Lexus RX: Luxury SUV Evolution & Power Choices

  • Lexus RX Evolution: From uncertain beginnings in 1993, the Lexus RX has transformed into a sleek, refined, and prestigious luxury SUV.
  • Interior Innovation: The fifth-generation RX boasts an elegant, tech-savvy interior with a 14-inch infotainment system and quality materials, setting new standards.
  • Power Options: With petrol, hybrid, and upcoming plug-in hybrid choices, the RX lineup caters to varied preferences, combining performance and efficiency.

When some Lexus executives sat down for lunch in Nagoya, Japan, back in 1993, little did they know that their brainstorming session would result in the birth of an automotive icon. The world was different then, and the concept of a luxury SUV was a novelty. Yet, they forged ahead with what would become known as the Lexus RX, widely recognized as the world’s first luxury SUV. Fast forward to 2023, and the fifth generation of the Lexus RX stands as a testament to the automaker’s relentless pursuit of excellence, innovation, and the art of crafting a luxury SUV that not only meets but exceeds the demands of modern drivers.

A Journey Through Time

The Early Days

In the late 1990s, the Lexus RX made its debut on our roads, a time when competition in the luxury SUV segment was sparse. Back then, calling it “pretty” might have been a stretch, especially when compared to the BMW X5 and Mercedes ML, its contemporaries. However, the RX was a bold leap of faith, and Lexus introduced it to the Japanese market in 1997 and globally in 1998. It was a gamble, a move into uncharted territory, but it paid off.

Fast forward 26 years, and the once clunky and unrefined SUV has transformed into a thing of beauty. The fifth-generation RX boasts a design where every stylistic element harmonizes seamlessly. The notorious 3D spindle grille is gone, replaced by a more integrated ‘spindle body,’ and F Sport models sport a sportier front bumper with a splitter effect. From the side, the RX maintains its length but gains a 60mm stretch in wheelbase. The entire range rides on 21-inch wheels, with F Sport models featuring multi-spoke black gloss aluminum-finished wheels. The rear is adorned with horizontal lightbar-connected taillights, and the iconic Lexus logo has given way to bold “LEXUS” lettering.

Interior Elegance

Step inside the fifth-generation RX, and you’ll be greeted with a cabin that reflects the epitome of luxury. Lexus hasn’t merely refined the interior; they’ve raised the bar in multiple areas. The toggle-operated e-latch door handles add to the sleek, minimalistic cabin look and feel. Quality textured surfaces abound, and the 21-speaker Mark Levinson sound system promises an auditory treat. Three-zone climate control ensures comfort for all passengers, and an intuitive heads-up display keeps essential information within the driver’s line of sight, minimizing distractions.

But the real star of the interior is the 14-inch infotainment system. It’s not just big; it’s smart. This system consolidates less-frequently-used functions, making them easy to navigate, while retaining essential physical buttons for volume and cabin temperature control. It’s a lesson for other manufacturers – simplicity without sacrificing functionality.

Engine Choices: A Mixed Bag of Power

Under the hood, the Lexus RX offers a range of engine options to cater to diverse preferences and needs.

ModelEngine TypePower Output (kW)Torque (Nm)Fuel Efficiency (l/100km)
RX3502.4L Petrol Turbo205430N/A
RX350 F Sport2.4L Petrol Turbo205430N/A
RX350h2.5L Petrol Hybrid184 (total)239 (petrol)5.4
RX500h F Sport2.4L Petrol Hybrid273 (total)460N/A
RX450h+ (Upcoming)2.5L Petrol PHEV227 (system)N/A3.0 (electric), N/A (hybrid)

The RX350, powered by a 2.4-liter turbocharged petrol engine, is available in standard and F Sport trims. If you’re looking for a blend of performance and style, the RX350 F Sport is the one to consider.

For those seeking a greener option, the RX350h hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter petrol engine with an electric motor, delivering a total power output of 184 kW. While it excels in city driving with its efficient hybrid setup, it may struggle with power delivery when venturing outside urban confines.

At the top of the range is the RX500h F Sport, boasting a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine paired with hybrid technology, offering impressive performance and stability during hard cornering.

However, the future holds even more excitement for the RX lineup. Lexus plans to introduce the RX450h+ plug-in hybrid, expected to hit the market around November 2023. This model combines a 2.5-liter petrol engine with an 18.1 kWh battery, delivering a balanced blend of efficiency and the convenience of a petrol engine without range anxiety.

The Future of Luxury SUVs

The fifth generation of the Lexus RX is not just an SUV; it’s a manifestation of Lexus’ dedication to innovation and the ever-evolving demands of drivers. What began as a bold vision during that fateful lunch in Nagoya nearly three decades ago has evolved into a model that played a pivotal role in the global luxury SUV craze.

As the automotive world continues to change, Lexus has shown its ability to anticipate drivers’ demands and create vehicles that not only meet but exceed expectations. The RX remains a symbol of excellence and a testament to the art of sculpting an SUV that reflects a brand’s premium standing.

Pricing (South African Market)

  • Lexus RX350: R1,424,000
  • Lexus RX350h: R1,458,300
  • Lexus RX350h F Sport: R1,543,200
  • Lexus RX500h F Sport: R1,684,300
  • Lexus RX450h+ (Pricing to be confirmed)

In conclusion, the Lexus RX has come a long way from its inception, and the fifth generation represents a culmination of innovation, style, and performance. Whether you’re looking for a hybrid option or a plug-in hybrid in the near future, Lexus has something to offer in the luxury SUV segment that’s bound to turn heads on South African roads. The journey that began in Nagoya in 1993 has truly evolved into a masterpiece of automotive engineering, and the Lexus RX continues to set the bar high in the world of luxury SUVs.

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