Report: Lexus Considering Unibody GX, Turbocharged Engines

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Lexus may consider building the next version of its GX luxury SUV on a unibody platform, and is interested in launching turbocharged engines. Wards Auto reveals that Lexus believes both steps are important to stay relevant with competitors, and to appeal to younger customers.

The three-row Lexus GX is built with body-on-frame construction, similar to how pickup trucks are designed. That setup was formerly common to most SUVs, but in recent years almost all of the GX's competitors have switched to lighter unibody construction. Mark Templin, Lexus U.S. group vice president, told Wards that there's a possibility the next-generation Lexus GX will be a "car-based SUV." However, the company isn't rushing to replace the current GX as it has reportedly been quite successful since its launch in 2002. The second-generation GX was introduced in 2009.

Competing luxury three-row models with unibody design include the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Acura MDX, and Infiniti JX. More mainstream SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder have moved from body-on-frame to unibody structures for their latest versions.

One benefit of switching to unibody design is that it can help an automaker reduce vehicle weight. The 2012 Lexus GX weighs 5305 pounds; the 2012 BMW X5 is 4960 pounds and the 2012 Acura MDX starts from just 4550 pounds. It goes without saying that lighter vehicles tend to return better fuel economy.

Templin also told Wards that Lexus might consider turbocharged engines in the future. Many of the company's competitors now offer smaller, turbocharged engines to help boost fuel economy. But Lexus apparently believes its current range of V-6 and V-8 engines offers comparable power and better fuel economy to competing turbo engines.

In the case of the Lexus GX, that claim doesn't really prove true. The 2012 Lexus GX (pictured) has a 301-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine that is rated for just 15/20 mpg (city/highway). The 2012 BMW X5's base engine is a 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine that is rated for 16/23 mpg, while the 2012 Audi Q7's base engine is a 333-hp, supercharged V-6 that returns 16/22 mpg.

Templin says Lexus recognizes that younger buyers are more interested in turbocharged engines than prior generations of buyers. Whereas turbo engines were once thought to be unreliable, Templin told Wards that, "with young people, they [turbochargers] sound cool." Perhaps, but we think equal power mixed with reduced fuel consumption sounds “cool” to virtually any buyer.

Source: Wards Auto

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