LOOKIN' SHARP: Lexus hasn't held back with the RX's exterior design, giving shoppers a striking alternative in the mid-size SUV segment
LOOKIN' SHARP: Lexus hasn't held back with the RX's exterior design, giving shoppers a striking alternative in the mid-size SUV segment

Lexus RX SUV road test and review

SIZE matters. In everything.

But more especially in the medium luxury SUV segment and it is little surprise that manufacturers who have met that maxim are firmly placed to ride that momentum.

The RX Line has been Lexus' ace in the pack to date, accounting for almost 40% of sales since it was launched here in 2003, despite been precariously poised between the small and medium segment. But now that the smaller luxury NX - which arrived this year - is making waves of its own, the RX has had room to grow and stretch.

With dramatic styling and an even more luxurious interior the RX is offered with three engines across three price brands and Lexus is hoping the increased buyer appeal will result in real traction.

It is more expensive than its predecessor but still some $10,000 less than a few of its competitors while lacking for nothing in quality and inclusions.

2015 Lexus RX 200t Luxury
2015 Lexus RX 200t Luxury

Comfort

Think sumptuous luxury, soft and supple leather trims and supportive cushioning seats - the cabin of RX is all about those creature comforts that make for a first-class driving experience.

The three-step console mirrors the dynamic lines of the exterior in an aesthetically pleasing way with the large touchscreen and driver-focused layout the big standouts in an impressive space.

Seats are electronically adjustable with excellent lumbar support and leg and headroom is rather generous even in those models with a sunroof.

Some of the buttons feel a tad plasticky and the instrument binnacle is a touch on the conservative side but the steering wheel feels nice in the hands and redesigned A-pillars offer better visibility.

Cabin storage options are good but the boot, at 453-litres, is surprisingly small and shallow with a higher load lip not helping matters either.

2015 Lexus RX 200t Luxury
2015 Lexus RX 200t Luxury

On the road

The RX 200t, the front-wheel-drive, entry-level offering powered by the handy 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol - that incidentally has proved a revelation for Lexus in the NX - and paired in seamless fashion with a six-speed automatic transmission makes for quite a satisfying drive.

It is smooth and willing and aside from a little torque steer from stand still is a great introduction to this range. The 200t feels planted on the road and nicely balanced too showing the kind of composure one would expect from a vehicle of this ilk.

There is some body roll when pushed around corners but it is quieter and more efficient than the RX 350 which is expected to be the volume seller here.

The latter is driven by Lexus' trusted 3.5-litre petrol V6 with an eight-speed transmission pulling the strings and despite a few timely tweaks, it is just starting to show its age.

The ride is nicer though with the adaptive suspension in the F Sport and Sports Luxury variants doing well to cushion smaller ruts and imperfections.

We didn't manage to get into the hybrid, the RX 450h, but look forward to spending a week in that shortly.

2016 Lexus RX.
2016 Lexus RX.

What do you get?

Lexus has always set the benchmark in luxury inclusions and even the entry-model 200t is hardly lacking in niceties.

Standard equipment includes 20-inch alloys, ventilated front seats, 8.0-inch touch screen with sat nav and reverse camera, electronic park brake, 10-way power front seats and leather upholstery, power tailgate, wireless phone charging pad, DAB+ digital radio and LED headlamps.

Safety is paramount too with front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beam and active cruise control.

The RX 350 and RX 450h add a host of extras including 12.3-inch touch screen infotainment system, 15-speaker audio system, smart-key entry, panoramic sunroof, head-up display, adaptive suspension and F Sport styling packages with the Sport Luxury also boasting power-folding heated rear seats.

2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.

Running costs

Official figures for the RX 200t stand at 8.1l/100km and 9.6l/100km for the RX 350 although we found the latter closer to 13l/100km. The hybrid 450h is meant to deliver 5.7l/100km.

Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty with road-side assist for that period. The first service (12 months/15,000km) is free and signing on for the corporate program covers three years/60,000km of servicing, a loan car or pick-up or drop-off service as well as a number of other member-only inclusions.

Competition

The Japanese brand is looking to the German powerhouses and in particular the BMW X5 (from $84,200), Mercedes-Benz GLE (from $86,900) and Audi Q5 (from $64,300).

2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.

Practicality

The RX is a comfortable luxurious ride that will certainly satisfy buyers but Lexus has missed the opportunity to innovate, bringing the RX to par rather than forging it ahead.

In the past the luxury brand has led the way with safety and technology and while this RX is good, it could have left a bigger mark. Driving dynamics could be better and a bigger boot would be the charm.

Funky Factor

If you are looking for a head turner, this RX, with its aggressive spindle grille, sleek streamline appearance and defined creases and edges gets the nod.

The sharp, angular design and commanding frontal appearance can be polarising but different is not a bad thing when so many cars look like carbon cut-outs of each other.

2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.

The lowdown

Lexus has a reputation of offering luxurious, refined and well-equipped vehicles and this RX range will do nothing to tarnish that image.

Competition in this medium luxury SUV segment is fierce though and despite their excellent customer service Lexus will have to work hard to entice new buyers.

 

What matters most

What we liked: High equipment levels, luxurious interior, safety features

What we'd like to see: Diesel engine, more dynamic drive

Warranty and servicing: 4 year/100,000km warranty with first service free

2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.

Vital Statistics

Model: Lexus RX 200t and 350.

Details: Five-door two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive medium luxury SUV.

Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 175kW @ 4800 - 5600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1650 - 4000rpm. 3.5-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 221kW @ 6300rpm and peak torque of 370Nm @ 4600 - 4700rpm.

Transmissions: Six-speed auto and eight-speed auto.

Consumption: 8.1 litres/100km (200t) and 9.6l/100km (350).

Bottom line plus on-roads: RX 200t Luxury - $73,000, RX 350 Luxury - $80,000, F Sport - $92,000, Sports Luxury - $98,000.

2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.
2016 Lexus RX SUV. Photo: Contributed.

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