NX chief on re-engineering the RAV4 for luxury

Kato
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Lexus NX Chief Engineer Takeaki Kato has spent 28 years in vehicle development at Toyota, starting in advanced safety engineering and later overseeing development of the second-generation Lexus IS sedan and the current RX crossover.

The new NX compact cross-over was a different animal. At the vehicle's press launch in Vancouver, British Columbia, Kato spoke with Staff Reporter Mark Rechtin about the challenge.

Q: How much of the NX platform is shared with the Toyota RAV4?

A: From the center to the rear is basically new, with no commonized parts. The front bumpers and crash box are totally different. But while the inside rocker panel is reinforced, the outside structure is the same.

For some parts, there was no need to change. We could carry over the wheelbase because the RAV has a good package, with good legroom. But things like the suspension bushings are different. We used the same geometry of suspension, but all the parts are different.

Things like the rear suspension members were retooled to make a tighter chassis. We retooled all the RAV tooling to make it more severe, with better fit and rigidity. The accuracy of the parts was very important, to get the body rigidity tighter.

Could the NX come down the same assembly line as the RAV4 in Woodstock, Ontario?

Technically, we could do it, but much investment would be needed. We have different rigidity in the body.

There is more high-tensile sheet metal, and more use of adhesives, laser screw welds and spot welds. I think it's too different.

Why a turbo instead of a V-6?

The trend globally has changed to smaller displacement engines with turbos.

You want the NX to have a sportier feel. So why not have a dual-clutch transmission, like Audi?

Dual clutch makes a good point for fuel economy and more direct feeling, but the sacrifice is some slight shift shock.

What was the biggest challenge in taking such a radical design to production?

The production engineers were challenged by making such a deep crease in the side sheet metal, which meant a deeper pressing in the rear door opening. But that also would have meant a smaller interior space, and we needed to keep the capacity of the cabin. They were motivated to succeed.

You can reach Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com. -- Follow Mark on Twitter


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