Late last year we were introduced to the new Lexus RX, the brand’s ultra-swanky and ultra-popular SUV. Well, last week we managed to get a second look and this time Lexus NZ even let us bring it home to meet the family.

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As a brand, Lexus launched its way onto the World’s luxury automotive market three decades ago (it was 1991 for New Zealand but don’t let that curb your enthusiasm). Their mission was to build cars that would rival the best in the world and boy did the LS 400 sedan do that. V8 power, an automatic tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with SRS airbag, power-adjustable shoulder seat belts, walnut and leather trim, power-adjustable seats, Nakamichi premium sound system, I could go on. Suffice to say, it was a hit.

A mere four years later, Lexus entered the luxury SUV/Crossover market with the RX 300 and it’s this very popular model’s latest iteration, or ‘refreshed’ 4th Generation, that we re here to talk about.

When I say popular, I really mean it, and something to which 2.94million global sales of the RX would surely attest. In fact, it’s Lexus’s best selling vehicle, a position it’s held for more or less a decade. Here in New Zealand, the RX contributes to a huge 30% of Lexus sales and of that, over 50% of them are hybrid-powered!

The new RX comes in eight model variants, two of which are 7-seaters. They all come with the 3.5L V6 engine (sporting 216kW for the ‘L’ and 221kW for the other petrol-only models), however, four of them (50%) are hybrid too, giving you 230kW’s to play with. Trim levels are L, F-Sport and Limited. Since the 450h (hybrid) is arguably the most desirable, that’s the one they gave me, in Cobolt blue and F-Sport trim.

Visually, the exterior has been enhanced. The trademark Lexus ‘spindle-grille’ has been revised, the headlights (that I’ll get to in a moment) have been slimmed down, fog lights have been lowered and it comes with corner lights too. ‘Unique’ Limited 20-inch alloys increase the SUV’s profile while at the rear, combination lights, a lower bumper and a kicker tailgate. Now about those headlights. The F-Sport (and Limited for that matter) comes with ‘BladeScan’ Adaptive Highbeam System, that automatically reduces brightness in specific regions ahead of the car

BladeScan operates by shining light from LEDs on two blade-shaped mirrors rotating at high speed, which in turn reflect light onto a lens to illuminate the road ahead. The distribution of this light is precisely controlled. BladeScan means that drivers will be able to identify pedestrians near the shoulder of the road from a distance of 56 metres, up 24 metres from the previously 32 metres illumination using the Adaptive High-beam System.

The RX comes dripping with other Lexus safety features too, (too many to list here and keep you reading), suffice to say, you’ll struggle to find any blindspots or not be alerted to any danger. Apple and Android smartphones have now been embraced and there’s a large 12.3-inch touchscreen that gives you access to a whole raft of apps and infotainment. My model came with supple bright red (flare red) leather furniture that wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste but I really liked it, wood trim, panoramic roof, steering wheel heater, (I could go on) and (of course) Takami craftsmanship.

Off the mark, the hybrid RX seems quicker than its straight petrol-only sibling, I assume this is to do with the low down torque and Electronically controlled CVT (vs 8-speed automatic transmission). It’s more efficient too, 6.0L/100km combined and 137 g/km CO2 emissions. Handling wise, I doubt there’s much between the two versions, although I would suggest that there’s a little more battery weight down low resulting in a lower centre of gravity. The steering is quick and offers enough feedback to know you’re travelling at speed, but the feel of luxury is there at every turn. Basically, the RX offers a smooth, comfortable ride on country roads and highways alike. It’s not the most compact of vehicles so mall spaces are neat, but there are plenty of aids and alerts to ensure you park well between the lines.

To be perfectly frank, we didn’t do anything out of the ordinary with the SUV but the family fell for the RX instantly. It’s ludicrously spacious and oozes Japanese luxury from every angle. The touch and the feel of the cabin materials, the warmth of the Levinson audio, even the fact that the rear seats are controlled electronically by switches in the back, all combined to make the SUV's interaction with the family seamless.

The RX is a delight to drive and comes oozing in Lexus refinement, it’s easy to see why this SUV is so important to the Lexus range.

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