Lexus buffs up the Toyota RAV4 to make a BMW X1-fighting hybrid crossover

2013 Toyota RAV4Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota, so it’s not surprising that it returns to the mothership occasionally for new material.

Cars like the ES and RX show that upgrading Toyotas can be profitable, which explains why Lexus is trying it again with a compact crossover based on the RAV4.

A source within the company told Automotive News (sub. required) that Lexus wants this crossover to compete with the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, and that it will have a hybrid powertrain.

That powertrain will likely be shared with Lexus IS300h sedan. That means a 178 horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine, continuously variable transmission, and 141 hp electric motor.

The new compact Lexus crossover should fit right into a lineup that already includes the Highlander-based RX and Camry-based ES, not to mention the LX and GX trucks, which are based on the Land Cruiser and 4Runner, respectively.

The compact luxury crossover segment is heating up, and repurposing the RAV4 will give Lexus a quick and dirty way to gain entry. The question is: will buyers looking for a luxury vehicle accept a rebadged RAV4?

With Lexus’ other Toyota-based models, the answer seems to be “yes.” However, continually rebadging cheaper models instead of developing purpose-built ones could erode Lexus’ credibility as a luxury brand.

Just look at Lincoln: one of America’s most storied car brands, it’s now mired in an existential crisis because all of its models are based on proletarian Fords.

One of the RAV4-based Lexus’ biggest rivals might just be the MKC, a compact crossover based on one of the RAV4’s current rivals, the Ford Escape.

The Lexus will debut at next year’s Geneva Motor Show. We’ll see then if it’s more than a RAV4 with wood trim.