Car Reviews

2020 Lexus RX review

Nathan Ponchard’s Lexus RX 2019 Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Interior, Ownership, Verdict And Score.

IN A NUTSHELL: A relatively large SUV – offered in either five- or seven-seat configurations – that champions premium build quality, an outstanding reliability record, and the availability of a battery-supported hybrid drivetrain configuration. Now four years into its life cycle, the circa-2015 Lexus RX has just been put through an extensive engineering and technology makeover intended to inject some modernity, while attempting to replicate the driving panache of much newer Lexus models. 

 2020 Lexus RX Review

WHILE IT LOOKS relatively similar to its predecessor at first glance, where the facelifted Lexus RX really makes its mark is on the road; it’s a much neater, tighter SUV to drive that’s more comfortable and doesn’t have the nauseating ride of before. In entry-level RX300 Luxury guise (priced from $71,920) in particular, there’s real value in its excellent quality, its standard equipment for the money, and its surprisingly perky and refined turbo-four petrol drivetrain.

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About the only real downside is the RX’s fussy appearance and the slightly odd proportions of its core styling though some may appreciate its deliberate rejection of an overtly masculine look. And then there’s the ageing 3.5-litre petrol V6 in the RX350 and 350L, which feels like a slice of last decade in this rapidly changing world of propulsion. If you want a larger engine (or AWD), stick with the silky Hybrid.

What Does The Lexus RX Cost And What Do You Get?

The triple grade RX line-up spans Luxury, F-Sport and Sports Luxury variants, just like before, though the base RX300 Luxury is now $1600 cheaper at $71,920 plus on-road costs, yet it gains further equipment. There’s a move not many manufacturers have been making lately.

The RX300 Luxury model includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, electric steering-wheel adjustment, rear privacy glass, sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio, wireless phone charging, auto high-beam, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a hands-free electric tailgate.

The V6 and Hybrid Luxury versions gain 20-inch wheels, genuine leather seat accents, and front memory seats with heating and ventilation.

2019 Lexus RX 450h Sports Luxury interior with Rich Cream trim and Bamboo ornamentation.

The F-Sport models (from $86,800 plus) gain adaptive suspension, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, colour head up display, panoramic view monitor and rear sunshades. Sports Luxury variants (from $92,700) feature 14-way power-adjustable front seats with memory for both, semi-aniline leather seats and second-row heating.

The higher-spec variants also debut an LED adaptive high-beam lighting system with world-first ‘blade-scan’ technology that directs a light beam towards a mirror rotating at 12,000rpm, then reflects that onto the road. The aim is to more finely control the light-blocking and anti-dazzling properties of the adaptive lighting compared to a regular forward-pointing arrangement. It’s pretty neat tech to watch working at night.

Every new RX gets a revised front bumper with cornering lamps, even sharper front styling details, a tweaked (and interesting) colour palette, and new rear taillights designs.

F-Sport and Sport Luxury now get sequential indicators though, unlike the cool straked LED tail lamps, the rear indicators don’t look as high-end as they should on an SUV like this.

How Much Space Is There In The Lexus RX?

If you’re seated in the two generously proportioned, amply adjustable electric front chairs then the updated RX feels quite palatial – particularly with its steep A-pillars reaching well forward, along with its deep dashboard. But if you’re in the middle row, you’d hope the front passengers don’t like to sit low because there’s minimal toe room under those aforementioned buckets and quite a high floor to deal with.

There’s also the intrusion of a fairly shallow roofline when there’s a double-pane sunroof taking up space, and quite thick pillars – something the charcoal-trimmed F-Sport seems particularly prone to. But the rear bench itself is beautifully trimmed (just like the front pair) and reasonably supportive, especially for the teenagers and smaller children that will mostly occupy it.

The long-bummed RX-L adds a pair of (now electrically adjustable) fold-down seats in the boot, which should please well-heeled children keen to escape their parents by another half-metre or so, yet it maintains the five-seater’s boot space.

That said, housing batteries under the rear floor of this older-generation design does compromise ultimate luggage room somewhat. The five-seat can squeeze 506 litres of luggage behind its centre row whereas if you use all seven seats in the RX-L, you’re left with just 174 litres. 

What’s The Lexus RX’s Infotainment Like?

Finally, the Lexus RX is available with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity – a long-time sore point with Lexus/Toyota models.

The base Luxury’s audio is already pretty snazzy – a 12-speaker set-up with a new 12.3-inch touchscreen and much-improved Lexus touchpad functionality (though it’s still not perfect), as well as voice control. 

The up-spec Mark Levinson audio gains an additional three speakers, plus Quantum Logic surround sound tech. It’s definitely the pick of the two for clarity and punch, though you’re hardly in the cheap seats listening to the stock audio system. 

What Are The Lexus RX’s Engines Like?

As with the pre-facelift RX, the 2020 version offers three drivetrain choices – a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four with front-wheel drive and a 3.5-litre petrol V6, with or without battery assistance, each with all-wheel drive. 

Neither AWD drive system is intended for hardcore off-roading. In the RX350 V6, it’s an on-demand set-up that only transfers drive to the rear wheels when it needs extra grip (though it can be locked, via a console button, into a fixed 50/50 arrangement). The RX450h uses a 50kW electric motor to drive the rear axle (a system Lexus calls ‘E-Four’) and is more about championing all-weather traction. 

If none of that is any real concern, then stick with the ironically named RX300 (which revives a former Lexus badge, despite the fact it features the same engine as the previous RX200t). It only gets a six-speed automatic (instead of an eight-speed in the RX350 and a CVT in the RX450h) but there’s enough turbo torque and mid-range muscle to fulfil most driveability expectations. 

That said, the silky battery-powered smoothness of the RX450h is a persuasive combination, though one you’ll pay a $20K premium for. The RX350, for all its outright performance – Lexus claims 0-100km/h in 9.2 seconds for the RX300 compared to 8.0sec for the RX350 and 7.7sec for the RX450h – lacks the overall refinement of its sister variants, as well as their effortless gait.

It also lacks their outright fuel efficiency. On the combined government fuel cycle, the RX300 uses 8.1L/100km compared to 9.6L/100km for the RX350 and just 5.7L/100km for the V6 Hybrid RX450h. 

What’s The Lexus RX Like To Drive?

In its former guise, the RX and long-booty RX-L could be quite disconcerting to drive at the speed limit on a twisty country road, especially in the rain. Vague steering, wallowy body control and a general lack of precision left the fourth-generation RX at sea, in more ways than one.

The facelifted model is a very different beast. Thanks to a much stronger body with 4.2 metres of additional body adhesive and another 36 spot welds across the sills, under the body and in the rear-wheel housings, the updated RX is able to combine tauter suspension control with an improvement in comfort.

Revised suspension-damper designs, a new hollow rear anti-roll bar that’s both lighter and stronger, retuned adaptive suspension in the F-Sport and Sports Luxury variants, a recalibrated electric steering tune, and a new ‘active cornering assist’ system that subtly brakes the inside wheels in a corner to tighten the RX’s handling all make this formerly putrid SUV surprisingly pleasant to punt.

There still isn’t much steering feel to speak of – especially in the Hybrid at low speeds, which combines with the overly sensitive braking response – but the RX is easy to place, confident when changing direction and now far more suited to roads that aren’t billiard-smooth freeways. Even riding on 20-inch wheels, the updated RX’s ride is pretty damn good in most situations.

It may not have the dynamic finesse and ultimate refinement of newer Lexus/Toyota products based on the latest Camry’s all-new GA-K platform, but as a patchwork stopgap, it’s worth the effort. 

How Safe Is The Lexus RX?

The RX comes loaded with standard active-safety gear (including 10 airbags and a host of electronic aids), though the new lane-trace control is more adept at keeping the RX placed on the road, and road-sign assist functionality should help with noting what the speed limit is.

There’s also a new parking support system that aims to avoid or mitigate common low-speed collisions by using the rear cross-traffic alert and rear sonar sensors. The 2020 RX also gains an expanded pre-collision safety system with night-time pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection. 

What Are The Lexus RX Alternatives?

Among the premium large SUV set, it’s the usual German suspects (Audi Q5 and Q7, BMW X5 and X7, Mercedes-Benz GLE), plus the Volvo XC60 and XC90 and more obscure rivals like the Jaguar F-Pace.

You can’t discount the Range Rover Velar (five seat) or Land Rover Discovery (seven seat) either.

2019 Lexus RX Specs

Price From $71,920 plus ORCs 

Warranty 4 years/100,000km

Engine 2.0L turbo-petrol 4cyl; 3.5L petrol V6; 3.5L petrol-electric V6 

Power 175kW at 4800-5600rpm; 221kW at 6300rpm; 230kW (combined system power) 

Torque 350Nm at 1650-4000rpm; 370Nm at 1650-4000rpm; 335Nm at 4600rpm (petrol engine only) 

Transmission 6-speed auto, 8-speed auto or CVT automatic

Drive front- or all-wheel drive 

Body 4890-5000mm (l); 1895mm (w); 1685-1700mm (h); 2790mm (w-b) 

Kerb weight 1890-2275kg

Seats 5 or 7 

Fuel tank 65-72 litres 

 

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Editor's Rating

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A more comfortable ride and tighter handling lead the most notable improvements for the new RX, and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto just makes life that much easier inside the cabin. A variety of engines also provides plenty of options depending on how much you need from it, and the sharper pricing should spark new interest.

1 Comment

  1. Kopanos
    October 11, 2019 at 3:17 pm — Reply

    That C pillar treatment still looks bad

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Nathan Ponchard

Nathan Ponchard