Lexus cut its SUV teeth on the RX line with the RX 300, launched in Japan and the US in 1998, however it wasn’t sold here. The second-generation luxury sport RX 330 V6 was released in Australia in 2003 with immediate success, becoming Australia’s most popular luxury SUV. The RX went on to be Lexus’ most successful model globally.
Now the fourth generation introduces itself with the RX 200t at $73,000, plus on-road costs, the RX 350 Luxury comes in at $88,583 on road, the RX 350 F Sport at $101,000, the RX 350 Sports Luxury $107,200, while the range is topped off with the RX 450h F Sport hybrid at $100,000 and RX 450h Sports Luxury, $106,000.
Several Enhancement Packs that can be added to the lower-range models. The test vehicle was the RX Line flagship, the RX 350 Sports Luxury, priced at $107,200 on road.
There is no mistaking a Lexus RX 350 from the front, with its even deeper-set radiator grille. A new headlamp design follows suit, with daytime running lights adding more substance to the SUV’s bold street presence.
The distinctive lines of the grille begin a sharp angular profile all the way to the rear, where styling elements of the front are repeated. A real stand out is the rear three-quarter, with the windows swooping a long way down.
New Lexus RX is 120 mm longer and 10 mm wider, but 20 mm lower than the previous generation vehicle. Sports Luxury models feature wheels with coloured inserts and sequential LED front and rear indicators.
It goes without saying that the RX 350 Sports Luxury passenger cabin combines high levels of build quality with superior ergonomics, with Lexus’ concept of Human Machine Interface separating the control and display zones to offer the driver fewer distractions.
Respected US-based motoring resource WardsAuto has named the interior the industry’s finest, placing it on its 2016 10 Best Interiors list, lauding in particular build quality, seats and instruments.
The remote touch controller is close at hand on the centre console. The instrument panel takes on a wide, flowing structure to provide a sense of openness. The multimedia screen in the display zone is positioned to minimise driver inattention from the road ahead.
Rounded seat cushions with a vertical stitch pattern provide cohesion, while quilting on the seat-backs matches the door trim give an additional feeling of design unity.
The wheelbase of new Lexus RX is 50 mm longer than the previous generation, providing more legroom in the back and a 20 mm longer luggage area.
Lexus tells us stowage includes a world first, in having depth adjustment for the front drink holder section. The bottom of the holder can be lowered by pressing it down with the container, it is raised by pressing an up button.
Finally, Lexus prevailed on the piano making maestros of long-term partner Yamaha to produce a finish which involves combining a thin veneer of wood and aluminium and then making precision laser cuts through the wood to expose the metal. The result is a striking line that draws on the sharp contrast between the rich qualities of the wood and the cool appearance of the metal.
The effect is heightened by a protective clear coat that is polished to a deep shine for a high quality look and feel.
The new audio head units have full-screen TFT display of the menu and satellite navigation maps, with 12.3-inch display. The screen contains light-control film (whoopee!) with special anti-glare and anti-reflection surface to diffuse reflection and reduce reflected light.
There is voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity, with an Aux mini jack and two USB ports inside the console box.
Situated on the centre console, Lexus remote touch interface allows navigation control by both driver and front passenger. The Enter function can now be controlled by switches on both sides of the remote-touch unit, while Back function has been included in front of the remote touch.
The Mark Levinson 15-speaker audio features Clari-Fi (compressed music restoration technology) to optimise frequency characteristics, dynamic range, low-tone tension and detail reproduction of compressed audio sources such as MP3. Green Edge technology uses high-efficiency speakers to double the sound output while using the same energy as conventional speakers.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
RX 350 features a new 3.5-litre twin-cam V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The new engine has 14 kW more power and 14 Nm more torque than the superseded motor.
Lexus RX 350 uses a bespoke all-wheel drive system designed to maximise traction, cornering stability and driver control while saving fuel. In a Lexus first, drivers can view the torque distribution in real time on the multi-information display. All RX Line models have a pre-load front differential for improved take-off performance and straight-line stability.
The Lexus RX line has achieved a five-star safety rating from independent vehicle safety advocate the Australasian New Car Assessment Program following extensive crash tests. ANCAP in particular praised the high level of standard safety features on RX, such as autonomous emergency braking, via the pre-collision safety system, and lane keeping assist.
Active safety also includes automatic high beam, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing camera with guidelines, clearance and back sonar, and tyre-pressure monitor.
Brakes are ABS anti-skid with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist. There’s traction control, enhanced vehicle stability control and hill-start assist.
Passive safety features include 10 airbags – dual-stage twin-chamber driver and front-passenger airbags, driver and front-passenger knee airbags, and rear-seat side airbags. The body includes increased use of high-tensile strength and hot-stamped steels, a new construction method for the door surrounds and a high-strength, lightweight aluminium rear-bumper reinforcement. DRIVING
Driving the RX 350 Sports Luxury is like talking in hushed tones. Quietly confident, it brought to mind ‘Whispering’ Ted Lowe, the breathy commentator on the popular BBC snooker show Pot Black.
The eight-speed transmission can be used in D (automatic) or M mode, for a direct and sporty (fun) driving feel. The latter provides full torque-converter lock-up from third to eighth gears for ‘clutch-less’ manual shifting when accelerating and lock-up from second to eighth when decelerating. Down changes are made with the transmission’s throttle blipping control matching engine speed to the gear.
In addition, the RX 350 gearbox is linked to the Lexus Drive Mode Select function, with its Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport S and Sport S+ modes. The last two include newly adopted AI-Shift (Artificial Intelligence) Control, which uses information from a G-sensor on driving manner to provide the right gear ratio for performance driving, for example, to help set up for a corner and ensure optimum response on re-acceleration.
In Normal mode the Sports Luxury test vehicle recorded fuel consumption of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the motorway, but up to 16 litres per 100 kilometres in the city slog.
The brilliant made-to-measure Mark Levinson sound system takes the cabin ambience to a new level, and as for head-up display on the windscreen, every car should have one.
Almost 30,000 RX units have been sold since it was introduced to Australia, putting it at the leading edge of Lexus’ sales here, accounting for between 30 and 40 per cent. With an all-round improvement in the Line, there’s no reason for owners not to be going back for more.
AT A GLANCE
Lexus RX 350 Luxury: $88,583 (automatic)
Lexus RX 350 Luxury with Enhancement Pack 1: $92,205 (automatic)
Lexus RX 350 Luxury with Enhancement Pack 2: $93,241 (automatic)
Lexus RX 350 F Sport: $101,000 (automatic)
Lexus RX 350 Sports Luxury: $107,200 (automatic)
Note: These are drive-away prices and include all government and dealer delivery charges.
12.3-inch high definition multimedia display 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system Adaptive variable suspension Five-mode Drive Mode Select Dynamic headlight levelling
20-inch alloy wheels with selectable colour inserts 14-way power adjustable seats Heated rear seats Power folding rear seats Luxury front seats Laser cut ornamentation and steering wheel trim
Sequential LED front and rear indicators Head-up display Adaptive high beam system Headlight cleaner Intake sound generator LED high grade headlamps and tail lamps Sunshade on rear passenger doors
SPECIFICATIONS (Lexus RX 350 3.5-litre VVT-I switchable Atkinson Cycle dual port direct injection petrol engine)
Capacity: 3.456 litres
Configuration: Six cylinders in V-formation
Maximum Power: 221 kW @ 6300 rpm
Maximum Torque: 370 Nm @ 4600-4700 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95 RON or higher
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.6 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 223 g/km
DRIVELINE: Eight-speed automatic, electronically controlled with sequential shift, D and M modes, G-sensor artificial intelligence shift control, direct downshift control and torque converter lock-up from 2nd to 8th gears, all-wheel drive
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4890 mm
Wheelbase: 2790 mm
Width: 1895 mm
Height: 1690 mm
Turning Circle: 11.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1980-2085 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 72 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Four years / 100,000 km