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Lexus RX 350 EX

Motoring Review

The striking new Lexus RX driven

WHEN I ask you to name some top class SUVs from the top of your head, chances are you wouldn’t mention the Lexus RX. Not because you forgot about it, but more likely that you didn’t even think about in.

Time has not been kind to the RX despite its long success in other markets. Lexus reckons its newer, bigger and better RX now has the ability to be at the forefront of customers’ minds. I spent time with it meandering around the Lowveld to see just what exactly the RX is all about.

Lexus incorporated to four key elements when it came to the development of the new RX.

These four are:

  • Outstanding design
  • Confident and refined driving
  • New level of luxury
  • Intelligent innovation

Throughout my time with the car I aimed to dissect each element to better understand this car.

Outstanding Design

Let’s not beat about the bush here… this Lexus and other new Lexus models are looking pretty good these days. One of the main design features on the RX that caught my eye was undoubtedly the large spindle grille. It takes up most of the front-end and tends to give the car a rather aggressive look. The RX makes use of slim design headlights with a blade-like Daytime Running Lightdesign incorporated into them.

From the side, it’s clear to see that this is no fat, bulging German. The RX seems as if it was designed with a Katana (a Samurai sword). It features sharp edges and prominent design lines, which give the car a muscular yet sophisticated look. The most prominent design feature on the side of the car has to be the blacked-out C-pillars. It gives the illusion that the roof is floating. This seems to be a trend these days. I’m still on the fence with that one, though, I am a fan of the large 20-inch wheels.

At the rear, one can expect to find striking new taillights, which make use of LED technology. The rear of the car also continues with the theme of the front-end, which is, width. At the lower end of the bumper the tailpipes are housed within neatly designed exhaust outlets, outlined by chrome detailing.

A new level of luxury

Inside the Lexus I was greeted by what looked like a typical luxury interior. Leather is everywhere and it is neatly stitched as well. One of the more noticeable features inside is the dashboard-mounted 12.3-inch TFT infotainment display. The system displays things such as navigation, multimedia, reversing camera and a host more, all of which can be controlled via the brand’s questionable "mouse-like" control unit found on the centre console. The system is not perfect and I found myself struggling to select various menus while on the move. I feel that a rotary dial would be a better idea for improved control.

That said though, the interior is a very nice place to be seated and Lexus has really improved on its luxury feel, so much so, that they approached musical instrument maker, Yamaha, to help design the wood inlays on the centre console, the same wooden inlays which can be found on some of the finest grand pianos. The process involves combining a thin veneer of wood and aluminium and then making precision laser cuts through the wood to expose the metal beneath. The result is a striking line design that draws on the sharp contrast between the rich qualities of the wood and the cool appearance of the metal.

What also impressed me about the interior was the amount of rear passenger space. The RX is bigger and wider than before and the benefits can most definitely be seen and felt.

Confident and refined driving

On the twisty roads in and around Sabi, Mpumalanga, I got to explore the dynamic capabilities of the Lexus RX. There are two models available, namely, the RX350, which makes use of an improved version of the brand’s naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6. This engine now makes 221kW and 370Nm of torque. Also on offer is a Hybrid model - the RX450h. The hybrid also utilises the 3.5-litre V6, which unit develops 193kW/335Nm. The benefits of the hybrid are undoubtedly the lower fuel consumption. Lexus claims that the RX450h will return 5.7 litres/100km and a steady 9.6 litres/100km for the RX350. Both models are mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox as well as an AWD system. The RX350, however, has a centre diff-lock, which is sure to impress those buyers who like to venture off the beaten track. 

 

Intelligent innovation

The new RX range incorporates some impressive safety features, like the fact that it makes use of 10 airbags to help ensure the effectiveness of safety for the occupants. What’s more, the car’s interior is not only luxurious it’s also practical with many little storage compartments, which can hold all sorts of odds and ends.

Something else that should be noted is that the RX350 and RX450h might look similar but they do differ in some instances, such as, the headlights. The RX350 makes use of more conventional HID headlamps whereas the RX450h uses of a tri-LED headlamp cluster with integrated washer system. This model also features a sequential LED indicator function, which works in conjunction with the DRLs. The RX450h also benefits from a Heads-Up display for the driver.

Verdict

After spending many hours behind the wheel of the new Lexus RX range on tar and dirt roads I’m pleased to say that they have delivered on their key elements. Sure things, such as the infotainment HUD need some refinement but other than that, the car is really impressive. Is it BMW X5 and Audi Q7 impressive, though? I’m afraid not. The Audi Q7 has an unmatched ride quality and the BMW X5 offers more in terms of engine line up, diesel, to be more specific. However, at a starting price of R799 000 for the RX350 EX, which has a rather long list of standard features, the Lexus definitely has the Germans on value for money and in today’s economic situation I think that’s a huge bonus.

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