Lexus Breathes New Life into their Biggest Seller
The Lexus RX has been tweaked inside and out for 2020. Is it still a good un?
Since inception, the Lexus RX SUV range has been hot property for the Japanese luxury brand, ever since the original was launched in 2002. With a snip under three million units sold, and making for 30 per cent of the brand’s revenue, make no mistake, consumers are lapping it up in their droves. For 2020, the RX has been updated and undergone a stylistic nip and tuck. I was invited to the New Zealand launch in Auckland and here is how it went down.
For the biggest seller in Lexus New Zealand’s arsenal, the RX needs to keep pace, and as far as looks go, at first glance the RX seems relatively unchanged. However, take a second look and you notice the larger Lexus ‘spindle’ grill and a set of new head and taillights. Also, worth noting, is the running lights are now housed in the front bumper.
The range offers a choice of eight models with petrol and hybrid powertrains. Things kick off with the base RX350 petrol at $97,400 and top out with the flagship RX450HL petrol-hybrid at $127,500. In between you have F-Sport and high-end Limited options for the RX350 and RX450H, but Limited only for the new seven-seater roomier L spec cars. It is also worth noting the longer seven-seater L models are a mere $500 more than the five-seater, so if carrying the extended family around is a priority, its definitely worth a look.
Power for the RX350 and RX350L comes in the form of a 3.5-litre petrol V6 putting 221kW/370Nm through all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic, while returning 9.6L/100km respectively. Which to be honest, isn’t too bad. The RX450H and RX450HL, naturally get the 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric hybrid set up, with 230kW/335Nm and a CVT box. As you would imagine, economy is more frugal at 5.7L/100km.
The RX has always been very generous when it came to kit, but the new RX gets some more goodies which some would argue, it has always needed. Apple Car Play and Android Auto now come as standard in the RX, and Lexus say it will be a mainstay for the rest of the range over the next 12 months. You can operate this through the same 12.3-inch infotainment system as before, albeit now with touchscreen capability. It also sits 138mm closer than before, allowing for easier reach.
Lexus has always been paramount about your safety, and the RX gets more fruit to aid in this. This includes Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Centering, Road Sign Assist and Cyclist Detection. Wireless phone charging also shows up on the Lexus spec sheets and a new hands-free kick operated tailgate will prevent you from having to drop your bundles of shopping.
The biggest technological advance with the RX is something called “Bladescan” It may sound like a prequel to ‘Blade Runner’ but in actual fact, a world first in headlight tech. Both the F-Sport and Limited models have 12 individual lights incorporated into each head light, each of which automatically dip when detecting oncoming traffic or pedestrians.
While there is nothing really new in that, what happens next is pretty impressive. BladeScan utilises tiny mirrors spinning at 100 times a second which help reflect the light through each headlight. Lexus claim this shines more light on the road ahead than having 200 individual LED lights. A bright idea indeed.
Our drive consisted of a leisurely jaunt in both petrol and hybrid variants from Lexus of Auckland City, to The Hunting Lodge just out of Kumeu via Piha Beach for a scrumptious three course lunch prepared by gourmet Japanese chef Sachie Nomura from Sachie’s Kitchen in Parnell, which was very filling I might add.
Starting off in the RX350 Petrol, things were very good. The eight-speed auto box shifts well and despite a flat spot in acceleration below 2,000rpm, the petrol gets up to speed rather nicely. Steering is well weighted and definitely responds better to gentle movements.
When you feather the throttle and feed in the power, you will find the petrol very rewarding, though it’s definitely not something to tackle an apex at speed in. Instead, leave it in cruise-o-matic and enjoy the plush leather clad surroundings, which Lexus know all too well.
Lexus have gone the extra mile underneath to ensure you get a more sumptuous yet involving drive with re-tuned shock absorbers, an improved rear anti roll bar and for the F-Sport, sportier suspension dampers.
Swapping to the RX450H at the half way point at a very blustery Piha Beach was rather nice. The power delivery is more linear thanks to that extra helping of low-down torque, plus at cruising speed, outside road and wind noise is almost none existent.
After our brief drive, which would be the best buy? Petrol or Hybrid? The RX350 petrol was certainly impressive as far as first impressions go, but this writer would go for the Hybrid every time. The right combination of refinement, economy, and waft-able power, makes for a compelling package, and if Lexus sales stats are anything to go by, it should be the biggest seller in the new RX range.
Definitely looking forward to giving both petrol and hybrid variants of the new look Lexus RX SUV a more thorough test over the coming months.