The plug-in hybrid version of the new Lexus RX is planned for Australia – but it won’t launch alongside the rest of the range next year.
The new 2023 Lexus RX luxury SUV will not be available with a plug-in hybrid option in Australia when it launches early next year – but it may follow at a later date, once demand settles in overseas markets.
Due in Lexus showrooms in early 2023, the new RX will be available with a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive RX350h hybrid, a RX350 turbo-petrol, or sporty RX500h F Sport Performance hybrid powertrains.
Missing from the line-up is the RX450h+ plug-in hybrid (PHEV) available overseas, which shares its running gear with the smaller NX450h+ PHEV, and offers up to 65km of claimed electric-only driving range.
Lexus Australia says overseas markets with strict emissions targets to meet – such as Europe – were given production priority for the plug-in hybrid, pushing Australia down the queue, where no such requirements currently apply.
While the plug-in hybrid RX won’t be in showrooms when the rest of the range goes on sale locally, Lexus Australia CEO John Pappas told Australian media at the global media preview drive of the new RX that the PHEV is very much part of the company’s plan.
“[The] plug-in hybrid RX wasn’t on our plan for [the] initial launch,” Pappas said. “We knew that other markets would [get] priority. And we also knew that capacity and volume [priority] would be given to those other markets, because we knew the conditions we were in.”
While the RX350h is expected to be the volume seller in the new RX range, Pappas was adamant the higher-performance RX500h F Sport Performance was a must-have for the Australian market, given our penchant for performance cars from other luxury brands.
“Our initial priority was we wanted the performance 500h,” he said. “Of course, we want the PHEV 100 per cent, no doubt. We know we were not going to be the priority for the PHEV because we don’t have the government policy and all the rest of it.”
When asked whether government emissions policies are the key to opening up new plug-in hybrid and electric-car technology for sale in Australia, Pappas acknowledged policy is one – but not the only – element of a broader plan of attack.
“Look, we’re all for policy, we’ve been on this bandwagon, and it does give us a louder voice,” Pappas explained.
“It’s actually really important in that it does give us a louder voice in terms of getting more electrified product. Policy does help, we’ve seen it with markets who are getting help with [getting more] hybrid or PHEV [production] over us.”
Pappas is aware how hungry Australian buyers are for Lexus hybrid models, with the order books for the smaller NX mid-size SUV – which offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid options – illustrating real popularity for the fuel-efficient technology.
“We’re planning for 65 per cent [of sales] to be electrified for the RX range,” Pappas said. “That’s what we’re planning for. If it’s a bit more than that, like NX is showing, it’s possible, it could happen, but I think 65 per cent is around the mark. That’s our planning assumption.”
In the first half of 2022, the Lexus NX450h+ was Australia’s sixth best-selling plug-in hybrid – and the third-best seller in the luxury mid-size SUV segment, with its 146 sales behind the Mercedes-Benz GLC300e (211) and Volvo XC60 Recharge (170).
To read more details on the 2023 Lexus RX range for Australia, click here.