Road test: Chic overhaul for Lexus RX soft-roader
LEXUS overhauled the RX line-up this year, and delivered a more modern appeal while also adding a two-wheel drive variant.
The entry level now starts from $69,990 for a four-cylinder.
Given this range is not designed for mud-plugging, the four-potter is forecast to attract new buyers.
But the volume seller should still be the V6-powered RX350 range that begins at $77,900 and tops out at $94,400 for the model we tested, the Sports Luxury.
Plush surrounds and an ultra-quiet cabin, there is a sense of calm once you shut the RX350 door.
Large, soft leather-trimmed seats hug the occupants into place and its interior dimensions are generous enough to house five adults.
Changes to the design have delivered an improved modern look but with the same quality fit and finish.
Some items still look old-fashioned, and Lexus persists with the green digital clock (a feature also used on the temperature display in the GS range) that harks back to Toyotas of old. But that's nit-picking in an enhanced RX cabin in all facets.
The Sport Luxury model has front seats which can heat or cool your rear end and the pews have electric adjustment (as well as the steering wheel) to make finding a comfortable position simple.
Changes have been made to the mouse-like controller that features all the main functions and it's easy once you get the hang of things.
Everything else is simplistic in terms of operation, with the air con controls on the dash, while the main gauges are crisp and sharp to the eye.
A head-up display which projects your speed onto the windscreen is a handy feature and a great way to avoid making donations to government coffers.
On the road
Previous RX iterations were criticised for benign driving performance, and Lexus has answered with a revised chassis and a larger footprint.
While not as engaging as some others in the genre, it is a vast improvement with particular gains in the electric power steering and the driver now has improved feel with each tug of the wheel.
Engineering reinforcements have made the RX a more responsive offering.
Tackling bends with too much speed exposes some body roll, but the trade-off is a silky smooth on-road experience.
You float over the bitumen, iron out bumps with ease, and its only coarse bitumen which generates some tyre rumble.
Lexus has an impressive list of standard equipment across the range which means you don't have to visit the options list like European competitors. Complementary gear includes satellite navigation, a reversing camera, eight-way power seats, leather-accented interior, keyless entry and start, 12-speaker audio with Bluetooth mobile phone connection and a power tailgate.
The Sport Luxury model has a swag of extra goodies, the highlights are keyless entry, the head-up display and lights which corner when you do.
The safety list includes 10 airbags, stability control, traction control and hill-start assist.
There are a heap of rivals around, among them are the Audi Q5 3.2 FSI (from $73,500), BMW X3 (from $59,000), Mercedes-Benz ML350 (from $89,365) and the Range Rover Evoque SD4 Dynamic (from $70,895).
You pay a price at the pump for the V6, with consumption up over 10 litres for every 100km. Our test provide slightly higher than the official average at 12L/100km.
Lexus has a generous owners program like a complimentary loan car when yours is serviced (they also wash and vacuum it as part of the tune-up), while you also get a four-year warranty with roadside assist.
The centre console is deep enough to handle an iPad, while there are two bottle holders in the middle and the driver also has a pop-out cup holder on the dash.
While there is an electric tailgate, the levers to drop the 60-40 folding seats are only found on the side of the back pews.
Rear space is excellent, and when the back seats are folded there is ample room for sporting equipment like bikes and surfboards.
Sporting touches include a new grille which an arrowhead design, as well as LED running lamps, making for a decisive offering.
Lexus has made a good car great with the latest RX update. A contemporary overhaul inside and out, along with improved value for money, puts the luxury Japanese brand in the mix among some tough competition.
The greatest bugbear is fuel consumption, and those looking for improved frugality should opt for the same-spec hybrid model which is an extra six grand.
Yet buyers won't be unhappy with its calm on-road manners and brilliant interior ambience.
What matters most
The good stuff: Brilliantly quiet and refined ride, standard specification list, more modern looks.
What we'd like to see: Slightly more dynamic performance, thriftier fuel consumption from V6 engine, digital clock banished.
Warranty: Four year/100,000km (whichever occurs first), and you get a Lexus loan car during your vehicle's service.