What is it?
This is the new fourth-generation version of the Lexus RX, a luxury SUV that rivals the likes of the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90.
Previous RXs have proven popular thanks to their myriad classic Lexus virtues, including steadfast reliability, a clean hybrid powertrain, quality and comfort.
There have always been gripes, however. The RX was never the most practical choice, with a comparatively small boot, nor was it particularly gratifying to drive. Many also found the hybrid version inefficient in the real world, delivering far from its claimed figures.
Most of the revisions for the fourth-generation RX focus on the aforementioned issues. It’s longer and wider to offer more interior space. Revamped aerodynamics and powertrain upgrades reputedly boost economy, while a 30% stiffer shell and revised suspension and steering aim to deliver keener handling.
You’ll find a whole host of upgrades inside, including a new dash, a large colour head-up display and more comfortable seats. The styling has also been brought into line with that of more modern Lexus offerings, such as the RC F.
What's it like?
Lexus hasn’t chased an unnecessary and compromise-inducing handling benchmark by fitting overly stiff suspension, wide tyres and sharp steering. The company’s chassis revisions have sharpened the RX up, though, and the steering feels weightier and more precise.
This is still a 2210kg SUV, mind, with comparatively narrow 235-section tyres. On faster and more challenging roads the Lexus will squeal and roll, but it’ll remain controllable and safe.
Power comes from a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 that drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. It’s aided by an electric motor, which provides assistance to the engine and the ability to run on electric power alone. An electric-powered rear axle steps in primarily to offer four-wheel drive when needed.
In the Lexus heartland of gentle cruising, it’s a pleasant combination. The Lexus RX steps off the line briskly, dispatching the 0-62mph sprint in 7.7sec, and even feels pretty stout once you’re moving. Electric and piston power are smartly blended, and the pure EV mode gives the RX a tranquil nature at lower speeds.
Inclines and hard acceleration cause a stereotypical surge in RPM, but the V6 sounds decent and you soon learn to treat the throttle in a way that doesn’t cause the engine to just sit at 6000rpm as you accelerate hard. You can manually select ‘gears’, which offers some engine braking and extra engagement and control, if necessary. Stopping power is good and easily metered out, while traction isn't an issue.
The ride is supple and relaxed, with minimal suspension noise and jarring over harsher bumps, while wind and road noise – in part thanks to those narrow tyres – is negligible, even at speed. Make no mistake; this is a fine car in which to cover distance.
Inside, it’s as luxurious as you’d hope. The seats are some of the most comfortable offered in recent history, and the cabin feels spacious and airy. Everything is finished to a high standard, lending the RX a suitably upmarket feel. Grab the door handle, for example, and you’ll find no harsh plastic edges, only soft leather and plush fabric-lined wells.