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by Jez Spinks

The Lexus RX SUV range will expand to a third model in June, with a new four-cylinder petrol model giving the Japanese luxury brand a new lower price point to compete with the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.

The new Lexus RX270 has yet to be officially confirmed, but CarAdvice sources say the model will follow the trend for SUVs that offer improved fuel efficiency by being two-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive.

The Lexus RX is traditionally a rival for the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz, but the new base model could potentially be priced below $70,000 to give Lexus Australia a competitor against the Q5 and X3 while it continues its long wait for Japan to deliver a much-needed baby SUV.

The current Lexus RX range starts at $82,814 for the RX350 that’s powered by a 204kW 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. It’s joined by the RX450h petrol-electric hybrid, which starts at $89,788 and has a combined power output of 220kW.

Lexus’s front-wheel-drive RX270 features a 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine that produces about 138kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 252Nm of torque (at 4200rpm).

Fuel consumption for the RX270 will be about 9.5 litres per 100km, according to overseas specifications, with emissions of 222 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

The figure makes the RX270 cleaner and more efficient than the RX350 with 10.8L/100km and 254g/km, though the hybrid RX450h remains the leader in this area with 6.3L/100km and 149g/km.

The absence of a four-wheel-drive system helps reduce the RX270’s weight by about 135kg over the RX350. The RX350, however, features a system that employs the front wheels only in normal driving before apportioning up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels to deal with surfaces with reduced grip.

Lexus will also add F Sport variants to the revised Lexus RX range. The sportier-looking and more dynamically focused models have proved popular in other Lexus vehicles such as the CT200h hatch, IS medium sedan and GS large sedan.

The facelift for the third-generation Lexus RX range was shown at March’s 2012 Geneva motor show. The updated RX brings upgrades to the interior and exterior, with the latter including the brand’s new ‘spindle’ family face.