The fifth-generation RX is a prime example of a car made by a brand who knows exactly what its customers want. It is quite apparent that Lexus has made it their mission to figure out what delights its drivers, before proceeding to serve it to them in spades.
Anyone who decides to purchase an RX can be confident that everything they need has been taken care of. In this way, the RX is like an omakase course – you can trust that the chef (in this case, Lexus) knows what he’s doing and whatever he’s serving will be deliciously enjoyable.
The RX is also a fine example of the Japanese concept of omotenashi, or anticipating and fulfilling the needs of people. This SUV offers buyers almost everything they expect as well, but as we shall see later, it’s not without its drawbacks.
IT’S ABOUT PIZZAZZ
The way a car looks can influence one’s buying decision, making the car’s styling quite important. The latest RX will undoubtedly draw glances with its “Spindle Body” design philosophy.
In this iteration of the RX, instead of the focus being on the “Spindle” grille, the styling evokes this language throughout the entire car. Indeed, the grille itself is properly integrated with the front end, rather than dominating it as seen in the previous models.
The mix of muscular lines and sharp angles make this RX look more powerful than the preceding one. Lexus designers made the roofline seem lower than it actually is, with downward curves that are painted and trimmed with chrome. This also has the effect of minimising the rather wide D-pillars.
The rear end is neat, with a single tail-light stretching across the tailgate. The only garnishes are the trims on the bumper that mimic the pattern of the grille.
Like the new NX, the RX also uses electric latches. Pushing a button behind the door handle pops the door open. Unlike conventional cars, the handle here is fixed and has no role in the unlatching process.
Climb aboard and the first thing that hits you is how sumptuous the cabin feels. Plush leather seats, suede-like trims on the door panels and soft surfaces are everywhere. The presentation is confident, but also subdued.
The cockpit’s layout is exactly like the NX, with a digital instrument cluster, colour heads-up display, and an infotainment system with a 14-inch touchscreen interface.
Syncing your smartphone with the latter is easy, and getting wireless Apple CarPlay to work was seamless. And with so much real estate, using the navigation feature is a treat as well.
Lexus correctly anticipated that we smartphone users will need charging ports, so it provided no less than four: three USB-C ports and a single USB-A port just in case the driver happens to be using an older cable.
I only have two complaints thus far. First, despite all the upmarket intentions, the RX does not have self-closing doors and second, despite sitting above the NX, the cockpit design is identical.
Rear passengers, on the other hand, benefit from electrically adjustable backrests, have a pair of USB-C ports to charge their phones, and their own climate zone. More importantly, the RX’s longer wheelbase (+60mm) has improved legroom as well, so taller occupants have more space to stretch out.
In terms of practicality, the RX’s boot volume has also grown from 453 litres to 612 litres. For convenience, users can fold and raise the seat backs at a touch of a button.
If you’ve owned or driven RXs in the past and have always loved the creamy V6 motors that’s been available for the past four generations, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
This is no longer the case with the fifth-generation car, which is only offered with four-cylinder engines. And out of the four powertrain options, two are hybrids and one is a plug-in hybrid.
That said, Lexus is banking on the fact that most RX owners want quietness and efficiency and aren’t concerned outright performance. Besides, no self-respecting driving enthusiast buys an SUV for its handling abilities.
The RX350h gets a 2487cc in-line-four that’s paired to a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor, which is powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery.
Both powertrains have a combined output of 247hp and 270Nm of torque, which are sent to all four wheels via a CVT. Put your foot down and the RX350h can finish the century dash in 7.9 seconds, not too bad when you consider that it weighs in at a hefty 2590kg.
Driven sedately – which is how you want to drive a hybrid to maximise its efficiency – the RX350h goes about its business quietly. Over three days of driving, the hybrid powertrain returned an average of 16.7km/L, not far from the 17.9km/L figured claimed by Lexus.
There’s no reward in trying to hurry the RX along. Mash the accelerator pedal to the floor and a rubber band feel, accompanied by an awkward CVT drone, will greet you in return.
It’s too bad that the powertrain isn’t engineered for performance, because the RX’s platform and body are stiffer than before. Even when you’re not pressing on, you’ll feel that the vehicle leans less compared to the older model.
Lexus has done a fine job with the new RX, and it is obvious that the carmaker knows what its clientele expects from the brand.
The RX is eye-catching from almost every angle, has a superbly built luxurious interior, and offers the efficiency that would let owners show that they are eco-conscious, too.
One must realise, though, that in choosing this “omakase” course, you are happy to let the chef decide that this is, indeed, what is best for you. You can’t ask for add-ons, such as sportier performance or better handling. Lexus has anticipated your needs, and it would be rude to say otherwise.