With new exterior features, including a more elegant and aggressive frontal design with the Lexus-trademark ‘spindle’ grille, and an enhanced interior with new trim finishes, a new steering wheel, revised instrument binnacle and a second-generation Remote Touch Interface (RTI), the RX is set to re-establish itself as the SUV of choice in the premium segment of the market.
In the RX the new Lexus design language brings to life a commanding SUV design that has been sculpted to create a lasting impression for all who see it. With these changes, the vehicle is brought in line with Lexus’s distinctive “L-finesse” design philosophy evident on other models in the Lexus stable. It was developed based on traditional values and unique and advanced technology. “L” denotes “Leading-edge”, while “finesse” signifies human sensibility and skill. Together they express an approach that seeks to combine these two elements in order to raise car design to the level of beauty and art. Simply put, it is luxury and dynamics personified.
The revitalised RX is characterised by a number of changes, the most prominent being the change to the South African model line-up. Notable is the change in range, with three models available following the inclusion for the first time of an F-Sport hybrid model. This will ensure that the RX 450h will have the aggressive, sporty style to match its exhilarating drive and linear power delivery.
By introducing a tailor made RX F-Sport version, the RX follows in the footsteps of the recently introduced Lexus GS – the first to introduce F-SPORT as a driver focussed enhancement package.
The line-up of three new RX models include the RX 350 with 204 kW/346 Nm 3.5-litre petrol-V6 in EX trim; the RX 450h with hybrid power pack – comprising a 183 kW/317 Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with 116 kW electric motor and sealed nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack – with SE specification; and the RX 450h F-Sport with identical powertrain, but with F-Sport style and performance enhancements to improve dynamic performance. Together, these three models cater for the different power and styling needs of discerning buyers in the segment for premium-quality SUVs.
Exterior changesOn the exterior, the most notable styling changes relate to the adoption of the new Lexus Spindle Grille design. The new grille is flanked by revised headlights which include DRLs (Daytime Running Lights), a new bumper and fog light design, and new-look rear lights.
The RX 450h F-Sport is instantly identifiable by a more aggressive, model-unique front design with a deeper, more vertical front bumper incorporating a bigger, lower section of the Spindle Grille. Less noticeable yet equally important are other, subtle aerodynamic design elements along the side and rear. Together with unique 19-inch alloy wheels, exclusive designs of the alloy pedals, shift lever, steering wheel, scuff plates and decals, as well as suspension enhancements and performance rods front and rear, the F-Sport matches its show with its go.
It is not just exterior cosmetics that set the F-Sport apart. As with the new Lexus GS the mechanical enhancements have ensured it dynamic abilities are on par with the expectation of drivers yearning for a dynamic, driver-focussed performance SUV with a conscience.
The RX 450h F-Sport benefits from a lateral performance damper system designed to absorb and minimise undesirable body vibrations, offering a more linear steering feel and contributing to improved ride comfort. In place of conventional fixed bracing, the system features a front performance damper connecting the left and right front suspension towers, and a rear damper connecting the left and right sides of the rear lower back panel.
With a construction similar to that of a typical mono-tube suspension damper, the front and rear performance damper assemblies differ according to the variations in body rigidity, noise and vibration of their surroundings, optimising their ability to absorb body torsion, flexure and fine vibrations. Its installation reduces vehicle floor vibrations across a wide frequency range and body deformation through a drop in left and right front suspension tower displacement, and even lowered audio system white noise levels. The elimination of even minuscule vibrations ensures a new dimension of steering response, agility and ride comfort.
On the inside, noticeable changes include revisions to the steering wheel, door trim, the instrument panel and the console, where a second generation Remote Touch Interface (RTI) first seen on the Lexus GS, makes interaction with the on-board information system, navigation (standard on all models) and ventilation system easier and more intuitive. It now features the world’s first slide-type joystick control mechanism which functions much like a computer mouse; the ENTER command is now accomplished simply by pushing down on the controller.
In the RX 450h models, the driver has a choice between various driving modes. Supplementing the existing Normal, EV and Eco drive modes of the full hybrid powertrain, a new Sport mode is available to improve its dynamic ability.
The Sport mode is specifically tuned to deliver greater electric motor power and maximises the performance and agility of the new RX 450h. It not only modifies the throttle and electric power steering (EPS) settings to give a faster response to driver input, but also provides less intrusive operation of the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRC) systems, allowing drivers to fully exploit the RX hybrid’s dynamic abilities.
In Eco mode, throttle response to aggressive accelerator pedal inputs is reduced and air-conditioning control optimised for improved fuel economy. Depending on driving conditions, the Eco mode assists customers to adopt a relaxed driving style, and can achieve a reduction in fuel consumption.
The Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency that is suited to everyday driving, while the EV mode (electric vehicle mode) allows for relaxing urban driving with minimal noise, and zero CO2, NOx and particulate matter emissions for up to two kilometres. Because the petrol engine is switched off throughout its operation, the EV drive mode contributes to reducing in the overall fuel consumption of the new Lexus.
The distinct character of each drive mode is further reinforced through changes to the driver’s instruments. In EV, Eco and Normal drive modes, the instrumentation is lit in hybrid blue, but backlit-illumination automatically alters to red when the Sport mode is selected.
The four driving modes can be selected through the steering wheel, whilst the EV mode (electric only) can now also be activated through a separate EV switch.
Extensive list of standard features – EX, SE and F-Sport
Equipment-wise, the RX 350 with EX trim has as its highlight HID xenon lights with DRLs (Daytime Running Lights), seats covered in natural leather, 8-way power adjustment with driver memory function and heating, leather-covered steering wheel, leather-covered shift lever, cruise control, keyless smart entry system, instrumentation with head-up display (HUD), voice recognition, 12-speaker sound system with DVD and Bluetooth, navigation, moonroof and electric operation of the tailgate.
The RX 450h with SE trim has LED AFS headlights, semi-aniline leather as seat covering, heated and cooled front seats, roof rails, 10-way power fronts seats, a wooden steering wheel and shift lever, and 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with DVD. The hybrid F-Sport has similar equipment to the RX 350, but is distinguished by its sporty body design.
A comprehensive list of safety equipment on all models include ABS brakes with Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Hill Start Assist, parking assist, tailgate with child protector feature, and front, side and curtain bags (including knee bags for both front occupants).
The RX 350 rides on 235/60 tyres on 18-inch alloys, while the two hybrid models – the RX 450h and the RX 450h F-Sport – have 235/55 tyres on 19-inch alloys.
As with all Lexus models, the RX 350 and RX 450h models are backed up a four years/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty and Distance Plan maintenance plan. The RX 350 is covered by Distance Plan Plus and the RX 450h SE and RX 450h F-Sport by Distance Plan Complete. The Lexus Distance Plans cover all normal operating condition services up to 4 years/100 000 km.
Notably the new RX range is introduced at the same price as its predecessor. This, coupled to further improvements to vehicle refinement and the already extensive list of standard features, supports the Lexus mantra of offering unbeatable value and customer service.