5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Improved dynamics; more equipment means better value; option of seven seats for less than $95K
Being built upon an old platform means it’s still not the sharpest tool; trackpad controller is fiddly; steering isolates, rather than involves
The Wheels Verdict: Full credit to Lexus for getting its hands dirty and actually addressing the RX’s dynamic areas that needed attention, rather than just fitting new front and rear ends and more equipment (although they did that too). If you can stretch to it, the electric torque of the hybrid V6 allows the RX to do what it does best, which is to waft along quietly, isolating its occupants in ample comfort. And specced as a seven-seater, it has a real USP in terms of price and equipment over its Euro rivals.
WHAT IS IT?
The Lexus RX is an upper mid-size SUV, available as either a five- or seven-seater, and offered with a choice of three powertrains.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
This update of the fourth generation is much more than just a facelift, so we were keen to see if the stiffer body and revised suspension tune really does bring an appreciable difference to the dynamics.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
Just as facelifts can come in differing levels of invasiveness and successful outcomes for people, so it is for cars. Here, in the case of the Lexus RX, it’s actually selling it short to even call this update of the fourth generation a facelift. Yes, the bumpers and lights are new, so it qualifies on that level, but there have also been significant body stiffening measures introduced, allowing a comprehensive retuning of the suspension set-up, and a raft of comfort and safety upgrades to see it through the next phase of its life span.
What hasn’t changed are the three powertrains offered. Biggest take-up so far has been for the 2.0-litre turbo four, which accounts for around half of all sales. We didn’t drive that variant at the recent launch, instead limited to the atmo V6 and hybrid V6. The former feels a bit old school in this world of boosted torque curves, needing revs to really show enthusiasm, and delivering a sound that, while cultured, doesn’t completely fit with the overall ambience and positioning of the RX.
The hybrid is way more preferable, with its electric assist making acceleration from trundling speeds feel far more effortless and refined. It’s not, however, a completely seamless integration of motor and petrol power, with an occasional, small, subdued clunk in off/on throttle situations revealing the mechanical complexity going on underneath.
The real transformation for the RX is the chassis tune. By adding 36 extra spot welds and 4.2 metres of adhesive to the body construction, Lexus engineers have improved rigidity enough to allow softer springs for improved ride comfort, while the diameter of the anti-roll bars has been increased for better body control. The outcome is a luxo SUV that has lost much of the heaving and wallowing that afflicted the outgoing model. There’s still not a whole lot here for keen drivers, but it is an improvement, and driven with a measure of restraint, perfectly fine for its family hauler role.
Inside, that annoying trackpad thing persists, but you can mostly avoid it by interacting directly with the new 12.3-inch touchscreen and embrace the inclusion, finally, of CarPlay and Android Auto.
As for pricing, the RX300 Luxury has been trimmed by $1600 to open the range at $71,920. But it’s the availability of the RX as a seven-seater V6 hybrid from under $95K that gives this Lexus a USP over its Euro competition.
Audi Q5; BMW X5; Jaguar F-Pace; Land Rover Velar; Mercedes GLC; Volvo XC60/ XC90; VW Touareg
PRICE AND SPECS
Model: Lexus RX450hL Sports Luxury
Engine: 3456cc V6 (90°), dohc, 24v + electric motors
Max power: 230kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 335Nm @ 4600rpm
0-100km/h: 8.0sec (claimed)
On sale: Now