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Petrol-electric RX hybrid first of new power breed

Lexus is readying its dealer network for a major new product offensive that includes the launch of diesel and hybrid powered vehicles.

From May, the company's 57 retailers will embark on a major training offensive ready for the launch of the new RX400h at the end of the year.

During its first 18 months, sales of the hybrid version of the premium soft roader are expected to account for 60% of total volume in the UK and 50% in Europe. Powered by a 3.3-litre V6 and two electric motors – one at the front and one at the rear – the car will have a total output of 270bhp.

Lexus promises a 0-62mph time of less than eight seconds, along with impressive mid-range torque thanks to the electric motors.

The move signals the start of a new range of petrol-electric hybrid cars that will be introduced into the company's model range.

With the company's first premium performance hybrid vehicle, dealers will be able to compete with products like the BMW X5 4.4i on performance while offering the fuel economy and carbon-dioxide emissions of a family saloon.

Stuart McCullough, Lexus director, Europe, says: “This year, dealers will see a very different face to Lexus.” And he adds that the role of the RX400h will be to pave the way for future hybrid developments over the next decade aimed at making it a core Lexus powertrain. But McCullough, previously Lexus GB director, stresses: “Hybrid power is not our answer to diesel. We will have a diesel within the next two years.”

The new models will help Lexus continue its strong sales drive. Registrations for February were up 5.64% to 281 units, taking the yearly total to 1,081 – up 27% year on year.

The news comes as the company prepares to unveil its latest dealer ship– a 4.5-acre flagship site run by Sytner in Leicester. Lexus Leicester will have an eight-car showroom with a 10 bay workshop.

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