More than 20 years ago Toyota lit up the automotive world with the introduction of the Prius petrol-electric hybrid car.
The sedan’s asymmetric hybrid fuel saving system became the mainstay of the automobile maker’s electric vehicles, even becoming the power plant of choice for taxis around the world.
Needless to say, this did not go un-noticed with Toyota’s luxe auto partner Lexus plugging in to the development for its range of saloons and SUVs.
Latest model to take the petrol-electric path is the fifth (fourth in Australia) generation RX SUV.
What’s it cost?
The hybrid makes up eight of the 14 variants on offer Down Under and comes in front- or all-wheel drive.
Prices start at $87,500, plus on-road costs, for the RX350h Luxury FWD and top out at $126,000 for the RX500h F Sport Performance AWD.
The Luxury grade as standard has bi-LED headlights, daytime running lights, front and rear fog lights, heated and driver’s side auto-dimming exterior mirrors, rear privacy glass, roof rails and 19-inch alloy wheels with a five-spoke design combining a bright machined finish and dark grey metallic surface treatment.
Despite being well equipped for the price, there is a choice of two enhancement packs to add further to the ownership experience.
For example, the test vehicle, an RX 350h Luxury AWD, was fitted with Enhancement Package 1, which consists of Panoramic roof with slide, leather-accented upholstery, driver’s seat memory, easy access entry (seat and steering wheel), heated and ventilated front seats, high-grade instrument cluster and head-up displays, touch sensor-type steering wheel controls, smart key card and wireless smartphone charger.
This would set back the buyer an extra $5500.
Standard is the latest Lexus multimedia system courtesy of a 14.0-inch high-definition touchscreen, with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, plus 12-speaker Panasonic sound.
Audio aficionados need to shell out for the higher Sports grades to take advantage of 21-speaker Mark Levinsonpremium surround sound. The info system offers in-built satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio and Lexus Connected Services, providing further convenience and peace of mind.
Five USB-C ports are scattered throughout the cabin, along with two 12V sockets and one USB-A port to support multimedia connection and smartphone charging.
Lexus Safety Sense+ active safety features are included across the RX range, including the pre-collision system with intersection collision avoidance support, emergency steering assist and low-speed acceleration suppression, lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, parking support brake, blind spot monitor, plus rear cross-traffic alert.
New is a driver monitoring camera which keeps track of the driver’s concentration, warning of any lapse.
All new-generation RX models feature safe exit assist, incorporating new electrically activated door handles which detect cyclists or vehicles passing close to the vehicle and keep the door shut.
A 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty applies to all RX models. All RXs come with a three-year subscription to Lexus Encore owner benefits program.
Capped price servicing has been extended from three to five years and is set at $695 for each scheduled service, with intervals set at 12 months or 15,000km.
What’s it go like?
As well as the sophisticated cabin styling we have come to expect from Lexus, and the latest in equipment, the new RX has taken on extra width, and wheelbase has been increased, freeing up more space for occupants.
All Luxury grades include heated, eight-way adjustable front seats with two-way power lumbar adjustment, synthetic leather trim, three-zone climate control with air purification, auto-dimming rear view mirror, carpet floor mats, four cup holders, cargo cover and power tailgate.
As well, the driver enjoys easy access to and from a steering wheel with electrically adjustable steering column, and paddle shifters.
The trademark Lexus spindle grille continues to evolve into a more laid-back look with removal of the chrome frame, allowing the edges of the diamond grille to integrate with the vehicle’s body. However, with a more vertical orientation and wide air intakes flanking, the front end retains the robust theme of the original spindle
Headlight cues come from the seamlessly integrated look of NX and LX SUV siblings, featuring Lexus’s signature L-shaped daytime running lights. and a three-projector high/low-beam lamp with adaptive high-beam technology, while fog and cornering lights are nicely integrated into the lower side air intakes.
At the rear, the new LED tail light signature of the Lexus SUV line-up is defined by a full-width LED light along the tailgate, flanked by L-shaped tail lights.
L-E-X-U-S lettering, no longer the ‘L’ badge, runs across the tailgate in keeping with the current automobile fashion, while muscular wheel arches taper towards the roof to give the new RX a sporty stance.
The heart of the hybrid powertrain is the RX 350h featuring Lexus’ signature series-parallel hybrid system teaming a 2.5-litre aspirated petrol engine to either one or two motor generators, depending on front or all-wheel drive configuration.
Tuned to produce 140kW at 6000 rpm and 239Nm between 4300 and 4500 rpm, with the hybrid unit, maximum combined power output is 184kW.
The petrol engine drives the front wheels via an e-CVT, with a six-step sequential mode.
A lightweight permanent magnet synchronous motor is housed within the transaxle capable of producing an instant 134kW/270Nm, improving acceleration from rest.
A second motor generator is placed on the rear axle, providing eFour all-wheel drive in low-traction conditions. This is tuned to produce 40kW and 121Nm.
The RX 350h employs a newly developed nickel-metal hydride battery, placed under the rear seat, which with Improvements to motor technology, have almost doubled top speed in EV mode from 68km/h to 125km/h.
With the downsizing of the petrol engine from a 3.5-litre V6 to a 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit, fuel economy has also improved, with the RX 350h AWD claiming as little as 5.4L/100km and CO2 emissions of 123 g/km.
The test car, on recommended 95RON petrol, averaged 7.4L/100km in varying driving conditions over a week.
Driving aids have been built into the body design with the front edge of the bonnet raised to make it easier for drivers to note the vehicle extremities, while the height of the bonnet bulge has been optimised to help the driver pick the right line on cornering.
What we like?
More interior space
Easier to see over bonnet
Higher 125km/h top speed in EV mode
What we don’t like?
Two enhancement packs
Wired Android Auto
Need to buy Sports version to get Mark Levinson system
The bottom line?
With the addition of worthy enhancements, the RX 350h Luxury AWD delivers everything we have come to expect from a smart, sophisticated Lexus sports utility vehicle. Time to invest perhaps?