A new refresh for the SUV has created some important changes for customers. The styling changes are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them: a new, more flowing bumper, a new grille design with radiating “L” shapes, and at the rear a new, lower bumper and new LED tail lights. The headlights also benefit from a “BladeScan Adaptive High-beam System” which apparently consists of a high-speed rotating blade-shaped mirror which reflects the LED light very quickly and provides deeper forward illumination “making it easier to see pedestrians on the road margins”. We’re quoting here as we didn’t drive the car at night, but Lexus is very proud of this thing, so maybe you’ll be amazed.
Inside, the changes are more significant: a new 12.3in (large) infotainment screen that has been moved forward on the centre console and has a touch function and voice control. There’s also, thank goodness, now smartphone connectivity.
If you plump for the seven-seat RX L version, as about 15 per cent of RX customers will, the two seats in the third row now offer two different positions via electric controls, which will move the seats back by 9.4cm. That will impact on boot room but give you more leg space if the situation demands.
In fact, the RX feels like the most spacious large SUV you can buy. It may or may not be, and there will be boring millimetres in it, but the point is it gives that impression, through a clever combination of lots of light, very generous leg room and horizontal lines along the dash that create a sense of width in the cabin. You feel like you are getting a truly premium experience, mainly because of that sense of space.
The dynamic improvements are the most note-worthy changes, however, and result in a large SUV which now has to be contender for best ride in the market. The body is now more rigid, thanks to additional spot welding and high-strength adhesive (which always sounds a bit Blue Peter to us). But the rigidity is counter-balanced by the most supple ride this side of Rolls-Royce. There are new anti-friction systems in the shock absorbers and, if you buy the most popular version, the F Sport, you get adaptive variable damping for each wheel. We tested it on the crumbling roads of Ibiza, and over a few speed humps that we failed to brake for, and the RX just swallows the rough and tumble, transferring none of it to the occupants. You hit a speed hump, brace for the impact, and the car rides smoothly over it.
There’s also a new Active Cornering Assist function for the stability control system, which supresses mid-corner understeer. The electric power steering has also been retuned for more feel, and there’s a new version of the pre-collision safety system, which now has pedestrian detection both day and night and daytime detection for cyclists in the car’s path.
The hybrid system remains a tale of two halves: we like the EV-only mode and the regeneration (or “self-charging” as Lexus calls it) viability, and the motor plus the 3.5-litre V6 engine makes for some serious performance. But we’re still not sold on the CVT transmission, which whirrs up and down the band as you step on the throttle and adds to a noisy powertrain under acceleration.
It’s that ride, though, which has left us wowed, and the generous space. In the large premium sector, SUVs still make a certain amount of sense.
Lexus RX Specifications
- Price: £52,705
- Engine: 3.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol, plus two electric motors