The new – now fifth generation – Lexus RX is visible proof automotive designers can still get creative without making radical changes to their creations and, in fact, the way in which the signature spindle grille has been integrated into the whole front of the car gives it a much more svelte appearance than the outgoing version.

While the nomenclature of the revised five-model range may be slightly confusing with the ‘entry’ variant as the sole remaining ICE example, it is also nearly the most powerful in terms of power and torque outputs and ideally suited to someone likely to add towing a luxury cabin cruiser as part of their leisure activities.

For the other models, the choices are a mix of petrol/hybrid, hybrid or plug-in hybrid and this, I feel, an intelligent approach to atmospheric cleaning in that it simply offers better options for South African users given the myriad problems inherent in our energy supply.

As is the norm with an update, the RX has changed slightly dimensionally with increased track and wheelbase and a shorter rear overhang. However, the overall size remains very similar to the outgoing model but, the adjustments have also allowed boot space with the seats up to grow to 612 litres.

F Sport models feature a unique front bumper, multi-spoke, black gloss aluminium wheels, an exclusive mesh pattern for the grille and six-piston brake calipers are standard.

Glenn Crompton: Vice President of Lexus Marketing, says: “What will truly set the cat amongst the pigeons is the RX 450h+, the very first plug-in hybrid electric RX and it is a true game changer in terms of the Lexus electrification journey. For the South African market with its ever-present electricity supply woes and fledgling charging network, there is frankly no better option.”

Limited pure electric range is achievable in the city with a battery that can be recharged using a charger or self-charging as with conventional hybrids. A homologated EV driving range of 65 km (more than enough for an average daily commute) with all-electric driving is possible at speeds of up to 130 km/h, but this figure is almost academic as once the battery charge is depleted, the vehicle switches seamlessly to its self-charging hybrid system, maintaining high fuel and emissions efficiency.

CO2 emissions (combined cycle) fall below 29 g/km with fuel economy (drive mode-dependent) pegged at an average of just 1,3 l/100km.

The RX’s plug-in hybrid system features a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle 2,5-litre hybrid engine (paired to the Lexus e-CVT system) and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with 18,1 kWh capacity. An additional rear electric motor enables Lexus E-Four full-time all-wheel drive.

Total output is 227 kW, which enables 0-100 km/h acceleration in 6,5 seconds.

RX 500h

Featuring a turbo-charged 2,4-litre turbo petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission, integrated front motor and power control unit, hybrid battery and a compact rear e-axle, the 500h outputs 273 kW with 550 Nm of torque, for a 0-100 km acceleration time of 6,2 seconds, with fuel consumption contained at 6,5 l/100 km.

The front electric motor is positioned between the engine and the transmission (which has a clutch on both sides), and the hybrid control system automatically switches between parallel and EV modes according to the driving situation.

Drive force is weighted towards the front axle (70:30 to 50:50) at the start of a turn, then more biased to the rear (50:50 to 20:80) when exiting the corner, giving good traction and maintaining stability.

F-Sport Performance

The F Sport Performance gets an enhanced 2,4-litre turbo-charged HEV powertrain along with aluminium monoblock opposed six-piston brake calipers used for the front brakes to provide a linear and direct brake feel.

Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) is also newly adopted to steer the rear wheels up to four degrees in the opposite or same direction as the front wheels, depending on vehicle speed.

For those who like an engine sound, the 2,4-litre turbo-charged HEV also features Active Noise Control which eliminates the typical noise characteristics of the four-cylinder turbo-charged engine, providing a pleasant driving experience with a great Lexus sound. 

RX 350h

The new RX 350h has a 2,5-litre petrol drivetrain up front that provides 184 kW and 0-100 km/h acceleration in 7,9 seconds - this performance is comparable with the outgoing RX 450h, while at the same time producing lower emissions.

Fuel economy is claimed at 5,4 l/100 km and is equipped with E-Four electric all-wheel drive as standard and the brief driving experience suggests this may be the best all-rounder in the revised range.

RX 350

The sole pure petrol model is also the most powerful and the new turbo four-cylinder generates 205 kW and 430 Nm of torque from 1 700 r/min and this is mated to a short-ratio eight-speed Direct Shift-8AT and electronically controlled full-time AWD that constantly varies the front-to-rear driving force distribution from 75:25 to 50:50 (depending on situation).

The sprint from 0-100 km/h is handled in 7,6 seconds, while an average fuel consumption of 8,7 l/100 km is achievable. 

A number of weight-saving measures have been implemented with the most notable being the change of the front wings from steel to aluminium – something that has also helped improve the car’s front/rear weight distribution.

Suspension has also been tweaked and the rear now has a new multi-link set-up engineered for better lateral stability and handling higher levels of torque.

The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), featured as standard across the range provides independent damping control at each wheel, contributing to a more comfortable ride on uneven surfaces, higher damping force when turning and flat ride stability.

The sport-focused RX 500h F Sport is exclusively quipped with larger, 400 mm diameter ventilated front discs and opposed six-piston aluminium monoblock callipers, Direct4 drive force control system and Dynamic Rear Steering or DRS).


The interior of the new RX is dominated by the 14-inch touchscreen in the centre of the console. Signifintly, this is neatly crafted into the design and does not look like an aftermarket add-on.

The RX has with the new e-latch electronic door release system – which first debuted on the NX – so the interior handles are moved lower down into the armrest.

The list of standard equipment includes three-zone air conditioning, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, wireless charger, illuminated entry, Heads Up Display as well as seat heating and ventilation – and there is a long list of optional add-ons.

Despite the new model having a shorter rear overhang, cargo volume is upped to 612 litres with the rear seats in place.

Standard safety systems include:

  • Pre-Crash Safety (PCS) - if the system detects a driver looking away while driving, it warns the driver at an early stage. It can assist in collision avoidance and damage mitigation by securing the driver's reaction time.
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) with all-speed following function. When activated, the system alerts the driver and provides supportive control to ensure a safe margin.
  • Lane Departure Alert (LDA) - If the system detects a driver looking away while driving, it activates an alert and lane departure control at an earlier time than usual.
  • Abnormal driver condition response system - if the driver's posture is significantly compromised during Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) control, the system judges that it is difficult for the driver to continue driving and warns others by flashing hazard lamps, etc., as the vehicle gradually decelerates. The vehicle is designed to stop within the lane. 

The Lexus Warranty Experience is seven years/105 000 km and for the Hybrid models, eight years/195 000 km battery warranty.

Colin Windell - proudly ALL THINGS MOTORING