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Lexus NX compact SUV unveiled

It's been a long time coming, but the first compact SUV for Lexus is a sure thing to make a splash for the brand.

Designed to attract a much a younger demographic than the traditional Lexus buyer -- and catch quite a few moving up to the prestige carport -- the NX fills a longtime gap in the line-up.

Lexus has had to watch empty-handed as the compact  SUV segment boomed, and kept booming. But they're ready to make up lost ground now with the newcomer arriving armed with great looks and an arsenal of technology with two drivetrains: NX 200t petrol and NX 300h hybrid.

Unveiled amid the glitterati of last night's Australian Good Design Awards, the NX looked right at home with all the ingredients to give it that crucial ability stand out from the rest of the traffic.  

Nosing in the body's buffed sculpting, the huge spindle flanked with the dynamic lines of sweptback headlights underscored by a sharp hook of daytime running LEDs and clever rear light clusters that overlap from the body across the tailgate edge.

But some of the really good stuff is on the inside, embedded among the acres of leather and metal finishes. Among the firsts for Australia are a wireless charging tray for mobile devices, touch-sensitive interior lighting and powered rear seats. Add in a touchpad controller for the dash display, and you've got enough goodies to lure any early adopter.

Once they've stretched their legs in the roomy cabin -- no cramped knees here -- family focus will be on safety features, including reversing camera standard across the range, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert system and a 360-degree panoramic view monitor to give you a complete look at the vehicle's surroundings.

The 300h will lead the charge in October with a hybrid system comprising a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor, mated to a six-step continuously variable (CVT) automatic driving either the front or all wheels, depending on variant.

The NX200t will follow early next year with a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder developing 175kW of power and 350Nm of torque, also with the CVT and choice of two or all-paw drive.

Lexus says the NX will be a game-changer for the brand in bringing younger buyers, and a strong spur for growth.

"Our research says already the NX is appealing to a much younger audience," Lexus Australia CEO Sean Hanley says. "What we want to do is not alienate our existing 7000 per year customer base -- who are wonderfully loyal to us -- we want to grow the brand, and this car offers that opportunity."

Hanley admits some buyers will move across from other Lexus SUVs, but says there is huge scope for the NX's arresting design and lavish specification to bring in fresh blood.

"In truth, I think there'll be some customers that will probably come down in size from (Lexus) RX but I don't think that will be the majority. In that market we'd be hoping to attract people entering the luxury market -- the step-up buyers.

"I think there's a huge step-up market out there... 35 per cent of the step-up buyers are undecided about where they're going to go. And I'm inviting them to experience Lexus -- that's the market we'll chase and hopefully we'll appeal to the others as well: the aspirational buyer, the early adopters, the innovators.

Hanley says that from the well-equipped base model up to the F Sport version, there will be considerable variety in the NX range. "The great thing about the NX and the model line we'll offer is we'll have something for everybody. We'll have something that will suit our traditional buyers but we have an offering in terms of the F Sport version that will appeal to a whole new audience," he says. "We know that if we can get people to experience Lexus, once they drive our cars and experience our service they stay with us. We know that.

"Our current customers ... they know that already. And we'll never surrender that core value of great customer service, but we've now got to attract new people. We're always going to provide that level of customer service, and we think that's a far more sustainable outcome for our brand than artificially pricing cars. We want to grow 5 to 10 per cent, but for a long time, not for a short time."

And Lexus is already getting strong signals that the desired growth will come with the arrival of the NX. "I can tell you that the pre-launch interest being expressed to us, and the customer research that we've already conducted, is incredibly encouraging for us in terms of what this car can bring to the brand," he says.

"What they love mostly is style and design. When they talk about Lexus they might have a predetermined vision, but when they see the car their whole vision of the brand changes, because suddenly there's a car that looks younger than they expected and is very appealing. Early research shows this car is changing perceptions through great design."

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