The all-new Lexus RX makes its South African debut
Origami-inspired design cues, a heady mix of sharp creases and curves, an emboldened spindle grille and a whimsical ‘floating’ roof, the re-fashioned fourth generation RX, the luxury marque’s most successful car to date, makes an undeniably powerful visual statement.
Credited with pioneering the luxury crossover segment, the RX has racked up more than 1,2 million sales since its inception and with annual US sales consistently surpassing the 100 000 mark, the RX is one of only two luxury-badged vehicles to achieve this accolade. Since its initial launch in 1998, the Lexus RX has proved immensely popular with those needing the flexibility of a sport-utility vehicle combined with the driving comfort of a luxury sedan, all wrapped up in an attractive, elegant package.
Glenn Crompton, Vice President of Marketing, concedes that success brings challenges: “Lexus engineers and product planners were left with the arduous task of keeping loyalists happy while broadening the appeal of the new RX – something I’m happy to say they’ve done admirably.
“The new RX does indeed build on the success of the previous generations through the injection of adventurous styling, increased interior space, enhanced power and crucially, more dynamism. Frankly, it’s an ‘exceptional’ package, combining the flexibility and psychological security of an SUV with the driving dynamics familiar to sedan owners. The fact that it comes with all the wood-and-leather trappings of a luxury brand is, of course, an added benefit. It’s a model that has performed consistently in South Africa since it was introduced in 2006 and the newcomer is sure to win over new fans.”
The local RX line-up comes in two ‘flavours’: the petrol V6-powered RX 350 EX and the petrol-electric hybrid RX 450h in SE guise. The RX 350 EX features an upgraded 3.5-litre direct injection V6 that develops 221kW and 370Nm – 17kW and 24Nm more than the previous generation – and drives all four wheels via an eight-speed transmission.
The RX 450h hybrid develops 230kW combined system power (engine and electric motor) – a 10kW increase in combined system power over the previous generation RX 450h – and drives all four wheels via a CVT transmission.
LONGER AND WIDER RX FEATURES EXUBERANT STYLING
The exterior styling package on the all-new RX delivers a dramatic appearance in tune with the model’s extrovert style direction.
Its aggressive spindle grille design sets the tone for the styling package, fusing with the overall body to deliver a sleek, streamlined appearance. The new headlamp design complements the more pronounced spindle grille and works in combination with the daytime running lamps to provide a strong, commanding frontal road presence. The RX 450h is strikingly ‘lit’ courtesy of the tri-LED headlamp cluster with integrated washer system. This model also features a sequential LED indicator function which works in conjunction with the DRLs. The RX 350 EX makes use of HID headlamps with a more conventional indicator function.
The side design is characterised by a sharp, angular profile while continuing the lines of the spindle grille from the front to the rear. The real kick in the design profile are the blacked-out C pillars which create the illusion of a floating roof. The rear design evokes the styling elements of the front, specifically the trapezoidal spindle grille design, to provide continuity and a feeling of width, which contributes to the aggressive stance of the newcomer.
Incidentally, the wheelbase of new RX is 50mm longer to provide additional rear legroom. It’s also 120mm longer and 10mm wider but 20mm lower than the previous generation vehicle, adding to its sleek profile. Front and rear track have also increased to 1640mm and 1630mm respectively, an increase of 10mm each over the third generation RX.
All-new RX offers a wide range of paint and interior colours to match its striking body and cabin designs; offering a choice of seven metallic hues complemented by two leather interior trim colours – black and ivory. The colour palette includes White Quartz, Platinum Silver, Sonic Titanium, Graphite Black, Morello Red, Amber (burnt orange) and Opulent Blue.
20-inch alloys are standard on both grades, however an interesting piece of wheel art on the RX 350 EX comes in the form of world-first colour inserts in Sonic Titanium.
NEW RX HAS IMPROVED PERFORMANCE AND EFFICIENCY
The new RX 350 has eight per cent more power and seven per cent more torque, while returning 9 per cent greater fuel economy. RX 350’s new-generation 2GR-FKS engine has 221kW of power at 6300rpm and 370Nm of torque at 4700rpm, with combined cycle fuel economy of 9.6 litres/100km..
It features a new specification 3.5-litre quad cam V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission with M (manual) Mode, for improved driveability and fuel economy. It develops 17kW more power and 24Nm more torque than the superseded dual VVT-i 2GR-FE engine.
The new engine has the additional features of VVT-iW (Wide) on the inlet camshaft and the Lexus D-4S dual injection system of high-pressure direct injection and port injection. It is the first Lexus engine to combine VVT-iW and D-4S. The continuously variable valve timing VVT-iW system is shared with the new turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.
Its greater range of adjustment means the valve timing can be advanced for greater performance or retarded, so the engine operates in the high expansion-ratio Atkinson cycle for greater economy. The result is higher torque throughout the engine revolution range. Fuel economy has been optimised by paying careful attention to the balance between direct and port injection, according to engine load and operating conditions. The Lexus VVT-iW system adjusts the inlet timing to ensure reliable engine start in conditions of extreme cold and impressive wide-open throttle (WOT) performance.
New-generation RX 350 has an eight-speed sequential-shift transmission in lieu of the previous six-speed transmission, for added driver involvement, driveability and fuel economy. New electronic control technology further adds to driveability.
The eight internal ratios have been chosen to balance the needs of sports driving and fuel economy – with a low first gear ratio for initial acceleration, closely spaced ratios in the intermediate gears for performance and urban-driving economy, and a tall eighth-gear ratio for motorway economy. First gear is 20 per cent shorter than the ratio in the Lexus six-speed transmission and top gear is 16 per cent taller. The overall spread of ratios is 44 per cent greater than the superseded six-speed transmission.
The M mode provides full torque-converter lock-up from third to eighth gears for ‘clutchless’ manual shifting when accelerating and lock-up from second to eighth gears when decelerating. Down changes in M mode are made with the transmission’s throttle blipping control matching the engine speed to the gear. In addition, the RX 350 transmission is linked to the Lexus Drive Mode Select function, with its ECO, NORMAL and SPORT modes.
It’s worth mentioning that the Lexus transmission software monitors throttle opening to provide the acceleration the driver requires, in a system known as Linear Drive-force Management. It can initiate a quick downshift depending on throttle position to ensure responsive re-acceleration out of a corner or a quick upshift to maintain momentum. This minimises the variation in acceleration rate as vehicle speed increases, for a continuous acceleration feeling.
Another control technology, Downshift Control, ensures that downshifting response matches driver intention. It prioritises the time taken for the drive force to reach the final gear step when the throttle pedal is pressed sharply, while sequence downshift control prioritises smooth transfer of drive force when the accelerator pedal is pressed slowly.