Premium appointments, exquisite craftsmanship and an expansive cabin are still the hallmarks of the new Lexus RX range, but the latest iteration of this pioneering luxury SUV, adds striking aesthetic upgrades as well as a whole host of connectivity and safety technology mods to its long list of virtues.
Lexus has also substantially revised the chassis set-up of the new RX with notable engineering updates (some grade-dependent) in order to quell vibrations, deliver smoother, more level ride control, and reduce bodyroll.
And, providing a decidedly sporty cherry on top of a very talented range is the all-new F Sport model in RX 350 guise.
Now in its fourth generation, the RX has a proud history of innovation, not least in being the first vehicle in the luxury segment to offer the choice of a self-charging hybrid powertrain (RX 400h of 2005). The newcomer builds on this reputation by offering a superbly crafted luxury SUV range, featuring top-drawer handling and brimming with cutting-edge tech – and yes, the RX 450h is deservedly the flagship model in the line-up.
On the design front the changes are led by new, evolutionary styling that maintains the RX’s powerful and sporty appearance, while introducing more elegant elements and creating a coherent flow from front to rear, giving the vehicle a stronger, more harmonious profile.
Details of the frontal treatment include a new rendition of the signature Lexus grille, with a mesh pattern of radiating three-dimensional “L” shapes (slightly different execution for the F Sport); slimmer sharper headlight units; more rounded edges to the re-sculpted front bumper; and an extended line from the rocker panel (located on the sides of vehicle between front and rear wheel openings) that connects with the bottom of the grille, projecting strength and stability.
A revised side character line sweeps down from the floating roof to the rear, to slim the overall rear expression, creating a coupe-like silhouette.
Moving to the rear, a more cohesive and powerful look has been created with a redesigned lower bumper that links smoothly to the rear wings. Elements such as the lights, reflectors, underguard and exhaust outlets are arranged on a strong horizontal axis to emphasise the vehicle’s width and sense of purpose, while new LED combination lights have been changed to a new mirrored L-motif design that contributes to greater brand recognition.
All models come standard with 20-inch alloy wheels (all-new design for the EX and F Sport variants) and electrically-operated sunroof.
The colour palette consists of Sonic Titanium, White Quartz, Graphite Black, Morello Red, Amber, Opulent Blue and Black. All-new shades to the range include Ice Ecru and Terrane Khaki (a popular colour first used on the Lexus UX).
The F Sport is available in six hues comprising Sonic Titanium, Graphite Black, Morello Red and Black. The colour palette Heat Blue Contrast and White Nova are exclusive to F Sport.
MORE HUMAN-FRIENDLY CABIN
The human-machine interface in the cabin has been vastly improved courtesy of a new 12.3-inch central display featuring touchscreen functionality. To accommodate this new feature, the screen has been moved further forward on the centre console, giving a wider viewing angle and placing it within easy reach of the driver and front passenger. The multimedia functions can of course also be operated using a new trackpad version of Lexus’s Remote Touch Interface, or with voice control, replacing the old button-activated system.
The new RX also provides seamless smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. Voice control can also be enabled via Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant if using an Android device. This is complemented by an additional four USB ports.
MyLexus (identical features to MyToyota) gives access to connected services via a dedicated app, while the RX is equipped as standard with an on-board WiFi hotspot with an initial complimentary 15GB data plan (with the option to purchase additional data at any time).
The third-row seats of the RX L now feature two different seating positions, they add even more leg space (+94mm) when the situation demands. Second row seats are now also electrically-adjustable – even for passenger access.
In terms of colour and trim options, there’s Black, Ivory and Noble Brown. Newly-added colours include Ochre as well as Rich Cream that’s exclusive to the hybrid SE model. The F Sport is available in two colour trims; Black and Flare Red.
When it comes to standard comfort, convenience and tech features, it’s a veritable feast in the new Lexus RX – ranging from steering-wheel mounted paddle shifts, an ambient lighting package and wireless charger to a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system (F Sport & Hybrid) and Head-Up Display (Hybrid). For a full list of the standard features please refer to the spec doc.
A WORLD-FIRST – BLADESCAN TECHNOLOGY (EXCLUSIVE TO HYBRID)
While all models in the range boast an LED adaptive high-beam system (AHS), the Hybrid version of the new RX debuts a ground-breaking world-first – AHS with BladeScan technology.
Compared with existing technology that points LED lamps towards the road, the new technology directs the lamps back towards a blade mirror rotating at 12,000rpm.
Blade-scan technology utilises the reflection of light off the mirror to increase high-beam brightness and expand its reach down the road. It also more finely controls light distribution to achieve the most precise “shading” to avoid dazzling other drivers.
Typical adaptive high-beam technology uses LED lamps directed at the road, which switch on and off as individual chips that can shade fixed portions of the road.
With blade-scan technology, LED lamps switch on and off in 50 microseconds while synchronising with the blade mirror, which spins on high rotation to deliver immediate response, reduce the width of the shaded area and provide a greater spread of illumination.
Illuminated and shaded areas are controlled in 0.1-degree increments (previously 1.0-degree), almost halving the width of the shaded area to just 3.5 metres at a distance of 50 metres (from 6.3 metres).
Compared with conventional AHS on RX, blade-scan technology is more than 10 per cent brighter and it extends the high-beam reach to pedestrians situated in close proximity to shaded vehicles from 32 metres to 56 metres – a further 24 metres ahead.
In addition to allowing drivers to recognise pedestrians much earlier, brighter and more focused light distribution enables improved illumination of hard-to-see areas such as road shoulders and road signs.
TAKING THE RX 350 TO THE NEXT LEVEL (F SPORT)
For the first time in SA, the RX line-up now includes a bespoke F Sport version in the guise of the RX 350 F Sport.
Featuring more aggressive exterior styling comprising an F Sport-exclusive front fascia, mesh grille insert, front-fender and rear valance, this athletic RX also sports polished black outside mirrors paired with brazen 20-inch split 10-spoke alloy wheels in a dark granite finish.
The bold F Sport perspective is obvious throughout the driver-centric interior too. In addition to exclusive race-inspired instrumentation and bold aluminium accents, you’ll find performance upgrades, including bolstered sport seats, a black headliner, a perforated leather–trimmed sport steering wheel and shift knob, plus aluminium pedals and more. Signature race-inspired F Sport bolstered seats provide the ideal posture, control and visibility for enhanced driving performance. Featuring a unique foam-injected construction and designed to contour to the needs of the driver, their low position helps place the driver’s hip point as close as possible to the car’s centre of gravity, for a more dynamic driving experience. The LFA-inspired digital gauge cluster provides real-time information such as G-force metrics and power distribution.
The F Sport kit is however more than just skin-deep; in addition to inheriting the new Lexus Safety System+, which it now shares with the flagship Hybrid model, it also boasts the same Adaptive Variable Suspension found in the high-performance Lexus LC that allows you to customise the shock absorber settings for improved ride comfort or reduced body lean as you enter and exit turns. And to help provide the highest level of responsiveness, the F Sport offers exclusive drive modes: Sport S+ mode enhances steering and adjusts the Adaptive Variable Suspension, while Custom mode allows you to personalise everything from road feel to responsiveness.
GOING UNDER THE SKIN OF THE NEW RX
Lexus RX Chief Engineer Takeaki Kato worked closely with the production team to improve areas of the car’s performance that contribute to driving pleasure and agile handling. This included increasing body rigidity and making detailed adjustments to the suspension.
For example, to enhance rigidity, greater use has been made of laser screw welding and spot welding (36 additional weld points), together with more extensive application of high-strength adhesives (additional 4.2m of body adhesive) in key areas.
The diameter of the new rear stabiliser bar has been increased by 1mm or 5.7 per cent, while hollow construction reduces its weight by 26.6 per cent.
This together with the use of more rigid hubs, results in reduced body roll and improved vehicle posture when cornering as evidenced by more immediate response to steering inputs.
While on the subject of steering, the new RX’s vehicle stability control gains Active Cornering Assist, which automatically suppresses understeer if the driver steps on the throttle in mid-corner. The electric power steering has also been retuned for a more linear steering feel and better line-tracing faithful to the driver’s intentions.
Ride quality which was already class-leading has been made even better thanks to new-design shock absorbers which are now fitted with a friction control device which further reduces the high-frequency vibrations caused by minute imperfections in the road surface. It uses a rubber lip installed in the shock absorber cylinder to mitigate the aforementioned high-frequency vibration that cannot be controlled with hydraulic pressure alone, improving ride comfort.
Additionally, dynamic dampers have been installed on the front suspension member which contributes to isolating the cabin from road vibrations while facilitating flat cornering and exceptional responsiveness.
Leading the changes on the new F Sport variant is further refinement of the adaptive variable suspension (AVS) system – it now operates over a wider range to further enhance comfort and control. First deployed on the Lexus LC flagship coupe, it provides almost constantly variable damping control at each wheel, automatically adjusting through 650 different settings.
The F Sport grades is further distinguished by an even more dynamic character courtesy of new front and rear performance braces between the front radiator supports and front suspension members, and between the rear hooks.
In terms of engine performance, it’s case of ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’.
So, just to recap here’s a rundown of the two engine options:
Petrol variants are equipped with the monumental Lexus 3.5-litre V6 engine featuring direct and port fuel injection for ample grunt and efficient fuel economy. Combined with a quick-shifting eight-speed transmission, and delivering 221 kW and 370Nm @ 4600 rpm (RX 350) or 216 kW and 358 Nm @ 4600 rpm (RX 350 L), both models offer dynamic performance at every curve. For even greater control, an innovative dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) system offers precise engine performance as it reduces emissions and enhances fuel efficiency. VVT-i monitors the engine’s speed and load, increasing torque at lower speeds for improved acceleration and boosting performance at higher speeds by adjusting intake and exhaust valve timing.
Now take everything you love about the RX and give it more performance…and greater efficiency. That’s the philosophy behind the RX450h which boasts the potent 3.5-litre V6 engine paired with powerful electric motors and an electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission for a combined 230 kW total system output. This equates to a 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.7 seconds and ultra-low emissions (131g/km).
IN SAFE HANDS
Safety is a defining characteristic of every single Lexus model and the RX is no exception. In addition to the full suite of passive and active safety systems ranging from 10 airbags to the latest VSC system with Active Cornering Assist, all RX models now feature a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. With reference to the latter, a new parking support brake system uses intelligent clearance sonar and rear cross-traffic sensors to avoid or mitigate collisions that commonly occur during parking manoeuvres. In addition to an audible warning, the system can reduce drive force and apply the brakes to reduce the possibility of contact with static objects in the direction of travel, or static objects and moving vehicles when reversing.
But the big news is that the Lexus Safety System+ (pre-collision safety system and autonomous emergency braking) is now standardised for F Sport and Hybrid models. The latest version gains night-time pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection with commensurate emergency functionality. Additionally its all-speed active cruise control is now linked with new lane-trace assist.
COST OF OWNERSHIP
The Lexus RX models retail from R1012 000 for the EX grade and R1087 000 for the RX 350 EX L. The RX 350 F Sport model retails for R1 132 200 while the top of the range, RX 450 h SE, is available for R1 315 800. The entire RX range boasts a Lexus best-in-class 7-year/105 000km Warranty and Full Maintenance Plan. (The warranty on the hybrid battery is 8 years/195 000km.) The vehicle service intervals are at every 15 000km, alternatively once a year.