Base variants in any model lineup typically refer to cars with poorer performance and fewer goodies. The norm, however, doesn’t seem to apply to Lexus and the entry model in its RX range, the RX270.
Compared to its rounder and less angular pre-facelift predecessor, the current RX looks more eye-catching, thanks largely to its dramatic “spindle” grille, which represents the new face of Lexus. Nothing but the badge on the tailgate differentiates the RX270 from its RX350 and RX450h siblings, which cost $30k and $51k more (for the standard spec) respectively.
Slip into the driver’s seat, and this time round you’ll find a cabin similar to this vehicle’s more expensive brethren. Where the previous RX270 wasn’t equipped with Lexus’ mouse-like Remote Touch controller, this current model is.
Navigating the infotainment menus and tweaking the different settings to suit your preferences isn’t only easier, it now also feels classier than in the older model (which entails clumsier knob-turning and button-pushing). Apart from the handy USB port, the system also features navigation and Bluetooth connectivity – useful functions that were absent from the preceding model.
For extra convenience, a powered tailgate (which can be closed at a touch of a button) is now standard, too. Both passive and active safety remain uncompromised, however, as the 10 airbags and VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) implemented across the RX range are also present.
What the RX270 lacks, though, is the added muscle and better traction of the RX350, which is equipped with a 3.5-litre V6 as well as all-wheel drive. The RX270’s 2.7-litre inline-4 musters a decent 187bhp and 252Nm, but these figures are 90bhp and 94Nm lower than what the RX350 produces.
Despite the missing ponies, this SUV still manages to deliver a surprisingly sprightly level of performance, as long as the driver is willing to pile on the revs and utilise the gearbox’s manual override function. Although the 11-second century dash time is three seconds slower than the RX350, the RX270 feels livelier as there isn’t an all-wheel drive system weighing it down.
However, I find that the lack of mass seems to make this RX less able to deal with uneven roads and more prone to lean in corners.
The generously equipped RX270 already holds a strong level of appeal. Lexus’ next move should be to sort out this SUV’s ride/handling balance, which would then make it a truly convincing prospect for “budget” customers.
This story was first published in the October 2012 issue of Torque.