Lexus today launched the world's first hybrid petrol-electric luxury SUV, in Australia. The Lexus RX400h. You wonder why companies like GM and Ford are going out of business whilst the likes of Toyota, Honda and other Japanese car manufacturers are enjoying steady growth? Perhaps its got something todo with the fact that a great deal of money has been spent investing in alternative fuel technologies?
So the RX400h offers the only alternative to those not wanting to buy a fully petrol or diesel powered SUV. RX400h is the second hybrid Lexus to be released this year, and Lexus says there is still more to come next year! The RX400h uses three electric motors and a 3.3-litre VVT-i Quad Cam V6 to develop 200kW of power and return fuel economy of 8.1 litres/100km.
200kW at 8.1Litres? All of sudden my 2.0 L Turbo engine doesn't sound too good. Lexus says the RX400h produces 192 grams/km of CO2 emissions, just 58 per cent of it's nearest equivalent-capacity petrol engine in a competitor vehicle. A compound planetary gear set in the hybrid transaxle acts both as a power-split device and electronically controlled continuously variable transmission – to drive the front wheels.
The hybrid transaxle also has a generator, allowing RX400h to store energy in high-voltage batteries if it is not immediately required. The rear wheels are electrically driven for vehicle take-off and acceleration to ensure optimum traction.
In addition, RX400h's new Vehicle Dynamics integrated Management (VDiM) system can direct the rear electric motor to provide torque to the rear wheels to maintain vehicle stability. VDiM has the added feature – over the VSC system in RX350 Sports and RX350 Sports Luxury – of steering torque assist.
RX400h will supplement the recently released RX350 which has taken the Lexus RX Line to leadership in the fast-growing luxury SUV segment. Lexus expects the new hybrid to give the company additional impetus in the highly competitive market.
Demand is expected to be incremental just as it has been for the recently launched Lexus GS450h hybrid sedan. Lexus RX400h has already been a runaway success in the United States since its launch in mid-April 2005. Lexus has delivered more than 33,000 RX400hs in America – 22 per cent of total RX deliveries.
RX400h provides a clean and user-friendly answer to alternative power sources that are claiming a significant share of the luxury SUV market. It is rated as a SULEV (Super Low Emissions Vehicle) in the United States.
Diesel-powered vehicles from luxury makers now comprise almost one-third of all luxury SUV deliveries. Lexus' hybrid is presented as a more palatable solution at the service station pumps – both in terms of cost and convenience of refuelling.