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Long wait for hotter Lexus CT hatch

CT slicker: The CT200h F Sport will remain the hottest Lexus hatch for the foreseeable future.

‘No potential’ for Lexus CT hot hatch in near future as sub-RX SUV firms

9 Nov 2012

LEXUS has ruled out launching a more powerful version of its popular CT200h hybrid hatchback for the time being – even post-facelift – despite customer requests from around the world, including Australia.

Speaking with GoAuto at this week’s Australian unveiling of the new LS limousine in Melbourne, Lexus International general manager Andrew Kirby suggested enthusiasts will have to wait more than five years for a hot hatch to materialise.

Tellingly, Mr Kirby was not so quick to rule out the long-rumoured compact SUV that would fill a long-standing gap in the Lexus line-up below the RX range and was previewed by the LF-Xh concept at the 2008 Paris motor show.

The hot hatch could be a low priority in the Japanese luxury brand’s product development department because it is busy finalising the all-new IS sedan ahead of its launch next year, putting the recent LF-CC coupe concept into production and coming up the aforementioned compact SUV.

“There is no potential” for a more powerful CT in the medium term, said Mr Kirby.

Asked if there was scope for a hot CT to be introduced at the model’s mid-life facelift stage, Mr Kirby said: “(in the) next 3-5 years, probably not after that then yes”.

31 center imageLeft: Lexus' Andrew Kirby.

“We have certainly had that request from customers and that is something we are continuing to investigate ... we recognise that many markets around the world have asked us for a more powerful CT.

“The car looks the part and the suspension and driving feeling is sporty so we agree there is potential for (a hot CT) but we can't deliver on that quite yet.”

A hot hatch would arguably form a cornerstone for Lexus as it moves away from its conservative image and repositions itself as a more design-led, driver-focussed brand.

“We are taking a very strong line in terms of creating vehicles that are more dynamic and fun to drive,” said Mr Kirby.

However he would not confirm speculation that Lexus is considering turbocharged four-cylinder engines for its future products.

“We are looking at how we can accelerate the introduction of technologies, putting a lot of resources behind hybrid and continuing to expand our hybrid range and looking at a number of different powertrain options,” he said.

On the subject of the small SUV that is tipped to appear as a concept at an upcoming major motor show and be based on the all-new RAV4 that is expected to make a debut at the Los Angeles motor show later this month.

“Obviously we are very strong in the SUV market and certainly see that market as important so we are potentially looking at (a smaller SUV) but I can’t confirm when,” he said.

Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb told GoAuto the subject of a compact SUV “comes up at every global discussion”, and sees the potential for such a car to to sell as well as, if not better than, the RX.

“I think it is fair to say most markets around the world would love to have a car of that nature and it is simply something Lexus needs to do.

“At this point in time there is no announcement but at some point we will have to do something.”

Mr Cramb said the smaller SUV’s volume potential would “totally depend on the vehicle itself and the price they are going to aim at”.

“It is way to early to call but it (compact SUV) is clearly a growth segment and I would think it would end up (selling) as many if not more than RX."

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