Decision day: “Future Lexus RX,” or “re-sheet-metaled” Harrier?

Harrier reveal is it - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt


Ever since Toyota released first pictures  of the 2014 Japanese-market Harrier, there has been a low level war on the interwebs. Countless bloggers, eager for a scoop scraped off other websites, crowed that this will be a preview of the 2015 Lexus RX. Even distinguished Edmunds bought into this version. More seasoned, and not to say professionally skeptical writers, from Joaquin Ruhi at the Kaizenfactor all the way to Malaysia’s Paul Tan, opined that the new Harrier is more like a re-sheet-metaled version of the current Lexus RX.  Who is right, who is wrong? Today, I decided to grab my subway pass, and get to the bottom of it.orrather

It just so happened that today, the new Toyota Harrier was introduced to Japanese media. The festivities took place at the fashionable Tokyo Fashion Town building. This venue is right across Tokyo Big Sight, where the Tokyo Motor Show will open its doors this coming week. They can roll the cars across the street, and they will be on display again.

The press release which I was handed shot the first hole in the “future Lexus RX” story.  The blurb says that Toyota “will launch the redesigned “Harrier” crossover SUV in Japan on December 2.” In the business, “redesigned” means new clothes over old bones, an extensive facelift if you will. If the car would be all new from the ground up, the release would say “all-new.”

Harrier reveal Humphries - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

The “future Lexus RX” theory was hanging in the ropes when Simon Humphries took center stage. Since 2010, Humphries is design chief of Toyota and Lexus, and responsible for Toyota’s “Vibrant Clarity” design language, and the “L-Finesse” design lingo of Lexus. Dressed in a fashionably wrinkled suit, some would call it brown, haters will dub it dark beige, Humphries talked about the “Harrierness,” which ought to be preserved, but he also mentioned a “3rd generation” Harrier. After hearing a lot about “sporty quarterpillars,” and an “instrument panel contrasting with quilted seats,”  I was leaning towards giving this round to the re-sheet-metaled camp, based on the fact that an awful lot was said about sheet metal. On account of the “3rd generation” mention, we declare this round a tie between “future Lexus” and “re-sheet-metaled” Harrier. Keep in mind, however, that designers can be somewhat generous with generations.

Harrier reveal inside - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

To break the tie, I did something rarely done in the blogging business, I asked. Future Lexus, or current one in new clothings?  Of course, nobody at Toyota will “comment on future models.” As for the new Harrier’s ancestry, the best answer I received was “I’d be looking more towards the RAV4 for genetic similarities.” From what I picked up at the event, the new Harrier sits on an underbody inherited from that venerable cross-over, waist up, it’s all new.  With that, I declare a technical knock-out to both stories. The JDM Harrier is neither the next RX, nor a rebodied old one.

The times when the home market always received the newest model, while the older toolings are handed down to less fortunate continents, they are over. The business is global, and complicated. Cars are launched where needed. What we see here once more is a blurring of the lineage, brought on by platforms and toolings losing their importance, where it is no longer clear what is chicken, or egg. This process will accelerate even further with the adoption of modular kits by OEMs around the world. And that’s good.

Harrier reveal Hybrid - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

The redesigned Harrier will be on sale in Japan on December 2, with a hybrid model scheduled for release on January 15 next year. The gasoline model is powered by a 2.0 liter 3ZR-FAE engine, mated to Toyota’s Super CVT-i. Four-wheel and front wheel drive versions will be available. The hybrid version will be powered by Toyota’s THS II powertrain, electric 4-wheel drive will be standard. The Harrier will cost between JPY  2,720,000 and 4,470,000  (roughly $27,000  and $45,000).

P.S. : Of course they didn’t hold up panels with those words on them at the event. The panels were invitingly white, props to help the white balance of the cameras.

P.P.S.: Despite my efforts to mediate between the “next RX” and “old RX”  camps, the battle continues. A new charge is led by Autoblog, which claims that “Toyota previews next Lexus RX with Tokyo-bound JDM Harrier,” and countless RSS-driven blogs say the same. With so many sources agreeing, soon, it will be on Wikipedia. It’s not true. This comment in on the other hand appears to come from an informed source.