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Does the Lexus RX prove that size matters?

The largest SUV in the model range offered by Lexus in Switzerland is entering the next round. With the new generation of the Lexus RX, the Japanese car manufacturer is specifically targeting new customers. The premium SUV should be more competitive than ever. Whether it has what it takes for the top spot, we will find out in the following paragraphs.

What is it about

The Lexus RX is the veteran of hybrid SUVs. Already in 2005, Lexus launched the second generation with a hybrid powertrain. Since then, its technology has continuously improved. The fifth generation comes to Europe with a choice of three engines, of which the RX500h is the lineup's spearhead. The RX500h is equipped with a 2.4 liter turbocharged combustion engine with a system power output of 371hp/ 273kW and up to 645Nm of torque, coupled to a high-ratio 6-speed automatic transmission.

The fifth generation of the RX is identical in length to its predecessor, but around 5cm wider and offers a 6cm longer wheelbase, which primarily benefits the passengers in the second row of seats.

The Lexus RX500h automatically comes with a sleeker body styling (F-Sport) and the basic version already costs a proud number of CHF 106'900. This SUV is painted in subtle Sonic Gray (no extra charge). The 21-inch matte black rims are the only option for this model. The Dark Rose leather interior is a well-chosen option at CHF 500. The panoramic roof costs CHF 2,350 extra. Without other little things from the accessories, the Lexus RX500h shown costs CHF 109'750.-.

First impressions

The Lexus RX has always been a beefy SUV. But with the fifth generation, the new colossus appears in wonderfully elaborate and harmonious proportions. The Lexus-typical hip line is definitely not for everyone, but it has a right to exist due to the edge guidance from the vehicle doors ending in it. The front grill no longer looks so oversized and forms an atypical nose as a transition to the bonnet. Reminds me a bit of the current MK5 Toyota Supra. But it fits much more appropriately into the overall picture.

In general, the car is kept very dark to give it a sportier look. Not typical for a Lexus. Or am I completely wrong with this claim?

However, it is certain; Lexus wants to polarize with the new RX. Visually as well as technically. In the course of the driving report, we will find out whether he has what it takes to become the paragon.

driving experience

It is striking that the RX500, as the most powerful variant of the series, has no CVT gearbox installed. CVT stands for Continuously Variable Transmission, i.e. a continuously variable transmission that has a limited control range. Unexpectedly. Because we know the 10-speed automatic transmission from the Lexus LC500. But the direct gear ratio used here is a surprisingly good combination. Because the RX500h shows more power with the normal 6-speed automatic transmission and seems less strained. The drive lives up to expectations and offers surprising traction for the almost 2.2 tonne heavy car. Nevertheless, it is around a second slower in the 0-100km/h sprint compared to competitors such as the BMW X5 xDrive40i or the Mercedes-Benz GLE53 AMG. The only thing I would have expected was at least an eight-speed automatic transmission for a little more efficiency. Although the 6 gears have a long gear ratio, the RX500h often runs at just under 2000 rpm at low speeds. In the city, the battery drive has a better effect than at higher speeds. This is why the combustion engine often switches off when driving at low speed. If you drive with foresight, you can easily achieve an average consumption of around 5 liters / 100 km.

Despite the sheer and almost unpredictable size of the vehicle in an urban environment, the turning circle is comparatively small. Rear-wheel steering is immediately noticeable in parking lots, where the rear wheels can steer up to four degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels to reduce the turning radius. At higher speeds, the rear wheels rotate up to four degrees in the same direction as the front wheels to improve stability and agility. The Lexus RX achieves a turning circle of around 11.8m. This corresponds to the same turning circle of a much smaller Audi Q3, Fiat 500X or Volvo XC40. Nevertheless, maneuvering while looking for a parking space is not one of the RX's easiest tasks. The beefy shape is difficult to assess. The 360° camera view makes a valuable contribution in tight parking spaces so that the rims do not have to kiss the curbs.

Even if the name F-Sport adorns the car and an adaptive chassis is installed, the RX500h is not a sporty SUV outside of a sprint on the motorway, despite the considerable engine power. The center of gravity is too high for that, the chassis is much too soft, the body roll is too strong, the tires are quickly overwhelmed when cornering quickly and the traction control is tuned too conservatively. Does he have to be athletic? No. Does he look like this? Yes. He can too. Because the more angular design suits him. But the RX is a clear model student of comfortable travel. And that's how it's advertised. A true long-distance glider beyond in comparison. Even at higher speeds.

On long journeys, especially during the winter months, a driver may miss the wipers on the rear for clear visibility. A rear-facing camera does replace the wiper. But experience has shown that the camera can also get dirty. Apparently, the Lexus RX also placed more value on the look than on user-friendliness in this case.

Can a huge SUV actually run with a low fuel consumption? Well, I achieved the WLTP specification for average consumption of 8.2-8.5L/100km with an ecological driving style without any problems and repeatedly brought an average consumption of 7.5L/100km (city and highway) to light. On cross-country trips, I even achieved a consumption of an exemplary 6.6 liters/100km several times. Absolutely fine for such a heavy car. The hybrid drive helps to keep consumption low, especially in city traffic and when gliding. The coordination between the electric drive and the combustion engine works perfectly and is barely noticeable. The combustion engine joins the flow of power almost unnoticed. This shows Lexus's and Toyota's almost 20 years of experience in the hybrid segment. Many other manufacturers still have something to learn.

The army of driving assistants make the driver feel like they are being patronized. Some of the various "little helpers" react very obtrusively and cannot be switched off permanently without having a driver's-profile. They are reactivated each time the vehicle gets restarted.

To the interior

Lexus describes the interior of the RX as minimalist and luxurious. Luxurious? Surprisingly premium feel with finely finished materials as far as the eye can see. Minimalism? None! The deeply crafted textures, embroidery, shapes and colors are anything but minimalistic. With the RX, Lexus is setting new standards in the Japanese SUV segment, which is absolutely impressive. The dark red leather interior with aluminum applications looks very classy and by no means intrusive. It is more of a stylish business lounge.

The driver-centric "Tazuna" cockpit ensures direct and intuitive control of the vehicle. It further improves the driving experience and safety, as all controls and information sources are placed within the driver's reach, reducing the need to move his eyes and head as much as possible. The user-friendly operation of the steering wheel buttons stands out here. As soon as you touch it, the button segment appears in a larger view on the head-up display with the location of the finger marked. This makes it easy to find a button on the steering wheel without even having seen the buttons. This not only makes it easier to operate the vehicle, but also increases overall traffic safety.

The head-up display also asked me if I wanted to close the windows automatically at higher speeds. All four windows were closed by pressing the menu-button on the steering wheel. A small gimmick that is well thought out.

Almost the entire control of the infotainment system is controlled via the 14-inch screen on the dashboard. This does not apply to the volume control of the loudspeakers and the two-zone air conditioning system, the temperature of which is set using two rotary controls with an integrated display. Small measures that make the operation of the RX essentially more intuitive. These knobs are worth a lot in terms of user friendliness.

Heated and ventilated seats not only for the driver and front passenger but also in the rear come as standard. The angle of inclination of the backrests in the rear can also be adjusted. The only thing missing is the Ottomann pad for the legs. In contrast to the Lexus NX, the larger RX has a hatch in the rear row of seats, which significantly increases the flexibility of the interior. The fact that the folding of the rear seats is electric, should not have been necessary. Especially since folding is not exactly a quick affair. At least there are also buttons in the trunk to fold down the back row seats if needed for large items to get transported.

What to buy

Lexus is bringing a breath of fresh air to the luxury segment, which is dominated by German automobile manufacturers. The cars get better from generation to generation and come much closer to the competition. The fifth generation of the Lexus RX is a really serious alternative with a rarity factor in Europe.

The ten-year or 185,000 km warranty from delivery is tempting for the purchase of a Lexus.

I would honestly recommend the Lexus RX350h F Line with the 2.5l hybrid drive and 250PS system performance, coupled to the CVT. With a careful choice of optional equipment, the look of the car is identical, but the price of the new car is around CHF 20,000 lower than that of the RX500h F-Sport presented. The performance of 250hp is guaranteed not to be earth-shattering, but it will be sufficient. And finally, you can travel just as comfortably with a little less engine power. Even better would be the entire technology of the RX in the shell of the Lexus NX, which has much more manageable dimensions and is therefore a little easier to navigate through traffic.

Finally, I would like to thank Lexus Switzerland for giving me the opportunity to test their Lexus RX500h F-Sport extensively for a week.

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