MORE THAN A CONCEPT. A DECLARATION.

The fifth-generation Lexus RX is a useful improvement over its predecessor. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

The Lexus RX gets smarter and more focused in this MK5 guise. For the first time in several generations, it’s been fundamentally redesigned and the result is a full-hybrid contender that could have all-conquering appeal in the luxury SUV segment for larger models.

Background

The RX is an important car for the Lexus brand. It shouldn’t be its best-selling global model, but when this MK5 version launched, it was, so reinventing the whole concept behind this long-running model line wasn’t without risk. But the full-size luxury SUV market is changing, and Lexus felt this fifth-generation RX should evolve with it.

So there is now a Plug-in Hybrid version – and also a revolutionary Turbo Hybrid. There’s also an all-new GA-K platform, a very different interior, and multimedia connectivity on another level than before. Lexus promises that you can now even enjoy driving this car with a bit of vigor. What is the next?

Driving experience

For the first time in a long time – several generations – the brand has completely redesigned the way this car should handle, perhaps because it now sits on a completely new and much stiffer GA-K platform. From this safer base, engineers added a new “Direct4” torque-vectoring 4WD system for better tarmac traction in corners. And developed the handling to create what the brand calls the “unique Lexus handling signature”.

The engines – all gasoline of course – are also different; now there are three. Things start with the RX350h, a 2.5-liter normally aspirated full-hybrid powertrain with 242 hp and performance similar to the old RX450h (0-62 mph in 8.0s). However, most customers should opt for the RX450h+, the first plug-in hybrid in the RX model line. This uses the same motor as the RX350h, but torques it with a rear-mounted electric motor for full-time 4WD. The result is an output of 302hp and 62mph in 7.0s, although you’ll need to drive less frantically than that for the 18.1kWh battery to produce its promised EV range of 40 miles.

At the top of the range is an engine that is new not only to the RX but also to Lexus and the industry as a whole: a Turbo full Hybrid – fitted to the RX500h, with 366 hp delivered by a 2.4 engine liters and a pair of electric motors that provide the full-time 4WD system: 62mph is dispatched in just 5.9s.

Design and build

The RX gets a visual breath of fresh air in this fifth-generation form, with a more dynamic look clearly influenced by the brand’s all-electric RZ model and smaller NX. This so-called “Next Chapter” design language provides a more confident stance and emulates the RZ’s “spindle body” profile. Stylists opted for a more coupe-like feel, lowering the roofline by 10mm, in addition to large 21-inch wheels and sleeker LED headlights. There’s only the standard body shape this time around.

Inside, there’s a minimalist, more driver-focused dashboard, with a standard 14.0-inch central infotainment touchscreen and the usual digital instrument cluster. At the rear, a 60mm increase in wheelbase frees up useful extra legroom. And at the rear there is also a larger boot, 50 mm longer than that of the previous model.

Market and model

Prices are mostly between £60,000 and £70,000, so there’s a step up from the previous model. To compensate, Lexus has introduced many advanced human-centric technologies in the new RX to improve comfort, convenience and life on board, reinforcing its brand’s ‘omotenashi’ spirit of hospitality.

The RX can be equipped with a digital rear-view mirror which gives the driver a wide and unobstructed field of vision. To make driving in confined spaces easier, the Digital Surround View Monitor uses cameras to capture a live 360° view around and a pre-recorded view under the car. And an Advanced Park system is also available which provides automated steering, shifting and braking control and uses the car’s array of four cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors to get a full picture of the immediate surroundings. It will also recognize up to three regularly used parking spaces.

All models of course receive the usual “Lexus Safety System+” safety package, which here offers enhanced functions and increased range for the detection and prevention of accident risks. Improvements include a further extension of the pre-collision system’s ability to detect motorcycles and other objects in the car’s path. Its sensing response is quicker and the ability to avoid an impact is increased by Emergency Steering Assist. Improvements have been made to adaptive cruise control, in conjunction with upgrades to Lane Trace Assist.

Cost of ownership

Let’s get to the numbers. The base RX 350h returns between 42.2 and 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and between 143 and 150g/km of CO2. For the top RX 500h, you’re looking at between 33.2 and 34.5mpg in the combined cycle and between 182 and 189g/km of CO2. The RX 450h+ Plug-in Hybrid obviously does much better. The figures are between 235.4 and 256.8 mpg on the combined cycle and the pre-tax CO2 emissions reading is between 24 and 26 g/km.

Certainly, for noticeable levels of frugality in the day-to-day use of this Lexus, you’ll need to keep the powertrain operating setting in ‘EV’ mode as often as possible. And frequently turn the “Drive Mode Select” dial near the shifter into its left-hand “Eco” mode, which moderates throttle response and engine output while adjusting the climate control. Additionally, you will also need to keep a very close eye on the hybrid system indicator on the left side of the instrument binnacle, ensuring that the needle stays in the light blue “Eco” area as often as possible. “.

Summary

This is another type of Lexus RX. Just different enough to give the brand a chance to conquer sales in the segment. But not so different that it will alienate this model line’s loyal bank of buyers. Many of them may not need the more dynamic mindset of this fifth generation version. We welcome that, however. It would have been easy for Lexus to continue down its lazy comfort lane with this MK5 RX. Instead, something more interesting was delivered here.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Lexus RX

PRICE: £50,000 – £60,000 {est}

CATEGORY: SUV – LARGE LUXURY

INSURANCE GROUPS: To be confirmed

CO2 EMISSIONS: {RX 450h+} 24-26g/km

PERFORMANCE: {RX 450h+} 0-62mph 7.0s

FUEL CONSUMPTION: {RX 450h+} (combined) 235.4-256.8 mpg

BOOT CAPACITY: [litres] To confirm

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE? : Length/Width/Height 4890 / 1920 /1710 mm