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Chief engineer goes into bat for Lexus NX F

Here's hoping: Lexus NX chief engineer Takeaki Kato would like to see his new baby with a hot four-cylinder turbo engine to take on Europe's best performance compact SUVs.

Hot turbo Lexus NX F compact SUV high on senior engineer Kato's wish list

28 Oct 2014

IF THE chief engineer for the new Lexus NX gets his way – and history shows he frequently does – a brutal turbo F version of the just-released NX compact SUV will be coming down the Japanese engineering pipeline as soon as possible to take on rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG and Audi RS Q3.

Takeaki Kato – who previously was in charge of development of the second-generation Lexus RX large SUV and IS sedan – championed the development of Lexus' new 2.0-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol engine that will make its Australian debut in 154kW form in the NX in about February next year.

The engine was not even on the radar for the NX before Mr Kato got involved, but he convinced the Lexus powers that be – including his friend and boss Akio Toyoda, the Toyota president – that it was essential for NX success.

That engine looks set to provide sparkling performance in the NX 200t, but an even more potent version has not been ruled out by Mr Kato – an amateur motor racer in his spare time.

He told GoAuto the four-cylinder engine had been designed for a variety of performance tunes in various applications across the Lexus range.

Asked if an extreme version to match the 265kW GLA45 AMG was on the cards, he replied: “I want one, yes.”

He stopped short of saying such a vehicle would make it into showrooms, but left the door open for the possibility.

The new blown 2.0-litre engine – the first such engine for Lexus – is expected to be spread across several Lexus models over the next few years.

The IS sedan, CT hatch and GS large car are among the vehicles that might get a four-cylinder heart transplant.

In NX, the engine is expected to become an instant best-seller once it joins the newly released hybrid NX 300h in the first quarter of next year, out-selling the hybrid by about 60:40.

Lexus and its Toyota parent have arrived late to the down-sized turbo engine party, with rivals from Europe and the United States rolling out numerous models with such engines over the past few years.

However, Mr Kato said Toyota engineers had been working on new-generation turbo engines since 2005, and before that had extensive experience in high-performance turbo engines in the World Rally Championship.

But the new engine – with the latest Toyota direct injection and in-house-developed turbo-charging, is set to put the leading Japanese luxury brand back on course for a sales renaissance.

If the NX F eventuates, it would mean three of the F-rated sports flagships are headed our way. The new RC F coupe, with its hi-po V8 engine banging out 330kW, has been confirmed for Australian launch in the first quarter of 2015 when it will join the V6 RC 350 that will hit showrooms in December.

That is expected to be followed within 12 months by a similarly equipped V8 GS F, examples of which have been spotted being tested at Germany's famous Nurburgring.

No time frame is apparent for an NX F, but 2016 seems a logical date.

Logic says the same high-performance engine might also be grafted into the next-generation CT hatch to go after rivals such as the Mercedes A45 AMG, Audi RS3 and BMW M2.

As the sedate hybrid CT200h has just had a facelift, it will be at least two years before a major change is expected to be made.

Lexus appears to be determined to take it up to its German rivals at every level in which it competes, which so far is in six of the 10 luxury vehicle categories in Australia.

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