Earlier this week Lexus launched its new RX model replacement in Tokyo.
Japan will receive both the RX350 and the RX450h hybrid model.
The RX350 gets a 3.5 litre V6 engine that produces a very reasonable 280 PS.
As expected the car is dripping with technology focused on fuel economy, safety and comfort as well as driving dynamics.
Making such a large and powerful SUV fuel efficient must be quite a challenge but Lexus have endeavoured to do so.
Most of these improvements are naturally focused on the RX450h but the RX350 achieves a figure of 9.7 km/l which is actually worse than the outgoing model (sold as a Toyota Harrier here) although largely irrelevant because the new car now has a much larger engine (3500 cc vs 2400 cc) with an incomparable power increase. To put it straightly the RX350 is not very fuel efficient at all but probably about as good as it gets for such a large capacity petrol unit.
Lexus claim that the RX has emission levels 75% lower than the standard adopted by the government for low emissions vehicles. With that knowledge in hand you might wonder what monster of a car would only just scrape through the approval process.
The new car has apparently been manufactured using more environmentally friendly materials and most fascinatingly the company say it has reduced the volatile organic compounds (their words) used in some of the interior parts to reduce discomforting odours. So if you are the owner of a festering stink bomb of a previous generation RX then know that you won’t have to suffer anymore cold winters with the windows open if you trade in now.
All a bit of a mystery to me.
Safety is enhanced by side monitors that enable the driver to avoid obstacles that may lie within the turning radius. A pre-collision system that uses radar to predict a frontal impact works with a brake assist function and no less than 10 airbags (which is 8 more than my car) are fitted.
All this risk decreasing adds to the disconcerting evidence that if you can afford an expensive car you stand less chance of being injured or worse in a car crash although it is nice for some to know that they’re money is appreciated and that Toyota are taking care of their high value customers.
The rest of us are just cannon fodder.
Fundamentally, handling is said to be improved by a re-designed rear suspension as well as computer assisted stabilising while cornering. A number of less dramatic steps have also been taken to aid driving enjoyment.
The old RX styling was loved by some, disliked by others but for the most part left people feeling indifferent. I myself thought it looked a bit like a boat with its downward sloping front under body.
Thankfully the new car has lost most of its maritime influence and now presents a more solid form than its predecessor.
The front looks particularly well resolved with an attractive light and grille arrangement.
Lines across the body are well executed although i can’t help feeling that the front wheel arches are a little too distinct.
The rear is frankly conservative but perfectly acceptable.
People who like to buy premium SUV’s are a difficult bunch. They don’t want the car to look or be utilitarian but at the same time want it to have some degree of off road ability if only for when they are asked to defend their purchase. It is of course doubtful that any Lexus RX’s will ever experience much mudplugging however.
Because of these unique requirements, all makers of this class of vehicle try to design their car to look as close to its more conventional family members as possible but with a rasied ride height.
The RX is no exception and and it has me wondering if after employing a stable of sumo wrestlers to sit on the body for a day or two the end result would be a Lexus IS350.
Inside the RX exudes quality and certainly looks to be a comfortable place to spend time.
Leather and lots of tactile surfaces seem to be the order of the day topped off with some tastefully appointed wood.
Prices for the RX350 start at 4,600,000 JPY. The much higher spec hybrid RX450h won’t be released for sale until April.