Lexus’ recently-updated RX 300 represents a bit of a dark horse amongst the incredibly competitive up-market mid-size SUV sector.
The update brings improved comfort, better value and more equipment; but is it enough to have you cross-shopping with the prestigious Germans you’ve been eyeing, let alone the award-winning Volvo XC60? Let’s find out.
What is it?
This is the latest update of the fourth-generation Lexus RX, a nameplate first introduced back in 1998 as a relatively ambitious foray into the now popular ‘sport luxury crossover’ market.
A large SUV, the RX can be had in either five- or seven-seat guise and with the choice of three powertrains. The one we have here is the mid-tier F-Sport five-seater, powered by the entry-level ‘300’ engine, a 2.0-litre turbo petrol. Retailing for $86,800, it’s positioned as a value-rich proposition within the luxury SUV bracket.
Updates and facelifts are often skin-deep, frequently with a friendly new face, and a nip-and-tuck of the interior; and not much else. This one goes deeper, with significant chassis modifications as well as various new comfort, safety and tech updates.
How does the Lexus RX 300 F-Sport drive?
All RX 300s are propelled by a 2.0lt turbo four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed automatic gearbox, while its RX 350 sibling gains a significantly more powerful 3.5 litre V6 (with the RX450h adding hybridisation in to the mix) and an eight-speed automatic.
The 2.0lt turbo four-pot is not the most inspired powerplant, so don’t expect it to blow the doors off that GLC63 that’s lined you up at the lights. However power delivery is ultra-smooth... as long as you’re not in a hurry.
1890kgs of luxury SUV is a lot of mass for the 175kW engine to hustle, and while the claimed fuel economy figure is a reasonable 8.1L/100km, we struggled to get close to that over the week we had it thanks to mostly urban driving.
The big development for the update is the significant chassis tweaks under the skin. More spot welds (36 of them) and 4.2 metres of adhesive within the body’s construction allowed Lexus to fit softer springs as well as thicker anti-roll bars; cohesively refining lateral movement and overall body control. The RX 300 isn’t a driver’s car, but it certainly doesn’t claim to be. It is however well suited to driving the tribe all over the concrete jungle however, and is perfectly capable for the daily family haul.
The powerplant may be a bit of a slug, but the adaptive suspension coupled with the softer springs and more rigid chassis are marked improvements for the RX, whose previous iteration was frequently critiqued for its cumbersome mannerisms.
That softer suspension translates into a supremely comfy ride around town, and for the bulk of buyers (and their passengers), that’s perhaps the most important quality of any family-size SUV.
Is the Lexus RX 300 F-Sport easy to live with?
Day-to-day duties are easy and pleasant thanks to the RX 300 F-Sport.
The cabin is a polished and very pleasant place to be. A new 12.3-inch touchscreen provides the centrepiece the top of the dash, and now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a welcome alternative to the at-times finicky Lexus trackpad.
Front seats are heated and cooled (and electronically ten-way adjustable), with two extra USB slots complimenting the in-built wireless charger for those in need of extra juice.
In-built SatNav, leather trim, heads up display, a 15-speaker sound system and LED headlights are all standard affair, whilst on the safety front; an updated AEB system which can detect vehicles as well as pedestrians and cyclists compliments blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and side curtain airbags for both front and rear occupants.
Out back, the rear seats gain their own air vents and sunblinds and very agreeable leg room, plus built-in retractable sunshades for the side windows.
Further aft, the boot allows an admirable 453 litres of storage though with the second-row folded flat, the space swells to 924 litres. If your arms grow weary after filling up all that space, you’ll be glad to know the tailgate is power operated, and closes with the push of a button.
You’ll be visiting the service department once a year, or every 15,000kms – with a warranty covering four years or 100,000kms.
If you’re shopping for a smart luxury SUV but don’t go glassy eyed over the likes of the Three-Pointed Star or the Bavarian Roundel, Lexus’ RX may well be a dark horse worth looking at.
The Lexus RX is for anyone who is in the market for a luxurious, roomy and comfortable five-seat SUV. While the Germans have been dominating the sector with their prestigious badges, the Lexus offers some very real merit for those wanting something a little different from the pack.
It will surely appeal to any of those urban dwellers with penchants for svelte Japanese design; its cocooning and welcoming cabin will surely please, as will its generous level of comfort and standard equipment.
It’s a perfectly capable urban-dweller with great levels of tech, comfort and safety; and offers a seriously capable alternative to the traditional big players of the high-end high-riding sector. If you like things a little different, a little less ostentatious, the Lexus RX 300 F-Sport hits in many of the right places.
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