£41,495 - £59,495 Price range
34 - 54 MPG
While the Lexus RX SUV may be a comparatively rare sight on UK streets it is, believe it or not, the company’s bestseller worldwide accounting for 30 per cent of sales.
Hats off to Lexus for taking a risk in that case, because the new RX is an altogether more striking model than the one it replaces. It gets the company’s new ‘spindle’ grille design, origami body creases and frowning headlights. Whether that’ll put the Lexus faithful off remains to be seen, but they’ll doubtless be glad to hear that the new model is longer and wider, with more interior space.
The new body is also 30 per cent stiffer, which should help to tighten up the handling. But what has always marked the Lexus out from its main rivals – cars such as the BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volkswagen Touareg – is its focus on providing a relaxing drive.
Helping achieve this is the hybrid powertrain fitted to the range-topping 450h (UK buyers can also choose the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol 200t), which is expected to be the most popular model. It allows for a super-quiet electric only mode in town, but combines with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine to provide a decent slug of power when you need it.
Lexus owners like a healthy standard equipment list and even on the basic trim level it’s found to be in fine fettle indeed – a leather interior with electrically heated and adjustable front seats, an eight-inch display, nine-speaker stereo, LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels are just a few of the highlights.
Inside, there’s a suitably high-tech instrument binnacle and polished aluminium that seems to form an integral part of the dashboard – so by and large the design keeps the edgy look of the exterior, but with an asymmetrical twist that’s quite appealing. Testers report that the dashboard’s buttons and dials work with the kind of oily smoothness that you would expect of a Lexus.
Lexus RX interior space
Get yourself behind the wheel and you’ll discover the RX’s seats are some of the most comfortable fitted to any car and there’s plenty of adjustment to help you get a perfect driving position. Over-the-shoulder visibility is restricted, say reviewers, by the car’s large B-pillars, but top-of-the-range models get a 360-degree camera view as standard.
In the back there’s room aplenty for six-footers – even three should be able to get comfortable – and although the high-set middle seat restricts headroom for a third passenger, there’s no transmission tunnel to eat into footroom. Unlike rivals such as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, Lexus has no plans to offer the RX with seven seats.
Lexus RX boot space
Boot space in the hybrid model is restricted by the battery hidden under the floor, but at 539 litres in size it should be big enough for most people’s needs and the wide-opening tailgate makes it easy to load.
While the likes of BMW work hard to give their SUVs a sporty driving experience, Lexus has put most of its efforts into making the RX superbly comfortable – a goal that sits well with the SUV body style.
The suspension is smooth and cosseting, soaking up bumps as if they don’t exist and the car’s raised ride height makes it easy to feel detached from the kind of disturbances that you’d notice more in low-riding saloons. Out on the motorway there’s little wind noise to disturb the cruise and the car’s relatively thin tyres avoid the road roar that you do get in a large-wheeled BMW X5.
The hybrid powertrain can run in silent electric mode for around two miles – long enough to whisk you out of a small city centre. Make a quick getaway from the lights and the petrol engine is called into play, but it’s a smooth unit that sounds nice when worked hard.
Find yourself on a country road and the RX’s accurate steering makes it feel more nimble than 2,210kg SUV has any right to be. And, while the tyres’ relatively limited grip means a well driven X5 will disappear into the distance, they also make it easier to find the car’s limits.
RX owners are unlikely to be testing the RX’s off-roading skills and most of the time the car’s is ostensibly front-wheel drive – the electric motor only turns the rear wheels, for four-wheel drive, when grip is low on slippery roads.
The combined output of the electric motor and 3.5-litre petrol engine sees to it that the RX pumps out a sizeable 312hp – enough to get the car from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 124mph.
In a heavy SUV the torque figure is nearly as important and the RX falls down a little on this front. Its maximum of 247Ib ft arrives at 4,600rpm – high in the engine’s operating range – so the surging overtaking power that you get in a Volvo XC90 D5 (347Ib ft from just 1,750rpm) is an RX deficiency you’ll need to learn to work around.
It’s something that’s not helped by the hybrid’s standard CVT gearbox. Floor the accelerator and the engine holds maximum revs in a way that’ll take a little getting used to if you’re accustomed to a conventional automatic gearbox. At least it doesn’t translate into the kind of ear-piercing drone that you might get from a four-cylinder engine and there’s also a manual override that goes someway to solving the problem.
The benefit of using the CVT is efficiency – it allows the RX to operate at its most economical engine speeds more of the time. As a result, Lexus quotes fuel economy of 51.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 127g/km for an affordable annual road tax bill of £110.
With a five-star rating from safety body Euro NCAP, you can expect the Lexus to hold up well in the event of an accident. That’s a worst case scenario that Lexus would rather you side step, and it’s provided plenty of kit that should help you do just that, including lane assist and automatic cruise control on top-end models. There are 10 airbags to provide a safety net should a hard impact be unavoidable.
Lexus offers the RX with four trim levels: SE, Luxury, F Sport and Premier.
Lexus RX SE
SE trim is the entry point to the range, but there’s little to give that away. The standard kit list is huge and includes a leather interior with electrically heated and adjustable front seats, an eight-inch display, nine-speaker stereo, LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Lexus RX Luxury
Offering even more kit is the Luxury model that offers handy upgrades such as a powered back door and wireless phone charging, while the interior gets a huge 12.3-inch display. On the outside there’s little to tell it apart from the basic model, but an educated eye will spy its huge 20-inch alloy wheels and roof rails.
Lexus RX F Sport
F Sport model are easier to spot. They come with a unique body kit that gives the front of the car an altogether more aggressive look, and replaces the body coloured door mirrors for shiny black ones. You also get an F Sport interior package, which brings with it front sports seats and a black headlining.
Lexus RX Premier
Right at the top of the range is the Premier model, which comes with all the bells and whistles you would expect in a Lexus. Standard kit includes a head-up display that means your eyes need never leave the road, a blind spot monitoring system and a 360 degree view monitor. Luxury is boosted too thanks to a superb 15-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, adjustable suspension and electric front seats offering more settings than the ones fitted to the rest of the range.
Lexus hasn’t set out to reinvent the wheel with the new RX, and has simply spruced up what was a perfectly capable old model. To that end it looks altogether more modern inside and out and few are going to grumble about the extra interior space. What the old model did well is still present and correct, though, and the RX remains an extremely comfortable cruiser and one that should prove surprisingly cheap to run.