The all-new Lexus RX makes its South African debut

Origami-inspired design cues, a heady mix of sharp creases and curves, an emboldened spindle grille and a whimsical ‘floating’ roof, the re-fashioned fourth generation RX, the luxury marque’s most successful car to date, makes an undeniably powerful visual statement.

Credited with pioneering the luxury crossover segment, the RX has racked up more than 1,2 million sales since its inception and with annual US sales consistently surpassing the 100 000 mark, the RX is one of only two luxury-badged vehicles to achieve this accolade. Since its initial launch in 1998, the Lexus RX has proved immensely popular with those needing the flexibility of a sport-utility vehicle combined with the driving comfort of a luxury sedan, all wrapped up in an attractive, elegant package.

Glenn Crompton, Vice President of Marketing, concedes that success brings challenges: “Lexus engineers and product planners were left with the arduous task of keeping loyalists happy while broadening the appeal of the new RX - something I’m happy to say they’ve done admirably.

“The new RX does indeed build on the success of the previous generations through the injection of adventurous styling, increased interior space, enhanced power and crucially, more dynamism. Frankly, it’s an ‘exceptional’ package, combining the flexibility and psychological security of an SUV with the driving dynamics familiar to sedan owners. The fact that it comes with all the wood-and-leather trappings of a luxury brand is, of course, an added benefit. It’s a model that has performed consistently in South Africa since it was introduced in 2006 and the newcomer is sure to win over new fans.”

The local RX line-up comes in two ‘flavours’: the petrol V6-powered RX 350 EX and the petrol-electric hybrid RX 450h in SE guise. The RX 350 EX features an upgraded 3.5-litre direct injection V6 that develops 221kW and 370Nm - 17kW and 24Nm more than the previous generation - and drives all four wheels via an eight-speed transmission.

The RX 450h hybrid develops 230kW combined system power (engine and electric motor) - a 10kW increase in combined system power over the previous generation RX 450h - and drives all four wheels via a CVT transmission.

LONGER AND WIDER RX FEATURES EXUBERANT STYLING

The exterior styling package on the all-new RX delivers a dramatic appearance in tune with the model's extrovert style direction.

Its aggressive spindle grille design sets the tone for the styling package, fusing with the overall body to deliver a sleek, streamlined appearance. The new headlamp design complements the more pronounced spindle grille and works in combination with the daytime running lamps to provide a strong, commanding frontal road presence. The RX 450h is strikingly ‘lit’ courtesy of the 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 RX 350 EX makes use of HID headlamps with a more conventional indicator function.

The side design is characterised by a sharp, angular profile while continuing the lines of the spindle grille from the front to the rear. The real kick in the design profile are the blacked-out C pillars which create the illusion of a floating roof. The rear design evokes the styling elements of the front, specifically the trapezoidal spindle grille design, to provide continuity and a feeling of width, which contributes to the aggressive stance of the newcomer.

Incidentally, the wheelbase of new RX is 50mm longer to provide additional rear legroom. It’s also 120mm longer and 10mm wider but 20mm lower than the previous generation vehicle, adding to its sleek profile. Front and rear track have also increased to 1640mm and 1630mm respectively, an increase of 10mm each over the third generation RX.

All-new RX offers a wide range of paint and interior colours to match its striking body and cabin designs; offering a choice of seven metallic hues complemented by two leather interior trim colours – black and ivory. The colour palette includes White Quartz, Platinum Silver, Sonic Titanium, Graphite Black, Morello Red, Amber (burnt orange) and Opulent Blue.

20-inch alloys are standard on both grades, however an interesting piece of wheel art on the RX 350 EX comes in the form of world-first colour inserts in Sonic Titanium.

NEW RX HAS IMPROVED PERFORMANCE AND EFFICIENCY

The new RX 350 has eight per cent more power and seven per cent more torque, while returning 9 per cent greater fuel economy. RX 350's new-generation 2GR-FKS engine has 221kW of power at 6300rpm and 370Nm of torque at 4700rpm, with combined cycle fuel economy of 9.6 litres/100km.

It features a new specification 3.5-litre quad cam V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission with M (manual) Mode, for improved driveability and fuel economy. It develops 17kW more power and 24Nm more torque than the superseded dual VVT-i 2GR-FE engine.

The new engine has the additional features of VVT-iW (Wide) on the inlet camshaft and the Lexus D-4S dual injection system of high-pressure direct injection and port injection. It is the first Lexus engine to combine VVT-iW and D-4S. The continuously variable valve timing VVT-iW system is shared with the new turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.

Its greater range of adjustment means the valve timing can be advanced for greater performance or retarded, so the engine operates in the high expansion-ratio Atkinson cycle for greater economy. The result is higher torque throughout the engine revolution range. Fuel economy has been optimised by paying careful attention to the balance between direct and port injection, according to engine load and operating conditions. The Lexus VVT-iW system adjusts the inlet timing to ensure reliable engine start in conditions of extreme cold and impressive wide-open throttle (WOT) performance.

Eight-speed transmission

New-generation RX 350 has an eight-speed sequential-shift transmission in lieu of the previous six-speed transmission, for added driver involvement, driveability and fuel economy. New electronic control technology further adds to driveability.

The eight internal ratios have been chosen to balance the needs of sports driving and fuel economy - with a low first gear ratio for initial acceleration, closely spaced ratios in the intermediate gears for performance and urban-driving economy, and a tall eighth-gear ratio for motorway economy. First gear is 20 per cent shorter than the ratio in the Lexus six-speed transmission and top gear is 16 per cent taller. The overall spread of ratios is 44 per cent greater than the superseded six-speed transmission.

The M mode provides full torque-converter lock-up from third to eighth gears for 'clutchless' manual shifting when accelerating and lock-up from second to eighth gears when decelerating. Down changes in M mode are made with the transmission's throttle blipping control matching the engine speed to the gear. In addition, the RX 350 transmission is linked to the Lexus Drive Mode Select function, with its ECO, NORMAL and SPORT modes.

It’s worth mentioning that the Lexus transmission software monitors throttle opening to provide the acceleration the driver requires, in a system known as Linear Drive-force Management. It can initiate a quick downshift depending on throttle position to ensure responsive re-acceleration out of a corner or a quick upshift to maintain momentum. This minimises the variation in acceleration rate as vehicle speed increases, for a continuous acceleration feeling.

Another control technology, Downshift Control, ensures that downshifting response matches driver intention. It prioritises the time taken for the drive force to reach the final gear step when the throttle pedal is pressed sharply, while sequence downshift control prioritises smooth transfer of drive force when the accelerator pedal is pressed slowly.

RX 450h: Improved performance and efficiency

Hybrid RX 450h has 10kW or 4.5 per cent more combined power, at 230kW, coupled with a 9.5 per cent fuel economy improvement to 5.7 litres/100km. The obligatory dash to 100km/h is dispatched in a very credible 7,7 seconds.

Lexus has made driveability, efficiency and packaging improvements throughout the RX 450h driveline and hybrid system. The new 2GR-FXS 3.5-litre Atkinson cycle quad cam dual VVT-i V6 petrol engine has an additional 18Nm of torque (at lower revolutions) and 10kW more power than the previous engine.

The petrol engine delivers 193kW of power at 6000rpm and 335Nm of torque at 4600rpm. The Lexus hybrid system blends that power with the 123kW front electric motor and, when required, the 50kW motor in the E-Four AWD system.

RX 450h has an all-gear electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, for ideal gearing at all times and no energy loss through slippage.

The new engine adopts the Lexus D-4S dual injection system of high-pressure direct and port injection. The compression ratio has been raised from 12.5:1 to 13.0:1 for improved power and torque throughout the revolution range. The cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) has been further refined to improve thermal efficiency and reduce emissions.

The cylinder head and exhaust manifold have been integrated, to expand the driving range of the stoichiometric air-fuel ratio and reduce emissions.

Special attention was paid to minimising NVH, both at the source and through new engine covers.

The 2GR-FXS engine stops when not required to propel the vehicle and electric motor power is used for reversing.

Special features in the RX 450h design minimise power-drain on the petrol engine to maximise fuel savings while also allowing vital systems to operate when the petrol engine is stopped. The vehicle has electric power-assisted steering and an electric-powered air conditioning compressor. The RX 450h engine does not have a conventional alternator or starter motor. The number one motor-generator in the RX 450h hybrid transaxle acts as the petrol-engine starter motor when required.

A DC-DC converter supplies 14V power for the RX 450h ancillaries.

Enhanced transaxle

Lexus RX 450h's transaxle has been improved to increase fuel efficiency. It has a newly adopted water-to-air cooler for the electric drive motor and reduced oil agitation losses thanks to a newly introduced baffle plate. The new electric motor cooler helps improve fuel economy by optimising electric-motor performance.

The unique RX 450h front-axle driveline consists of a V6 petrol engine, transmission damper, compound set of planetary gears and two electric motors/generators. The compound planetary gear set acts as an electronic continuously variable transmission, changing the transmission ratio for optimum performance, driveability and economy.

State-of-the-art transmission electronics include the Lexus AI Shift and the Lexus Sequential Shiftmatic System. The sequential shift system allows the driver to select from six gear ranges by moving the shift lever from D to S and shifting between the '+' or '-' symbols.

As well as propelling the vehicle, the Lexus Hybrid Drive system allows for energy-saving regenerative braking on both the front and rear axles.

Hybrid system improvements

Lexus has further refined the power control unit (PCU), hybrid battery and hybrid system electronic control unit in RX 450h for improved driveability, fuel economy, HV performance and interior comfort. The installation position of the battery cooling blower has been changed and the height of the main body lowered by 26mm, allowing for increased rear seat cushion thickness and greater comfort. A pulse-type blower has been adopted to reduce noise.

When accelerating, the power mode emphasises performance by making better use of petrol engine power and the mid-range acceleration contribution from the electric-drive motor. When decelerating, the rate of retardation and the engine sound have been tuned to give a sporty driving feel.

The sequential shift feature can be used to downshift the transmission for the optimum feeling of engine braking and to set up for a corner.

LEXUS RX HAS TWO AWD SYSTEMS

Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h use bespoke all-wheel drive systems, both designed to maximise traction, cornering stability and driver control while saving fuel. RX 350 has the new-generation Dynamic Torque Control system and RX 450h has an improved Lexus E-Four system.

In a Lexus first, RX 350 and RX 450h drivers can view the torque distribution in real time on the multi-information display.

All RX models have a newly adopted pre-load front differential for improved take-off performance and straight-line stability.

Dynamic Torque Control (RX 350)

The compact, lightweight Lexus Dynamic Torque Control system uses information on vehicle speed, steering and throttle angles, and yaw rate to control torque distribution automatically between the front and rear axles.

It saves fuel by driving only the front wheels when the vehicle is cruising, switching to AWD when needed via an electromagnetically controlled coupling in the rear differential housing.

Pre-torque control can direct 10 per cent of the available torque to the rear wheels as soon as the driver starts to turn the steering wheel, such as when entering a corner. Yaw-rate feedback control can feed additional torque to the rear wheels every six milliseconds, ensuring an ideal torque split - up to a maximum of 50 per cent. When moving from standstill on slippery roads, it distributes torque to the rear wheels within the range of 100:0 to 50:50 for optimum stability based on available traction. Normal driving control will resume when the vehicle's speed reaches 25km/h.

Rear-drive torque is disengaged when brake control systems such as ABS or vehicle stability control (VSC) are in operation, to prevent interference with these functions. The driver can manually override the Dynamic Torque Control AWD system at speeds up to 40km/h by pushing the AWD LOCK button to achieve maximum all-wheel grip.

The RX 350 VSC can use the new AWD system to control the front-rear torque split if operating conditions require. For example, sudden acceleration of any vehicle during cornering can cause a driven wheel to start spinning, which in turn could cause the front or rear wheels to skid, resulting in a loss of control. The AWD system controls torque distribution to ensure RX 350 follows the driver's intended line to improve initial turn-in when cornering. If the VSC detects approaching oversteer, rear-wheel torque is reduced. If approaching understeer is detected, rear-wheel torque is increased.

Lexus E-Four (RX 450 h)

The Lexus E-Four proactive all-wheel drive system uses an electric motor to drive the rear axle while the front axle can be propelled by petrol or electric power, or a mixture of both.

New-generation RX 450h has an improved E-Four system, with a three-shaft configuration to reduce the number of parts and improve package efficiency by reducing the spacing between the input and output shaft. The E-Four system case and cover are now made from aluminium to reduce weight.

The Lexus E-Four system can vary torque distribution to the rear wheels, depending on driving dynamics and road conditions. It provides a level of start-off stability and acceleration on snow-covered or other slippery road surfaces that is appropriate for all-wheel drive models.

E-Four saves energy and therefore fuel because the vehicle only uses all-wheel drive when it is needed - for example, in response to a loss of front-wheel traction. If the system detects loss of traction in the front wheels, it reduces the electricity supply to the traction motor in the transaxle and increases supply to the rear-axle motor.

The rear motor can act as a generator when the vehicle is in regenerative braking mode, increasing the amount of vehicle kinetic energy recovered when it decelerates. The new E-Four system has situation-specific control features, including an improved yaw-rate control system for enhanced driving performance.

Pre-Load Differential

Lexus has adopted a pre-load differential on both RX models to improve driveability. It provides enhanced steering feel and greater ease of control under acceleration and deceleration in a wide variety of driving and road conditions.

The pre-load differential facilitates smoother control during take-off and improved low-speed manoeuvrability when turning on normal or slippery road surfaces. When driving at a constant speed in a straight line on a motorway, the device delivers a more stable feeling when the steering wheel is in the neutral position. On gravel or rough road surfaces the new differential acts to increase straight-line stability.

The key component of the pre-load differential is a conical spring between the differential case and the side gear. It applies preload in the differential case during light loads and at low differential revolutions, providing torque to limit the speed difference between the driven wheels.

NEW RX HAS IMPROVED RIDE AND HANDLING

The new-generation Lexus RX has improved handling, ride and steering response. Lexus has also redesigned the RX body structure to improve rigidity and provide a stable platform for the vehicle's improved suspension.

The new RX has a larger footprint on the road, providing increased stability. The wheelbase has been increased by 50mm, and track by 10mm front and rear. It’s equipped with a MacPherson-strut front suspension and trailing-arm double-wishbone rear suspension.

The rear suspension has short coil springs and separate dampers to maintain a low floor line and optimise cabin space.

The suspension and RX's electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering have been improved and recalibrated. Special aerodynamic features on the body and underbody optimise handling stability and straight-line stability at motorway speeds.

Lexus has also comprehensively redesigned the RX body to optimise safety and body rigidity. High-strength and hot stamp steel sheet up to 980MPa tensile strength have been adopted, along with special techniques to strengthen key panel joints - additional spot welds, greater use of body adhesive and Lexus-developed laser-screw welding. Improvements have been made to the rigidity of the cowl and connection between the front-suspension towers and between the rear-wheel housings, as well as the door frames, back-door opening and rear body frame. Examples include the new annular construction for the door surrounds and the new rear-body frame construction, which increases rigidity while reducing weight.

Improvements to RX front suspension include a new, large diameter stabiliser bar to increase front roll stability and minimise roll when cornering. The stabiliser-bar bushings now have internal rings to optimise stabiliser-bar effectiveness and initial steering response.

Changes to the stabiliser bar mean the front spring rate can be reduced, to optimise ride comfort, while reducing roll when turning. Softer front bound-stopper characteristics have been adopted to provide a more natural roll posture when cornering. Roll stability has been increased by 10 per cent. New-generation hub bearings increase front-axle stability and therefore vehicle stability in corners.

The rear suspension has been optimised to ensure a firm suspension feel and excellent steering response. Special attention was paid to the bushing rigidity of the lower number-one arm on both the body and carrier sides.

The RX’s ride comfort has been further improved by the increase in wheelbase, and a reduction in vertical body movement over both hard and soft bumps.

The RX braking system has been refined for improved pedal feel on petrol models. All models have new ventilated rear brakes, with 338mm by 18mm disc rotors with floating callipers replacing the previous 309mm by 10mm solid discs and fixed callipers. The electronically controlled brake system in new RX 450h smooths brake feel by providing a natural transition between regenerative and friction braking.

RX CABIN OOZING WITH STYLE AND LUXURY

With almost fanatical attention to detail, superior ergonomics and superlative finishes, the fourth generation Lexus RX delivers the ideal interior environment for all occupants.

The layout is sublime with switches provided only for the things you need to adjust without having to scroll through myriads of menus. The remote touch controller takes centre stage in the operation zone and is ergonomically positioned to allow natural, intuitive control.

The instrument panel is exquisitely sculpted to provide a sense of openness and fluidity through the operation zone. A new vertical element from the meter hood to the centre cluster separates the display zone and operation zone to give the driver a distinct cockpit feel when behind the wheel.

Placement of the multimedia screen in the display zone is also designed to provide maximum ease of use without distracting the driver from the road ahead.

The new-generation Lexus RX has increased passenger and luggage space, and features world-first height-adjustable front cup holders. For those days when you ‘supersize’ and the holder isn’t big enough to take the strain, simply deepen it by depressing its floor.

You can then restore the holder to its original size by pushing a button that, miraculously, doesn’t deposit the contents all over your lap but causes the base to rise up slowly – cup and all – with slave-like subservience. A small thing maybe…but a perfect example of attention to the minutest detail.

Another convenience feature is the wireless charger within the dashboard centre box. It works on Qi-enabled smart phones – simply place your phone on the wireless charging pad, activate the wireless charging feature and away you go.

Interior comfort and quality improvements include new seats at the front and rear. The 10-way adjustable front seats have a new frame, enhanced pelvic and thigh support, and a greater range of adjustment. The new seat-back frame construction helps boost RX rear-seat knee room to 38mm. Front-seat heating and ventilation has been improved, with greater wiring density for the heater elements and double air flow for the ventilators. In addition the new RX is equipped with a very nifty feature called Climate Concierge – essentially what this does is integrate the seat heating/ventilation with the ventilation system.

New RX features a 40/20/40 split reclining and folding rear seat, with a recliner damper for more gentle movement when reclining the seat back.

Two Audio Systems

Lexus RX has the latest-generation large-format display audio head units with Green Edge™ speakers.The new audio head units have full-screen TFT display of the menu and satellite navigation maps, with a 12.3-inch display.

Both audio systems have voice recognition and Bluetooth® connectivity, with an AUX mini jack and two USB ports inside the console box. The audio switch panel has been redesigned and integrated with the heater control panel. The audio panel has a dark smoked finish with resin to adjust the opacity for a 'blackout' impression.

Lexus Remote Touch Interface allows for navigation control by both the driver and front passenger, without changing the driving position of the front-facing line of sight. The ENTER function can now be controlled by switches on both sides of the remote-touch unit.. A BACK function has been included in front of the remote touch, for greater ease of operation.

Lexus RX 350 has 12 speakers, including a 20cm sub-woofer to boost bass tones and CST (Coherent Sound Transducer) technology for high-quality, realistic sound production in the mid to high range.

The flagship Hybrid model is equipped with a 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround-sound system. The display screen is a 12.3-inch high-definition TFT liquid crystal EMV with high-quality IPS. The screen contains light-control film with special anti-glare and anti-reflection surface treatments to diffuse reflections and reduce reflected light.

The Mark Levinson audio features Clari-Fi (compressed music restoration technology) to optimise frequency characteristics, dynamic range, low-tone tension and detail reproduction of compressed audio sources such as MP3.

Green Edge™ technology uses high-efficiency speakers to double the sound output while using the same energy consumption as conventional speaker technology.

Piano maker delivers virtuoso performance inside the new RX

Lexus' all-new RX luxury SUV will be the first in the brand's line-up to feature an interior finish known as laser cut ornamentation, which evokes the premium finish of high-end pianos.

The Japanese luxury marque engaged long-term partner Yamaha to produce the finish, which 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. The effect is heightened by the application of a protective clear coat that is polished to a deep shine for a high quality look and feel.

The technique is applied to sapele wood, a material with a distinctive ribbon grain that is also used in the manufacture of grand pianos and guitars. The work can only be completed by skilled craftsmen due to the delicate and vulnerable nature of the wood. The quality of the results can be compared to a pinstripe woven into the material of a tailor-made suit, or a light-capturing design engraved on the surface of a piece of fine crystal.

The collaboration between Yamaha and Lexus continues a 25-year association that has spanned multiple projects, including supply of high-end, exclusive ornamentation elements for the LS limousine and other models.

COMPREHENSIVE LEXUS SAFETY SYSTEM

The new Lexus RX has a full suite of driver-assist technologies including Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (helps when backing out of a parking space), ABS with Brake Assist and EBD, Hill Assist Control, Traction Control, VSC, Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (Hybrid only), rear-guide monitor, Tyre Pressure Monitor as well as clearance and parking sonar.

On the passive safety front, the new RX is equipped with 10 SRS airbags including dual-stage twin-chamber driver and front-passenger airbags, front passenger cushion airbag, driver knee airbag, curtain airbags and rear-seat side airbags.

The body structure of the new-generation RX includes increased use of high-tensile strength and hot-stamped steels up to 980MPa tensile strength, a new construction method for the door surrounds and a high-strength, lightweight aluminium rear-bumper reinforcement.

The brake-control system is comprehensive, with the electronic safety features of ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, traction control, enhanced vehicle stability control and Hill-start Assist Control.

ALL-NEW RX ENTERS LUXURY SUV SEGMENT WITH SHARP PRICING

Despite its high level of standard specification, all-new interior and exterior styling package, and enhanced luxury, convenience and safety features, the all-new Lexus RX is attractively priced.

The RX 350 EX is priced at R799 000 and includes the following standard specification:

  • 10-way power front seats
  • Leather upholstery
  • Laser cut ornamentation
  • 12-speaker audio system with DAB+ digital radio tuner
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Wireless charger
  • 20-inch alloy wheels with Sonic Titanium colour inserts
  • Power rear door
  • LED Headlamps
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Three-mode Drive Mode Select
  • 12.3-inch high definition display with satellite navigation
  • Power adjustable steering column
  • Electrochromatic interior mirror
  • Rain-sensing windscreen wipers
  • Automatic heated exterior mirrors
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Reversing camera with back guide monitor
  • Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Clearance and back parking sonar
  • Smart entry and start
  • Cruise control
  • Electronic park brake
  • Power sliding roof
  • 2000 kg braked towing capacity
  • Full spare with alloy
  • Maintenance Plan – Lexus Distance Plan Plus

The Lexus RX 450h SE (R999 000) builds on the RX 350 EX specification by adding the following:

  • Unique SE petal-style alloys
  • Tri-LED headlamp clusters with integrated washer system
  • Sequential LED indicator function which works in conjunction with the DRLs
  • 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Enhanced safety package - Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management
  • Maintenance Plan – Lexus Distance Plan Complete