BEIJING -- Lexus unveiled the production version of the NX compact crossover at the Beijing auto show and set a U.S. sales target of 2,200 units a month.
For the United States, Lexus will offer a choice of a 235-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four or a 194-hp, four-cylinder hybrid. The turbo engine is combined with a six-speed automatic.
The hybrid system is basically the same as that in the ES 300h, though the all-wheel-drive version gets a rear-motor layout similar to that of the RX. The battery is nickel-metal hydride.
Although Lexus gave no official fuel economy estimates for the hybrid, a source said it should get in the 34-36 mpg range in combined city and highway driving.
The turbo drivetrain likely will account for 80 to 85 percent of U.S. sales, Lexus International Executive Vice President Mark Templin predicted. "In the U.S., they want fun to drive, a little more power," he said.
Templin said Lexus tuned the turbo to deliver smooth acceleration, rather than jerky power thrusts.
"I think ours is going to be more refined than the rest of them in the market," he said. "Ours is more linear, smoother. Much more luxurylike."
With a 104.7-inch wheelbase and a 182.3-inch overall length, the NX is slightly smaller than the Acura RDX, and the overall length slides between the BMW X1 and X3.
The NX is 5.5 inches shorter than the RX. But rear legroom is only 0.4-inch shorter and luggage space surrenders just 0.8 inch from the RX cargo bay, Chief Engineer Takeaki Kato said.
"Packaging was our biggest challenge," Kato said. "But we were able to make the interior much roomier than anticipated."
Both the turbocharged and hybrid models will be offered in front- or all-wheel drive. The NX, which goes on sale this fall, is derived from the Lexus CT platform with some Toyota RAV4 underpinnings.
The NX receives new engines as part of a sweeping powertrain overhaul unveiled this month by Toyota Motor Corp. The engines can switch between a lean-burning Atkinson combustion cycle to save fuel and a traditional Otto cycle for more power. Similar tuning also will be used in the upcoming Lexus RC coupe.
"Through valve timing, when you want performance, you get Otto cycle," Templin said. "When you want efficiency, you get Atkinson cycle."
The NX will be built in the Lexus assembly plant on Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu.
In an interview at the New York auto show, Lexus Division General Manager Jeff Bracken said he expects Lexus to sell about 2,200 NX units a month in the United States. He added, however, that Lexus' U.S. dealer council has informed him that such an estimate is too conservative.