There's a huge opportunity here. Will Lexus go for it?
In many ways, BMW invented the high-performance SUV with vehicles such as the X5 M and X6 M. Any BMW with the coveted M badge and treatment is a force to be reckoned with and competitors have taken note. Audi and Mercedes-Benz surely have, and so has Lexus. Question is, what will Lexus do about it? Will it expand its F-badged lineup beyond the current RC F and GS F to its crossovers/SUVs? Following a few rumors on the subject, we reached out to Lexus for an update. According to Cooper Erickson, Vice President of Product Planning and Strategy, the luxury carmaker is only examining possibilities for now.
"In an SUV dominant market, we should consider how the F brand could apply to those types of vehicles," he said. "Historically F has been confined to track performance. We already cover a very broad range of the SUV market, but there are still opportunities for us in certain price segments and configurations. It’s simply conversation at this point.”
Given today's market, we wouldn't be surprised if Lexus opted for a high-performance hybrid variant for one of its crossovers. Question is, which one? Our best guess comes down to two: the UX or NX.
The UX is the newest and smallest crossover Lexus sells, and it's aimed directly at younger urban buyers. The larger but still compact NX is also aimed at a more youthful crowd and, like the UX, comes with an optional hybrid powertrain. The RX is the largest Lexus crossover at the moment, but it has typically appealed more to families and older buyers. The UX, in particular, is far more dynamic and youthful. Think of a potential UX F Hybrid as a hot crossover instead of a hot hatch. Also, Audi will soon unveil the RS Q3, which is expected to go on sale in the US sometime in 2020. A luxury hot subcompact crossover segment? We're game.
Then again, the Ford F-150 Raptor proves there's a market for hardcore off-roaders. With that in mind, Lexus could probably turn the aging GX and/or LX into a rival against the likes of the Mercedes-AMG G63.
But it really comes down to numbers and customer interest. Does serious off-roading even interest current and potential Lexus buyers? Probably not. That’s what Toyota TRD Pro is for. Therefore, a high-performance crossover, like the UX, is far more likely to materialize. However, Lexus also subtly hinted to us that a production version of last year's LF-1 Limitless Concept will reach production. Larger than the RX, the LF-1 offers three rows of seats and would compete head-on with the new Lincoln Aviator and Cadillac XT6.
There was an earlier rumor claiming Lexus is also working on a Lamborghini Urus fighter. Lexus, of course, had no comment on the matter, but sources claimed this SUV would ride on the same platform underpinning the production LF-1 Limitless and a possible F version could use the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that could power the also rumored LC F, which could have around 660 hp. To compare, the Urus has 641 hp.
But as Erickson said, Lexus is simply studying the market and talking at the moment. If there's a market for high-performance F branded SUV/crossovers (not the less powerful F Performance models), Lexus has all of the skill and know-how to make it happen.