First, a little background. The RX450h SE-L car we tested came with air suspension, but without the Active Stabiliser System (available only on the top-spec SE-L Premier). In our experience, this combination makes for a Lexus that works better in some situations than others. Its forte is long-distance cruising, where it is stable (the air suspension automatically lowers at speed) and rides comfortably. Somewhat surprisingly, it is also relatively nimble across country.
While the RX remains a car that’s unlikely to excite the enthusiast or threaten the X5 dynamically, this latest iteration is more agile than the model it replaces. The revised, quicker steering and additional rebound springs give a keener turn-in and a more controlled roll rate. What it isn’t, though, is particularly enjoyable to drive briskly, mostly because the electric steering is devoid of feel. Grip levels aren’t especially high from the eco tyres, either. But this shortcoming is unlikely to trouble many prospective owners.
What may be of more concern is that the RX450h is at its worst in town. The first issue is the secondary ride; in common with other air-sprung cars, the RX450h is not the smoothest at slow speeds. The result is that ridges and manhole covers are more readily felt than they should be. Admittedly, the intrusions are well insulated from the cabin structure and the seats, so a jolt rarely becomes jarring, but the fact that the movement happens so quickly makes the RX feel unsettled. Steel-spung cars fair even worse.
The RX’s other downfall is that at slow to medium speeds it feels heavy and cumbersome. The problem stems from the steering weighting. At parking speeds it is light, which is fine, but as the speed rises above walking pace a concerted effort is required to wind on lock, making the RX appear more unwieldy than it actually is.
The F Sport, despite its revised underpinnings, doesn't entirely escape the inherent ride and handling problems of the RX. Good levels of composure and handling control have been improved upon but the town ride has suffered further, possibly due to the larger wheels.