Sharper Lexus RX SUV wafts into SA
Lexus' RX luxury SUV has had a comprehensive makeover, including a new front treatment, new interior trim finishes, new steering wheel and instrument cluster, and a second-generation remote-touch interface.
At the same time the South African model range has been revised to include an F-Sport hybrid model for the first time - following in the footsteps of the recently-released Lexus GS F-Sport.
The new 'spindle' grille is flanked by revised headlights that now include daytime running lights, a new bumper and fog light design, and new tail-light clusters, bringing the RX in line with the signature Lexus 'L-finesse' design language.
The RX 450h F-Sport has a more aggressive front design with a deeper, more vertical front bumper and bigger, lower grille, with subtle aerodynamic design elements along the side and rear, and special 19-inch alloys.
MEET THE FAMILY
First up is the RX 350, with a 204kW / 346Nm, 3.5-litre petrol V6, in EX trim.
The RX 450H has a 183kW / 317 Nm version of the three-and-a-half V6 teamed with a 116kW electric motor and a sealed nickel metal hydride battery pack, and is kitted out to SE specification.
The RX 450h F-Sport is mechanically identical (which makes a bit of a mockery of the name) but has sporty styling and performance upgrades to improve handling and road-holding.
These include a lateral performance damper system intended to minimise body vibration, provides a more linear steering feel and improves ride comfort. In place of conventional fixed bracing, it has vibration dampers connecting the left and right front suspension towers, and the left and right sides of the rear lower panel.
They're built like typical mono-tube suspension dampers, with slightly different valving front and rear to allow for variations in body rigidity, noise and vibration.
According to the maker they reduce vehicle-floor vibration across a wide frequency range, stiffen the body by reducing front suspension tower displacement, and lower the level of 'white noise' in the cabin.
In addition to the revised steering wheel, door trim, instrument panel and console, there's a new remote-touch interface - first seen on the GS - with a slide-type joystick that functions like a computer mouse - to press enter, simply push down on the top.
The two hybrids also give the driver a choice between various driving modes, with Normal, EV and Eco drive modes and a new Sport mode, tuned to deliver more electric-motor power, boosting the new RX 450h's performance and agility.
It modifies the throttle and electric power steering settings for sharper responses, and raises the threshold of the vehicle stability control and traction control, so you can get a little bit naughty before nanny steps in.
In Eco mode, throttle response is smoother and less aggressive and air-conditioning controls are optimised.
Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency suitable for everyday driving, while the electric vehicle mode allows for relaxing urban driving with minimal noise and zero emissions for up to two kilometres.
In EV, Eco and Normal drive modes, the instrumentation is backlit in blue, changing to red when the Sport mode is selected.
The four driving modes can be selected through the steering wheel, whilst the electric only mode can now also be activated through a separate EV switch.
Even the base EX specification includes xenon headlights with daytime running lights, leather upholstery, eight-way power adjustable seats with driver memory function and heating, leather-covered steering wheel and shift lever, cruise control, keyless smart entry system, instrumentation with head-up display, voice recognition, a 12-speaker sound system with DVD and Bluetooth capability, satnav, moonroof and a power-operated tailgate.
The RX 450h in SE trim has LED headlights, semi-aniline leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats with 10-way power adjustment, roof rails, wood-rimmed steering wheel and shift lever, and 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with DVD capability.
The hybrid F-Sport has similar equipment to the RX 350, but with sporty body kit, special steering wheel, shift lever, alloy pedals, scuff plates and decals.
The RX 350 runs on 18" rims with 235/60 tyres, while the two hybrid models have 235/55 tyres on 19" alloys.
RX 350 EX - R644 000
RX 450h SE - R768 000
RX 450h F-Sport - R755 000
The RX 350 and RX 450h models come with the standard Lexus four-year or 100 000km warranty and a four-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.