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2021 Lexus NX set to score plug-in hybrid system

By Tim Robson, 16 Apr 2020 Car News

2021 Lexus NX set to score plug-in hybrid system

Second-generation Lexus NX SUV will clothe RAV4's drivetrain in a fancy suit – but will Australia get the plug-in version?

When Lexus launches its second-generation NX, widely tipped to debut in 2021, the synergy between it and the Toyota RAV4 is expected to run deep.

Trademark applications in Europe point to the existence of an NX 450+, as well as a hybrid NX 350h. The 450 moniker points to an AWD version of the next Lexus NX that is likely to take its drivetrain from its Toyota stablemate, the RAV4, while the NX 350h should amp its performance up from that of the current model's 300h hybrid option.

It’s not a great leap, truth be told – the next NX will be built on the same TNGA-K platform as the RAV4 and will be roughly the same size. Under-the-skin similarities are to be expected, however this time it should work in the NX's favour.

A souped-up version of the RAV4, known as the Prime in overseas markets, also offers up a 225kW version of the 2AR-FXE 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder petrol engine, which works in tandem with front and rear axle-mounted electric motors and an old-school nickel-metal hydride battery array.

MORE Could Lexus build the first 1000km range electric vehicle?

A larger 17.8kWh battery and a Type 2 charger plug give this driveline combo up to 62km of pure electric range, compared to the current non-plug-in RAV4 Hybrid’s miniscule battery-only range. It will charge itself via regenerative braking like the current hybrid does as well. It's this powertrain that we'd expect to see in the next-gen NX.

In terms of the way the 2021 Lexus NX will look, the recently teased Toyota Harrier gives us some indication – though expect the NX to be sharper and more contemporary.

Its smaller sibling, the Lexus UX and its larger brother, the RX, point to Lexus’s current aggressive design missive – and, as was the case with the 2016 RX, if it isn’t right, then expect the top brass to step in and make it so. 

Akio Toyoda stepped in with just a month to go to final sign-off on the RX, instructing the team to make the car far edgier. Its smaller brother the UX also has the distinction of being the first all-electric model in Lexus' global line-up, a significant addition for a company that in the past has given pure EVs a cold shoulder. 

It was a big, fat “no comment” from Lexus Australia around the local future of the Lexus NX, but it’s an unbackable bet that the mid-sized SUV is a big part of the brand’s plans moving forward.