Ap­peal to base in­stinct

The Advertiser - Motoring - - HEAD TO HEAD -

The RX200T has 10-way power front seats, leather trim, 12-speaker au­dio, wire­less phone charger, heated and ven­ti­lated front seats, 20-inch al­loys, power tail­gate, three driv­ing modes and eight-inch touch­screen.

And that’s just the base model — the oth­ers add yet more kit. Of par­tic­u­lar note: se­quen­tial indi­ca­tor lights on the 450h that point the di­rec­tion of travel.

An ad­di­tional 50mm in the RX wheel­base en­dows more cabin space, par­tic­u­larly for the crit­i­cal rear legroom and hip/ shoul­der room mea­sure­ments, and the larger foot­print en­hances sta­bil­ity. It is strictly a five-seater as the slop­ing rear glass pre­cludes a third row, though the sec­ond row seat backs re­cline.

New con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy — such as laser screw weld­ing and greater use of high strength steel — adds strength and cuts weight.

There is con­ven­tional dou­ble wish­bone sus­pen­sion all around, with drive mode selections chang­ing cal­i­bra­tion from com­fort to sport. Higher spec mod­els have more so­phis­ti­cated elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled dy­nam­ics.

DRIV­ING

As ex­pected, the drive ex­pe­ri­ence is some­what ar­ti­fi­cial — the RX feels iso­lated from the road with min­i­mal noise or vi­bra­tion, light con­trols, soft ride and smooth progress. Plenty of peo­ple like that in a car — it’s a Lexus hall­mark, af­ter all.

The 200T has plenty of go from a stand­ing start and through the rev range. It is the sporti­est of the RX range and is a con­tender to be the most pop­u­lar.

The 350 is typ­i­cal Lexus, con­trolled, poised, not really en­gag­ing at all — a good- look­ing lux­ury trans­port box. We didn’t get to test the hy­brid model but sug­gest it would be sim­i­lar to the 350 with per­haps even less noise or vi­bra­tion.

Un­less fuel econ­omy and lux­ury are para­mount, it’s dif­fi­cult to jus­tify the ex­tra $30K-odd for the top of the range hy­brid when the 200 is such a good thing.

VER­DICT

It’s hand­somely styled al­though it’s slightly de­riv­a­tive of the smaller NX. Fea­tures and per­for­mance are note­wor­thy. The RX is a safe, use­ful and classy model.

IN the late 1990s, Lexus Aus­tralia was re­luc­tant to bring in the RX lux­ury SUV — but it quickly caved in when it tal­lied how many pri­vate buy­ers snapped up “grey im­ports” of the first gen­er­a­tion model.

Lexus be­gan im­port­ing the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion with en­cour­ag­ing re­sults. Now the RX is one of its strong­est sell­ers and, along the way, has in­spired a rash of copy­cat lux­ury SUVs from other brands.

The fourth-gen­er­a­tion RX is new from the ground up — pri­mar­ily en­gines, un­der­pin­nings and tech­nol­ogy — with gen­er­ous lev­els of equip­ment. The mon­u­men­tal “spin­dle” grille means you can’t miss it on the street.

There are RX200T and RX350 petrol ver­sions and RX450h hy­brid in Lux­ury, FS­port and Sports Lux­ury grades.

The 2.0-litre turbo in the base ve­hi­cle is shared with the brand’s IS and NX mod­els and is ar­guably the best buy in the RX line-up. It re­places the un­der­per­form­ing and thirsty 2.7-litre four-cylin­der in the pre­vi­ous en­try level RX270.

In the RX350, mo­ti­va­tion comes from a 3.5-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated petrol V6 with on­de­mand all-wheel drive. The AWD hy­brid RX450h has elec­tric mo­tors to boost the V6 driv­ing the front wheels.

The new se­ries ush­ers in an eight-speed au­to­matic on the 350 while the 200 uses a sixspeed auto. The hy­brid 450h runs a CVT called E-Four.

Among the re­vi­sions for the V6 is dual fuel in­jec­tion, lifted from the Toy­ota 86 and other Toy­ota/Lexus mod­els, for im­proved fuel econ­omy and lower emis­sions. The hy­brid is weighty yet sips as lit­tle as 5.7L/100km.

Equip­ment is gen­er­ous. Safety kit in­cludes 10 airbags and a swag of driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy as well as im­proved pedes­trian pro­tec­tion.

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