Make no doubt about it, Lexus is going in a bold new styling direction with its bread and butter SUV. The automaker unveiled the new Lexus RX at the New York International Auto Show and it unexpectedly turned heads with an edgy, more aggressive, anything but boring, design that’s bound to get it noticed on the road.
To say the RX is important to Lexus is an understatement. This is an SUV that sells like hotcakes. In fact, Lexus says its the best-selling model in the brand’s 26-year history, with global sales of more than 2.1 million. It accounts for more than a third of the brand’s sales.
The newest model shows no fear. It loses some of its conservative styling and becomes a bit sportier and, well, powerful looking. That’s thanks in a big part to its huge spindle grille and sharper lines.
The new fourth-generation RX also gets Toyota’s recently announced low-cost automatic braking system dubbed the Lexus Safety System+.
“With the new Lexus Safety System+, we offer drivers an added level of occupant safety in a conveniently bundled package that leverages some of the latest accident prevention technology. We certainly expect the proliferation of these features to continue throughout the luxury vehicle market and our Lexus lineup as the industry remains steadfast in the pursuit of enhanced vehicle safety,” said Jeff Bracken, Group Vice President and General Manager Lexus Division.
Engine wise, the RX 350 keeps its 3.5L V6, but gets a tad bit more horsepower, taking it to 300 hp. The RX 450h churns out the same. In all-wheel-drive guise, both models offer a F Sport trim option, which adds things like 20-inch wheels and an active stabilizer system to minimize roll in corners.
Inside, it’s a plush as ever to keep current Lexus fans happy. It’s also loaded with technology, like a standard 12.3-inch infotainment screen and an optional color head-up display. The 2016 RX will be available later this year.
The RX with all-new sheet metal makes a powerful visual statement at first glance. A completely new front end is highlighted by an emboldened spindle grille, more aggressive front bumper and available triple L-shaped LED headlamps. Together with the all-new LED fog lamps and LED daytime running lights, the RX has a more sophisticated and advanced look. Muscular front fender flares add to the vehicle’s sporty attitude.
When seen from the side, the sharp character line that runs from the front fenders to the rear end, together with a flowing roofline, give the RX a dynamic profile. All of this helps make the vehicle sure-footed at high speed and reduces wind noise. A truly distinctive styling cue is the blacked-out C-pillars, which provide the illusion of a floating roofline never before seen on a Lexus product. Also, newly available 20-in. aluminum wheels with larger tires improve the vehicle stance and proportions and replace the current model’s 19-in. options. These 20-inch wheels can also be customized with body color-matching inserts to emphasize the driver’s individuality.
The new RX’s rear appearance has been sharpened, now exuding a sense of chiseled, rock-solid stability with the design highlighted by LED L-shaped taillights that wrap around the sides of the vehicle, creating a wider, more authoritative presence when illuminated. When lit, a brilliant glow spans laterally from the body to the back door, a Lexus-first. Integrated dual exhaust pipes have been added to the gas model for a more premium appearance.
Inside, RX’s new luxurious cabin with elegant, high-quality trim exudes warmth and class. Specially finished Yamaha laser-cut ornamentation is available for those who appreciate an additional dimension of interior refinement. An available color heads-up display (HUD) projects pertinent vehicle information to the driver’s windshield, while the information display area, featuring an available 12.3-in. monitor with full-screen map, is situated atop the center stack. The shift lever, complete with leather boot, has been positioned away from the front of the instrument panel to optimize operability and create more space for the driver.
Rear-seat occupants are treated to more leg and knee space. The RX now offers heated outboard rear seats and a 60/40 power folding second row to enhance comfort and convenience. A newly available retractable power panorama moonroof enhances the RX cabin’s spaciousness and provides occupants with a refreshing open-air experience. The available rear seat entertainment system now includes 11.6-in. dual screens affixed to the back of the front headrests.
“Even while ensuring a high level of luxury and space within the cabin, the RX’s silhouette remains sleek and dynamic, while the interior has been designed for easy operation with luxurious execution,” said Gen Ikeda, Lexus RX chief designer.
Smooth, Powerful and Efficient Engines Under the Hood
Under the RX 350’s hood is an upgraded and more powerful 3.5-liter V6 aiming to deliver 300 hp with direct injection, mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Based on this enhanced powertrain is the RX 450h’s Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6. When combined with the electric motor generator, the combined output results in around 300 hp. All RX engines have been tuned in anticipation of high fuel economy ratings and low carbon emissions.
Enhanced Handling and Straight-line Stability
When it comes to delivering precise, controlled handling, the new RX offers impressive dynamic capability. The entire chassis has been fortified to provide enhanced straight-line stability and control through turns. The vehicle’s body structure has been strengthened with added stiffness, helping to enhance its handling response while reducing engine and road noise in the cabin. Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) is standard, while Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) is available on select models. Each system is designed to help recognize loss of vehicle control, and help mitigate potentially dangerous situations with automatic and often transparent adjustments to help the vehicle maintain optimal traction. The RX also is offered in All-Weather Drive to help the RX’s handling performance and control on dry and slick surfaces alike.
The RX’s fully independent suspension system, which consists of MacPherson struts up front and a double wishbone setup at rear, has been tuned and reinforced to enhance handling while keeping ride quality remarkably smooth. Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) is available on the RX for the first time. AVS electronically monitors and adapts the shock absorber damping and steering to help ensure optimal handling and ride depending on the driving conditions. The system is also designed to produce less body lean through corners, providing an engaging driving experience.
In the U.S., the RX is available with specifically designed Michelin Premier tires featuring EverGrip™ technology. EverGrip™ technology has a high traction compound, expanding rain grooves that widen over time and emerging grooves which open as the tire wears.