Revised RX to grow

Lexus SUV sales

Lexus RX 450h, 2019, front
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, side, static
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, side
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, rear
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, interior
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, boot
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, rear seats
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, engine
Lexus RX 450h, 2019, badge

IT'S 30 years since Lexus first hit the scene with its own brand of luxury and to hammer home its reputation for quality the Japanese car maker is releasing an updated version of its RX SUV.

First launched in 1998 - nine years after the original LS and ES saloons arrived - the RX is credited as the pioneer of the luxury SUV market.

Now it is in its fourth generation and has just been updated with more technology, revised looks and a world first in the headlight department.

Prices are unchanged despite the new features and when the latest RX arrives early next year the line up will start from £52,705 and top out at £61,705.

The seven-seat RX L - which is some four inches longer - now starts from £54,145 which is an increase of around £2,000.

New features include full smartphone compatibility for Apple and Android devices and what Lexus calls its BladeScan LED headlights which are said to illuminate up to 56 metres ahead - almost twice the distance of typical arrays.

They work by pulsing a beam of light every 50 microseconds - fast enough to be imperceptible to the human eye - to light the way ahead.

There is also a new look wireless phone charging pad at the front of the centre console while the RX L now comes with a sliding third row of seats which can add an extra 95mm of leg room.

Other changes are a new front bumper and smoother lines for the body, all set off by sleeker light clusters while at the back the car has been given a sportier poise with revisions to the tailgate.

As with all modern Lexuses the new RX450h uses a hybrid powertrain to keep emissions low while the ride and handling has been improved with new shock absorbers, a torque vectoring system and a revised feel to the steering.

Performance figures are similar to the current RX with a 0 to 60 time of 7.7 seconds and a maximum of 125mph but with a CVT gearbox the car comes alive only when sport mode is engaged - in its normal and eco settings it can be a little lacklustre.

Although all-wheel-drive is available with the rear wheels powered by individual electric motors, the RX is more a soft roader with a front-wheel-drive bias the normal configuration.

Fuel economy is rated at 37mpg at best under the new WLTP regime with emissions of 172g/km but being a full hybrid the RX is continually switching into pure electric mode whenever possible.

The result on our drive through Ibiza in the Spanish Balearic islands was more than 40 per cent of a 100-mile plus journey being completed under zero emission conditions although when it came to overall consumption we could manage only 30 to the gallon.

Safety systems are a Lexus strong point and the new RX has a modified forward facing radar system which can detect anything from pedestrians to cyclists and other objects which may come into danger.

There is also a lane tracing set up to smooth cornering when driving with cruise control activated while a head up display now shows speed, navigation and road sign information right into the driver's line of sight.

In the UK the RX accounts for 70 per cent of Lexus' SUV sales - which amount to more than 2,000 already this year - and while it is the biggest of the brand's three crossover-style models it has found a niche in which it is becoming a growing player on the new car scene.

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