By Otsile Kadiege
The Lexus RX has become the Japanese automaker’s bestseller over the last two decades with more than 3.5 million units sold worldwide since its introduction in 1998. Now in its fifth-generation the newcomer has been completely reinvented, opening a major new chapter for the Lexus SUV as it will play a pivotal role in the brand’s future ‘Lexus Electrified’ strategy.
Bold yet elegant exterior design
The new Lexus RX makes us of the brand’s ‘Next Chapter’ design philosophy. Upfront, the designers undertook the challenge of incorporating the new ‘spindle body’ design identity into the new RX. This resulted in improved grille integration that expresses a sense of electrified power and a low centre of gravity. More compact and sharper triple LED headlights accentuated by the L-shaped Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), air intakes and a wider track (15 mm) further consolidate the stable, confident look.
Lexus designers developed a sleeker front-to-rear posture, by extending the bonnet, lengthening the wheelbase by 60 mm and lowering the roofline by 10 mm. Lending the car a coupé-like feel, the signature black rear pillar (Lexus’ so called ‘floating roof’) is now more three-dimensional in appearance, while extra RX dynamism comes from the sweeping character line and large 21-inch wheels.
To the rear, the single-line Lexus signature taillights underline the new RX’s shape, while the wider track (50 mm) emboldens the stance and road presence. The introduction of the new “LEXUS” badge on the tailgate creates a clean and contemporary look. The F Sport features enhancements in the execution of the front grille, skirts and the aerodynamic front and rear bumpers. The grade will only be offered as RX 500h performance hybrid or RX 350 in Eastern Europe.
Luxurious and driver-focused interior
In a bid to create a driver-centred interior Lexus adopted the Tazuna cockpit concept, which we saw first in the new NX and RZ. In the cockpit, information sources like the multimedia screen, multi-information display, single-dial meter, centralised gauges and head-up display are grouped so their content can be read with minimal eye and head movement.
The designers sought to create a minimalist, yet intuitive and thoughtful interior space using the highest quality materials. The front seats have been redesigned to offer top-class accessibility, excellent support and heating/ventilation. To provide proper ergonomic support around the waist, a concave shape was created in the seat sides. Staying on the seats, the new RX is available with an animal-free leather interior, created in response to growing demand from vegan and other eco-conscious consumers.
Other interior highlights include an anti-glare 14-inch touch display, 64 colours ambient lighting, 14 bespoke themes, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound audio on high-grade models, lowered loading height by 30 mm, 40:20:40 split rear seats and a luggage compartment that’s 50 mm longer.
Safety and driver assistance systems
The new Lexus RX benefits from next-level active safety and driver assistance systems featured in the latest, third generation of Lexus Safety System+ with upgraded functions and increased scope for accident risk detection and prevention. The improvements include further expansion of the Pre-Collision System’s ability to detect motorcycles and other objects in the car’s path and enhanced Adaptive Cruise Control. Higher-grade models feature the Extended Safety Package. This includes Lane Change Assistance (LCA), which provides automatic lane change steering on the motorway and Front Cross-Traffic Alert, which uses radar monitoring to warn the driver of traffic approaching from either side. Also introduced on the new RX is Pre-Collision System with Active Steering Assist.
The new Lexus RX has a diverse line-up of powertrains including petrol, hybrid and plug-in hybrid options. The line-up consists of four model derivatives starting with the entry-level RX 350 which is powered by a 2.4-litre petrol engine making up to 279 DIN hp (205kW) and 430Nm. This model is however reserved only for Eastern Europe markets.
Sitting above the RX 350 is the RX 350h. It’s powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine paired with self-charging hybrid technology. It makes 180kW and has a claimed 0-100 km/h acceleration in 8.0 seconds. Taking another step up the new RX range, the RX 450h+ sits just below the range-topping RX 500h. The former is also powered by a 4-cylinder 2.5-litre petrol engine producing 306 DIN hp (kW) and paired with a plug-in hybrid system with an 18.1 kWh rechargeable lithium-ion battery good for a competitive 65 km of pure electric driving range.
The top-end RX 500h performance is the first-ever Lexus to feature turbo-charged hybrid technology. With power delivered by a completely new hybrid architecture consisting of a 2.4-litre turbo engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, it delivers 371 DIN hp (228kW) for exhilarating acceleration and superb dynamic handling thanks to Direct4.
The front electric motor is positioned between the combustion engine and the transmission, with a clutch on both sides, enabling great flexibility in power delivery. The rear is equipped with an 80kW e-Axle: a compact, modular package consisting of a motor, gearing and an ECU located between the rear wheels. According to Lexus, its compact dimensions help secure more space in the cabin and boot. Because this is a high-performance hybrid, Lexus fitted opposed callipers to the front brakes to realise a powerful braking and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) which is said to determine the optimum steering angle for the rear wheels.
The new Lexus RX is built on the GA-K platform which has allowed a 90 kg drop in the car’s weight and a reduction in the overall height of 10 mm, resulting in a 15 mm lower centre of gravity. The wheelbase is extended by 60 mm while keeping the overall length and reducing the yaw. At 15 mm in front and 50 mm to the rear, the track is also wider.
More details, pricing and availability will be shared at launch timing. Lexus South Africa plans to introduce the new RX in line with its global release, which will market early 2023.
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