The new RX is one of the best Japanese SUVs in which to rest and relax on your way to wherever.
THE old Lexus RX had been on sale in Singapore for six years, with a facelift halfway through its tenure here. Making it look even older is Lexus’ own NX, a sporty and youthful compact crossover with a choice of hybrid or turbo power. Some of the NX’s sportiness appears to have rubbed off on the exterior of the new RX. Design highlights include a collection of “origami” creases in the bodywork, blackedout C-pillars that provide a “floating-roof” eff ect, and “flashy” LED turn signal lights that illuminate sequentially (like on current Audis). The default wheel size is 18-inch, with the bigger option being 20-inch instead of the outgoing model’s 19-inch.
The 20-inch alloy wheels come with a shiny chrome finish, like the surround of the car’s spindle grille. Said grille, especially with the F Sport variant’s aggressive mesh treatment, is dramatic enough to scare kittens and kids. But the new cabin will calm them down, and adults will be put at ease, too, because interior space has been made even more generous by the 50mm longer wheelbase and slightly larger body. The headroom is great and the rear legroom is comparable to that of Lexus’ long-wheelbase LS limousine.
The new rx hybrid is stronger, smoother and more positive than the old one.
The boot is roomy, too, with 519 litres of evenly shaped cargo space that can be tripled by folding down the backseats (with convenient powered operation). Under the boot floor is additional storage space, and the floorboard comes with a classy chrome latch instead of the previous RX’s flimsy plastic latch. The tailgate can be opened by placing a hand over the Lexus emblem – an interesting feature, but it’s neither easier nor faster than the usual method of pressing a button somewhere above the rear licence plate or on the remote key. More useful than the unique “handsfree” feature for the boot are the upgrades for the cockpit.
The layout of all the switches is tidier, the gearlever is nearer, and the standard equipment is superior to that in the recently retired RX. For instance, the topspec version gets a stylishly integrated 12.3-inch infotainment system, with slick graphics and quick responses to “mouse” inputs from the improved Remote Touch system. Other improvements include an electric parking brake (instead of the old model’s foot-operated pedal), an actual clock (instead of the old model’s cheap “Casio” digital readout) and dual-depth cupholders.
The wood trim choices are nice, and not in an “uncle” sort of way, with the nicest being laser-cut timber supplied by piano maker Yamaha. Revving up the interior is the optional F Sport package, which includes aluminium accents, a funky LCD instrument cluster, and shapelier, more supportive front seats. On the move in any of the three new RX models (2-litre turbo 200t, 3.5-litre petrolelectric V6 hybrid 450h and, briefly, 3.5-litre petrol V6 350), the quietness is obvious. There’s negligible tyre patter from the fender areas, and no wind noise is noticeable from the windows when travelling on the freeways at speeds of between 55mph (88km/h) and 65mph (104km/h).
RX is a refined cruiser, but its ride and handling are at their best only with (optional) Adaptive Variable Suspension
Those windows (front ones are double-glazed) even stay silent while lowered or raised. Visibility from the driver’s seat is fantastic, helped by the enlarged window panes at the base of the A-pillars, comfortably high sitting position and a variety of cameras/ monitors as extra “eyes”. And the windscreen wipers are parked fully out of sight now. In performance terms, the RX200t is a lot less urgent than the NX200t with the same turbocharged 2-litre engine, because the RX weighs over 200kg more.
But in the RX, the engine is insulated “further” from the cabin and the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts more slickly. The new RX450h off ers a much tighter drive than the old one. Yet the new model is able to travel 3km to 4km further on every litre of petrol in mixed city-highway driving. It also goes into EV (electric vehicle) mode at every opportunity when in Normal mode. The acceleration of the hybrid Lexus is significantly stronger than before, accompanied by smoother powertrain transitions between the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, electric motors and battery pack.
Spacious, practical, properly insulated, and with classier fittings than the previous RX cabin.
At the same time, the car reacts more positively to the driver’s inputs made through the steering wheel, throttle pedal and paddle-shifters (which “shift” a CVT). The regenerative braking’s pedal feel is more natural now (or less unnatural, perhaps), and the same goes for coming to a stop. When taking a corner, the RX resists lateral body movements with surprising success for an SUV of its disposition and weight (1965kg-2105kg). The bad news is, it makes the old RX feel even more boat-like when tackling road bends. Credit for the good handling goes to the vehicle’s active stabilisers, called Roll Skyhook Control by Lexus.
It works well. Working well, too, is the optional Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which adjusts the damping force automatically to keep the ride unruffl ed – be it on perfect tarmac or broken American bitumen. Even without AVS, the all-wheel-drive suspension is pliant and well-balanced, but backseat occupants with sensitive backsides might find the ride quality rather busy, especially with the stiff er F Sport spec. Lexus’ latest RX range has just made its Singapore debut, initially with the RX200t and RX350, followed by the RX450h early next year.
Some nx-style sportiness has rubbed off on the new rx.