J.D. Power announced in May that it was the top-selling luxury crossover in the US with over 111,000 units sold in 2018. It is also the best-selling model in the Lexus line-up.
For the Malaysian market today, Lexus simplified the RX line-up with an RX300 in three grades. All get the same 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as part of a mid-cycle facelift in September.
We recently had the facelifted RX300 for a weekend.
It was actually the RX200t in reality, so engine performance is unchanged.
We took the Luxury variant that is sandwiched between the base Premium and the top F Sport. This grade is the most popular choice for Malaysian customers, according to a Lexus executive.
The latest RX sees small styling changes, improved driving manners, added safety and an upgraded infotainment system.
Priced at RM424,888, the Luxury variant, like the other two, is characterised by an enormous spindle grille that drops all the way to the bumper region.
It’s the biggest ever since the RX came to existence and reminds us of the Audi Singleframe that first set the trend for giant grilles.
The chiseled design is striking and certainly makes the crossover stand out.
It’s complemented by 20-inch alloys and creases around the bodyshell that sharpen up the exterior. The test vehicle’s olive green shade, or Terrane Khaki as Lexus calls it, will not be to everyone’s taste.
Nevertheless, it’s a new colour introduced for the facelift.
LED headlights are now slimmer and are underlined by L-shaped LED daytime running lights. Foglamps are also LED-based and relocated to the lower edge of the bumper as a lateral strip.
The headlights now come with BladeScan adaptive high-beam light distribution.
Lexus engineers say this advancement in LED lighting enables an expanded and more natural spread of light without blinding drivers of oncoming cars.
The driver should also be able to identify pedestrians near the shoulder of the road at night from up to 56 metres, compared to 32 metres with previous lighting systems.
Rather than shining light forward, the LEDs within each BladeScan module cast their light diagonally across two blade-shaped mirrors rotating at high speed.
The precise synchronisation of the mirror rotation together with the switching on and off of each LED controls the shading effect.
The adapted, non-blinding light is then reflected into a lens, which projects the beam onto the road ahead.
New L-shaped graphics in the LED tail lamps and sequential signalling enhance the posh effect of the SUV. In addition, the exhaust outlets have thinner chrome surrounds.
The driver is always conscious he’s riding high, which affords great visibility, enhanced further by front quarter window panels that are made of glass.
The cabin is little changed except for a bigger infotainment screen and a touchpad that replaces the joystick control to navigate the screen.
If you still find the touchpad as unwieldy to use as the joystick, the 12.3-inch screen is, thankfully, a touchscreen and proves more natural to use.
The dashboard still looks conservative, complemented by a steering wheel that’s part wood and part leather-wrapped.
All variants get the infotainment system as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Though it’s not a Mark Levinson, the 12-speaker Lexus Premium Audio system should please the ears of all but the most picky music lovers with its respectable sound staging.
Lexus is famed for its excellent comfort and hushness in its sedans. In the RX, it carries forward the same dedication to detail and luxury it is known for.
Leather seats all round provide great comfort and support for long rides enhanced further by a quiet cabin at highway speeds.
Front seats have the option of being ventilated or heated while rear are heated only.
The RX is considerate of rear passengers who benefit from big leg room and seats that can be pushed back and reclined.
To keep up the premium effect, seatbacks are electrically folded 40:20:40 if more cargo space is needed. Standard boot space is ample.
There’s also paddle shifters, wireless smartphone charging but no panoramic roof on this luxury crossover.
Like the other two versions, the Luxury variant gets improved safety specs in the form of the Lexus Safety System+.
It’s a set of active safety packages to reduce accidents guided by the concept of supporting drivers under the assumption that they will drive safely, and at the same time, minimise damage should an accident occur.
It comprises a suite of good-to-have features like Pre-Collision System with Front Pre-Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Keeping System and the Adaptive High-Beam System mentioned earlier.
This is backed by the basic safety set that includes ten airbags, a rear view camera, stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake distribution, hill start assist, blind spot monitor and rear-cross traffic alert.
The RX300 runs off a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol mill, which puts out 235hp from 4,800 to 5,600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1,650 to 4,000rpm.
Such figures let the RX sprint from 0 to 100kph in 9.5 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 200kph.
Power goes to all wheels via a six-speed automatic box.
The intelligent 4WD system varies distribution of drive power, switching from two wheels to AWD to suit driving conditions.
There is a slight turbo lag but that quickly gives way to a zippy engine response that briskly propels the vehicle along.
Three drive modes — Normal, Eco and Sport — are on call and they change throttle response, suspension stiffness and level of steering assist. In addition, the Eco mode cuts down climate control to extend mileage.
Lexus says it has made the body more rigid in the facelift with more body glue, laser screw welding and anti-roll bars that are stiffer yet lighter.
These changes to the core translate to a driving experience that’s improved appreciably. The response to steering inputs is better, and the RX is more composed in corners.
The smoother ride is also attributed to a revised suspension.
Backed by a 5-year warranty with unlimited mileage, the crossover’s looks isn’t the only thing going for it.
Overall, the linear steering feel that Lexus sought to achieve in the refreshed RX is noticeable, making it a change for the better.
Lexus RX300 Luxury
Engine: 1,998cc, in-line 4 cylinder, 16-valve, twin-scroll turbocharged
Maximum power: 235hp at 4,800-5,600rpm
Maximum torque: 350Nm at 1,650-4,000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Acceleration (0-100kph): 9.5s
Top speed: 200kph
Features: Bladescan Adaptive High-Beam System, Lexus Safety System+, Dynamic Torque Control, 12.3" Touchscreen, 10 airbags, Auto Start /Stop System, LED cornering lights, Drive Mode Select, paddle shifters, dual zone climate control, 12-speaker Lexus Premium Audi, 6 USB ports, electric parking brake, hands-free tailgate opening, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, 10-way powered-adjusted front seats, 20-inch aluminium wheels
Price (OTR without insurance): RM424,888