One of the most exciting vehicles at the 2004 UK Sunday Times Motorshow was
the Lexus RX400h.
Once again, Lexus are setting the standard, this time in
the large SUV market. Lexus have recognised that one of the major
problems with vehicles in this sector is their excessive fuel consumption,
and the intolerable demands that that places on our environment. Their
solution was simple - build on the expertise gained in the hybrid vehicle
market by their parent company Toyota, and invent something new and radical
- the Hybrid SUV.
First shown at the Geneva Motor show in 2004, the RX400h
isn't simply a concept vehicle - much as it might appear to be. The
3.3 litre V6 engine produces 150kW of power (equivalent to 200 hp) and the
electric motors combine to produce 200kW (equivalent to 270 hp). All
this is delivered to the wheels through a CVT (Continuously Variable
Transmission) which allows the vehicle to reach 62mph in just 8.0
seconds. And yet this super SUV is expected to have a CO2 rating that
is equivalent to the family saloon car. As of early 2005 Lexus will be
offering you a large luxury SUV that doesn't cost the earth (though do
expect to dig deep into your pockets to buy one).
Many will wonder what the point is - why not just buy a
diesel Yaris or a hybrid Prius, save a lot of money and still be kind to the
planet. But the fact is that many people want to, or maybe even need
to, drive a large luxury vehicle. The Yaris or the hybrid Prius wasn't
going to get them out of their SUV, but the RX400h might just let them enjoy
their 4x4 motoring without so much worry about the damage that they might be
doing to the environment.
Best of all for Lexus is the fact that this is a unique
offering - it may not be to everyone's tastes, but enough buyers in this
sector will love it, so we expect demand to outstrip supply by quite some
margin, putting Toyota's premium brand at the top of this lucrative sector.