With their spindle grilles and edgy styling, Lexus' recent efforts have done a good job of making cars from Toyota's luxury division a stand-out alternative to the Germans. The latest Lexus to be given a working over is the RX SUV, which will take the fight to the BMW X5, recently-released Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90.
The first thing that jumps out about the 2016 RX is the sharp styling, with Lexus incorporating the brand's corporate spindle grille and L-shaped LED running lights to give it a face that will make it stand out among the SUV crowd. To us, it looks really sharp and distinctive from the front, although we're not so sure about the funky tapering window line. The car sits on 18-inch wheels, with an option for 20-inch aluminum units that can be customized with the addition of body-colored inserts.
As good as it looks, to compete with the class-leading Europeans, the RX will need to be packing some impressive powertrain options. The range kicks off with the RX350, powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 300 hp (224 kW), and is coupled with a new 8-speed automatic gearbox. Alternatively, owners can choose the RX450h, with its Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor generator combining for a claimed 300 hp (224 kW) output. Interestingly, Lexus gives no mention of a diesel option.
While the Germans are still new to the hybrid game, Lexus has been offering hybrid options on its RX since 2005. While the Lexus hybrid system offers slightly less horsepower than those from its German and Swedish counterparts, it will be interesting to see if competing systems can manage the same level of refinement that Lexus has been able to tune into its system over the years.
Along with its new face, Lexus is claiming the RX has improved for drivers too. The car's whole chassis has been made stiffer, and the body has been strengthened to cut down on noise and vibration through to the cabin. Suspension is fully independent all-round, with MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone suspension system at the rear, which Lexus claims provides a smooth ride with good body control. The company is also making an adaptive suspension system available on its SUV, which constantly monitors the shock absorber damping to provide the best possible ride or handling setup for the road conditions.
If owners decide they want an even sportier focus from their Lexus, they can opt for the F-Sport package. As well as some styling flourishes, ticking the F-Sport box gives drivers a special TFT-screen in lieu of the normal car’s instruments, a special steering wheel and paddle shifters. F-Sport cars are also fitted with an active stabilizer system designed to keep the RX sitting flat through the corners when the driver puts the car into Sport+ mode.
As is becoming the norm, Lexus has fitted its RX with a raft of active safety features. The Lexus Safety System+ takes advantage of a millimeter-wave radar working in tandem with a camera for automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, as well as radar cruise control. Owners who battle with parking can also shell out for a panoramic view monitor, and blind spot warning is available.
Inside, laser-cut trim is available for those who simply aren't satisfied with a normal bit of wood or aluminum on the dash, and a heads-up display can be optioned to complement the car's dash-mounted infotainment screen, which can be as large as 12.3 inches. Rear passengers are treated to extra legroom and heated seats, and owners can choose a rear-seat entertainment package that places 11.3-inch screens behind the front headrests to keep the kids quiet on long journeys.
Lexus has not revealed details about pricing yet, but the base model should start around US$45,000 and be in showrooms towards the end of the year.
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