Lexus RX (2009) spy shots

Published: 08 July 2008

We caught the next-generation RX off-roader undergoing drivetrain tests this week, just as our sources revealed that Lexus UK is on the verge of canning all petrol versions. So the new RX luxury SUV will become a hybrid-only line-up. 

When it launches the new RX in summer 2009, Lexus expects the luxury soft-roader to be the best-selling model in the entire Lexus line-up, with relatively low CO2 levels making it an attractive tax break for upper-echelon company car and private buyers alike.

So why Is Lexus killing off the petrol RX models?

Because you lot don’t buy them. In the UK, petrol versions of the X5 and M-class rivals account for less than 5 percent of total sales – and it’s the same with Lexus. So far in 2008, Lexus has shifted 1388 RX400h hybrids and just 65 petrol models. It’s pretty clear, then – bringing in the new petrol-powered model would be an expensive waste of time in the UK.

Expect petrol-strong markets like America and Russia to get the new non-hybrid by May 2009.

Click ‘Next’ to read more about the new Lexus RX
The ‘new’ Lexus RX looks pretty much the same as the current model…

Yes, well done Sherlock. Seen here undergoing drivetrain testing this month, the new car takes a cautiously evolutionary step with a same-again silhouette and overall proportions. But there’s been plenty of work beneath the RX’s sheetmetal – the off-roader is expected to borrow the 3.5-litre V6 from the GS450, giving the RX a 200cc capacity boost, while Toyota’s engineers have developed their fifth-generation hybrid powertrain to boost performance, economy and enhance the system’s packaging.

As before, expect the new hybrid RX to offer enhanced performance and economy over the petrol model, besting the current hybrid model’s 34.9mpg and 192g/km figures.

Anything else on the hybrid front?

Yes – CAR Online’s spies also claim that Lexus is trickling down its hybrid technology to create a smaller RX-style hybrid to take on the X3 and Q5. Likely to be spun off the next-generation Toyota RAV4 architecture, the baby RX will follow on from the secret hybrid-only saloon that Lexus will unveil for the American market at the Detroit motor show early in 2009.

The cars are the result of Lexus trying to respond as quickly as possible to the fuel crisis hitting its biggest market in America.

A hybrid-only RX line-up speaks volumes for the acceptance of Lexus’s green technology in the UK – but does it fully answer the real environmental questions that should be asked?

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars