. It should again be twinned with the replacement for the Toyota Land Cruiser and the production plant will more than likely be Yoshiwara, which is owned by Toyota Auto Body.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

Additional data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans, such as code names, production plants and expected annual build, are available in PLDB from QUBE.

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