Now in its fifth generation, and offering a larger model line-up than ever before, the latest Lexus RX has made its debut on South African shores. CAR road test editor Kyle Kock was at the wheel of the RX 500h F Sport in and around Cape Town.
Lexus RX 500h F-Sport Fast Facts
Price: R1 684 300
Engine: 2,4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, twin electric motors
Power: 273 kW
Torque: 550 N.m
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel consumption: 6,5 litres/100 km
0-100 km/h: 6,2 seconds
Top speed: 210mkm/h
Rivals: Volvo XC60, Jaguar F-Pace
What makes the Lexus RX significant?
The Lexus RX established the brand in the SUV space when it was initially launched 25 years ago in the US, and apart from a comprehensive standard features list and safety specification, it also set a standard for constant updates – averaging between two and four years between facelifts. Two and a half decades later, we’re already at the fifth model.
The new Lexus RX presents itself as an evolution from the fourth generation, with the same sharp edges and hard lines, as well as the floating roof design that debuted in 2015. Even though the RX has the same overall length as its predecessor, thanks it its elongated headlamps, wider front and rear track, longer wheelbase and standard 21-inch wheels the RX has a presence that’s a little more dynamic than before. Up front the spindle nose is familiar, but around the back, there’s a light bar that spans the width of the tailgate and Lexus lettering instead of the brand’s oval logo.
Inside, the firm’s Tazuni cockpit design applies, which entails a logical layout of controls and the use of actual buttons to control functions accessed more often. For example, the information and placement of the head-up display are easily accessed by a satellite control on the steering wheel. The features list is long and impressive, including a massive 14-inch infotainment touchscreen that takes pride of place in the centre of the facia, which includes wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Other niceties include a 21-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, wireless mobile phone charging pad, tri-zone air-con, panoramic glass room and heated and ventilated outer seats.
The new RX also has a lower loading height to make packing the boot more accessible, and while the rear overhang is shorter due to the lengthened wheelbase, the new RX matches the outgoing model for the luggage room.
What does the Lexus RX lineup cost?
Its range kicks off with a choice of four models, the RX 350, RX 350h, RX 350h F Sport, and as a temporary range-topper, the RX 500h F Sport. At least until the RX 450h+ makes its debut later this year.
RX350 – R1 424 000
RX 350h – R1 458 300
RX 350h F Sport – R1 543 200
RX 500 F Sport – R1 684 300
RX 450h+ – TBA
What’s the Lexus RX like to drive?
The RX remains as comfortable as ever. From the driver’s seat, all controls are located exactly where you need them to be, and there are a variety of plush soft-touch surfaces just on the two-tiered facia alone. The RX500h was presented to me for a brief jaunt from Constantia to Camps Bay, and it rides with a suppleness that belies the fitment of low-profile tyres. This is due in part to the use of adaptive variable suspension (standard across the range), with independent damping on each wheel. There are notable differences in how the RX traverses surfaces in Normal and Sport mode.
Chances to exploit the RX 500h’s 400 mm diameter brake discs, six-piston callipers and dynamic rear steering didn’t present themselves despite twisty roads being the order of the day, but I did prod the throttle on occasion to use all of the power and torque on offer. Unfortunately, the climbs didn’t help the fuel economy claim, but the RX 500h managed to hover around 8 litres/100 km during the brief journey.
It’s difficult to disregard the significance of the RX to those who are aiming to minimise their carbon footprint. All but one of the models are hybrid. What’s more difficult to establish is exactly which vehicles rival the RX, though, in my opinion, it should run pretty favourably against the likes of the Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo XC60. They’re all stylish and have four-cylinder models with forced induction aided by hybrid abilities. The RX, though, has the advantage of being the newest and is fitted with tech that makes hybrid driving a little more exciting. I look forward to putting one through a CAR road test in the immediate future.