Cargazing: Lexus RX goes radical
Developmental isn’t an everyday term associated with the auto industry. But take the case of the new Lexus RX, the lifeblood of Toyota’s luxury division. The challenge for Takayuki Katsuda as chief engineer was to re-design the company’s tried-and-true crossover without offending loyal owners.
After spending a week behind the wheel of the new RX, it became apparent that Katsuda delivered a home run. The sporty, edgy design is within the family but “out there.” Gone are the rounded soft lines that distinguished the RX of old.
The new look is chiseled, utilizing radical side lines, a rakish front end and windshield with a rear deck. While you can see the resemblance on the exterior, the inside treatment is all new — and very cool.
The RX series is available in four trim levels: RX 350, RX 350 F Sport, RX 450h and 450h F Sport. All models share the same exterior treatment including the large black shuttered front grille (love it or hate it), previously reserved for the F Sport. Base price for the RX 350 is $41,900.
For the past 18 years, the RX exterior has kept its pear-shaped appearance and has been wildly successful in its luxury field. Still pear-shaped, the new look echoes the pear on steroids. Front end styling is filled with curvatures and drastic reverse-L-shaped styling cues surrounding its grille and fog lamp assemblies.
A new wheel design also amplifies a forward look that is carried through with side chisel marks cut into upper and lower sheet metal. The result is a clean, fresh look that separates the Lexus brand from the pack of wannabes.
Inside our 450h test vehicle, we found a plethora of instruments, gauges and dials that surround an available industry-first 12.3-inch rectangular high-res multimedia display. The overwhelming size of the display can be set for full map mode or split-screen with audio and climate controls. In navigation mode, the system will display information in English, French and Spanish.
To make parking and tight maneuvering child’s play, four cameras mounted on the front, sides and rear create a composite image of the vehicle’s surroundings along with on-screen guides. From atop, a bird’s eye view of the nearby environment encircles in an entertaining fashion.
On the open road, safety features keep the RX in line, or more accurately, inside the driving lane with a gentle steering nudge if you attempt to cross lane markers without using turn signals. Side-mirror blind-spot monitors warn of upcoming traffic. Adaptive radar cruise keeps the RX a pre-set distance from traffic ahead, utilizing brakes or acceleration to maintain speed.
A standard vehicle dynamic system helps prevent a skid before it occurs using individual wheel braking, power modulation and steering assist.
A mouse-like controller mounted in the center console is useful for adjusting screen modes while parked — though we found this distracting while driving and overly touch-sensitive with cursor movement.
A new eight-speed transmission replaces the outgoing six-speed. Several engine tweaks give the new models a small boost in horsepower and fuel efficiency. Lexus ride quality, handling and posh interior amenities continue to impress.
Bottom line — the new RX family of crossovers should do well.