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Lexus the Latest to Go Turbo with New NX

New, high-performance engine likely to see broad use.

by on Jul.08, 2014

The 2015 Lexus NX 200h will be the Toyota luxury brand's first turbocharged model.

It has become known as the hybrid luxury brand, but with the upcoming launch of its new NX crossover-utility vehicle, Lexus becomes the latest automaker to turn to an alternative technology that can deliver not only good mileage but the solid performance that appeals to younger, sportier buyers.

And while the 2015 Lexus NX is about to become the maker’s first turbocharged model, it certainly won’t remain unique in the luxury brand’s line-up for long, with a senior official suggesting turbos will play a “significant” role in the next five years as Lexus pushes to drive more passionate performance into its products.

A Real Performer!

“Observing the trends in the industry,” said Brian Bolain, the Lexus corporate marketing manager, “it would be foolish to develop (the new engine in the NX) for only one model.”

That said, Bolain stressed that Toyota’s luxury brand isn’t about to walk away from hybrids, a core technology in its line-up and a major selling point for many of its buyers – especially as it expands in Europe and the other overseas markets that now account for about half of total Lexus sales. The new NX will be offered with a pair of powertrains in the U.S. market, including the 300h gas-electric model, the sixth hybrid in the Lexus catalog.

But the maker is anticipating that as much as 90% of the American buyers of the new compact crossover will check off the turbo option, the new 200t model.

(Lexus remains a quality leader in latest J.D. Power study. Click Here for details.)

In an unusual move, parent Toyota decided to develop the blower in-house, rather than turning to one of the numerous outside suppliers for what will be the first-ever turbocharger in the Lexus line-up.

The 2.0-liter engine makes a reasonably strong, if not benchmark 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to launch the 2015 Lexus NX from 0 to 60 in just 7.2 seconds with the front-wheel-drive model, and 7.0 seconds in its all-wheel-drive configuration.

To maximize performance, Lexus went with a twin-scroll design that reduces off-the-line turbo lag. The engine also features an air-to-liquid intercooler, while the engine itself adopts the new VVT-iW system, an updated approach to variable-valve timing that can both advance or retard the engine’s timing.

Lexus actually played it on the conservative side with its first turbo, noted Doug Herbert, an engineer with Lexus College, the brand’s in-house engineering operation.  It has room to increase the turbo’s boost which, in turn, could significantly improve performance. With the new crossover, that could leave Lexus the opportunity to add an opportunity to add an NX-F model in the years ahead. The 2015 model debuts with an F-Sport version that boasts some visual enhancements, and a more sporty suspension, but no changes in power.

Longer term, Herbert and Bolain made quite clear that Lexus hasn’t developed the new 2.0-liter turbo engine for just one application. What might come next, they won’t discuss, but they strongly hinted at a variety of upcoming applications.

That would fit in with the changing mission for the Lexus brand, both in the U.S. — and in other markets as Lexus moves to become more of a global player. The NX 200t is likely to be the most popular version of the crossover in Russia, for example, based on preliminary Lexus forecasts.

Under the guidance of Toyota Motor Co. CEO Akio Toyoda, the luxury brand has been pushing to develop more “passion,” both in design as well as performance. It’s a delicate balancing act, acknowledged Bolain, but even those who want green machines like the idea of a more sporty brand. Meanwhile, F and F-Sport models have begun to draw in the sort of buyers that Lexus has until now been unable to attract, on average anywhere from 6 to 12 years younger than those who buy the brand’s more conventional models.

Turbos won’t be the only approach Lexus takes to performance. The new RC-F coupe will rely on a 5.0-liter V-8 making 450 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque.

(Automakers becoming increasingly charged up about electric turbochargers. Click Here to find out why.)

But even a growing number of high-performance models, such as the 2015 BMW M3 and M4 models, are moving away from big-block naturally aspirated engines and migrating to downsized, turbocharged alternatives.

Turbos, in general, are gaining an increasing foothold in the industry. Virtually every diesel on the global market now relies on a blower of some form. And by offering a mix of turbocharged EcoBoost variants, Ford now sells more V-6 versions of the big F-Series pickup than V-8 models.  On the exotic end, BMW uses a turbo to enhance the performance of its new plug-in hybrid i8 model, while Acura will use a turbo V-6 – along with three electric motors – to power its next-generation NSX supercar.

(Dodge delivers record 707-hp with new Challenger SRT Hellcat. Click Here to check it out.)

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4 Responses to “Lexus the Latest to Go Turbo with New NX”

  1. Jack Korbman says:

    Will it use regular 87octane?

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Good question, Jack. I believe so but need to double-check.

      Paul E.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Jack, it turns out you can run the 200t on regular but, according to a spokesman for the company, Premium is recommended for maximum performance.

      Paul E.

  2. Jorge says:

    Supercharged and turbocharged small displacement engines can offer a good driving experience with a proper trans and calibration. Other than a slight start-off lag even VW’s 1.4L turbo in a Golf is a viable daily driver capable of fun and relatively fast (100 mph) Autobahn travel.

    What I’m waiting to see however is how many of these engines turn out to be like the Ford Turbo 2.3L and Chrysler 2.2L Turbo where after 50K miles they are completely worn out, oil smoking mosquito killing machines due to improper material choices capable of dealing with the higher loads, temps and wear associated with what amounts to race engine power levels from these small engines. So while the mpg and emissions might be great when new, a few years down the road society may be experiencing worse emissions than with a properly sized NA six cylinder engine that goes 150K before it’s spewing smoke.