VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Sixteen years ago, Lexus set the industry on its ear when it introduced the first car-based luxury crossover, the RX 300. Lexus had modest sales expectations for the RX, but the vehicle quickly became the brand's volume leader with annual sales routinely near or north of 100,000 units.
Now, with scads of RX imitators clogging America's roads, Lexus is trying the same play in the compact luxury crossover segment with the NX 200t and NX 300h.
The basics: In a clear sign of "segment creep," the compact NX is larger, heavier, faster and more fuel efficient than the mid-sized RX was when it launched in 1998 as a 1999 model.
Although the NX is based on the Toyota RAV4 platform, 90 percent of the parts are different. And even the similar parts have been retooled with tighter tolerances to give the NX a more luxurious feel than the mass-market RAV4. NX assembly also uses more high-tensile steel and more screw welding and adhesives than the RAV4, for better structural integrity.
The NX will be the first use of Toyota's new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which it is building in-house. The engine's variable valve timing can switch from Otto to Atkinson cycle instantly, depending on power or fuel economy needs. The oil change interval is a thrifty 10,000 miles.