Lexus RX opens a new chapter

The Lexus RX, the car that imagined the luxury SUV, has entered its fifth generation with a brand-new design, new powertrains, greater performance, refined luxury, unparalleled safety and for the first time, a revolutionary plug-in hybrid model.

Together with the all-new NX, the RX will help build the “Next Chapter” of the Lexus brand. These three models will give the company its most comprehensive coverage yet of the premium SUV market, the heart of Lexus’ business.

Lexus has developed its new Next Chapter design language for the new RX, including a new ‘spindle body’, achieved by integrating the signature spindle grille concept into the entire front of the vehicle. The RX team also drew inspiration from the model’s rich design heritage to produce a car that is instantly recognisable, but with a more dynamic, elegant and confident character. Indoors, the driver-centred “tazuna” cockpit focuses on giving the driver direct, intuitive control of the vehicle, following the principle of ‘hands on the wheel, eyes on the road’.

To craft the new RX’s Lexus Driving Signature, Lexus optimised the SUV’s fundamentals such as the centre of gravity, weight reduction, rigidity, and powertrain to create a more natural dialogue between car and driver. This is one of the cornerstone characteristics of the new RX – the car literally shrinks around the driver providing a nimble, incredibly agile driving experience that totally belies its generous dimensions. The improved handling and responsiveness are founded on a development of Lexus’ GA-K platform that delivers excellent body rigidity and a low centre of gravity.

The new RX comes with a line-up of no fewer than three different electrified powertrains. At the core of the brand’s offering, the RX 450h+ is the first RX to adopt Lexus‘ plug-in hybrid technology. The RX 350h hybrid electric is positioned as an efficient alternative to lower displacement diesel and petrol powertrains. And for customers seeking something exhilarating, Lexus is introducing its first performance-focused turbocharged hybrid, the RX 500h, which comes with Direct4 drive force control. The first rung on the RX ladder is occupied by the RX 350, sporting a 2.4-litre turbocharged inline-four petrol engine, it dishes up a satisfyingly torque-rich dynamic driving experience.

Leveraging Lexus’ world-class safety technology, the RX benefits from the third-generation Lexus Safety System+, with an improved Pre-Crash System. It is also available with Lexus’ Safe Exit Assist, a feature which debuted in the all-new NX. Linked to the electronic door release, this system prevents doors being opened into the path of vehicles or cyclists approaching from the rear.

Next Chapter Lexus Design

The mission for the exterior design team was to give the new RX a unique identity with proportions born from its dynamic driving experience. This approach marks further development of the Next Chapter Lexus design, introduced with the new-generation NX model, through which the styling directly communicates the car’s performance and the quality of the driving experience. The result is unmistakably RX but with a refreshingly extrovert presence. 

Next Chapter design has taken the spindle shape from the signature Lexus grille which morphs into the new ‘sinewy’ body, integrating the shape into the entire front of the vehicle, creating a ‘killer whale’ profile. The slim headlight units and a front track that is wider by 15mm add emphasis to the car’s lower centre of gravity and planted look. While the new RX has the same overall length as the current model, the bonnet has been elongated, with the A-pillar moved further back, and the wheelbase has been extended by 60mm. Sculpted surfaces on the door panels, flared rear wings and 21-inch wheels (standard size across the range) add a sense of powerful traction and dynamism.

The RX’s characteristic “floating roof” effect created by blacked-out rear-pillars is retained but given a stronger three-dimensional appearance. The rear of the car communicates a sense of power with a shorter overhang, wider track (+45mm) and a sweeping transition from the wings round to the taillights. The rear combination lights are set in a light bar that spans the width of the car and wraps around the corners to heighten the wider look which is further underlined by the new LEXUS word logo. 

The visual appeal of the exterior design is matched by its aerodynamic efficiency. Effective details include the precise calculation of the rear spoiler shape and position, a belt moulding that is flush with the bodywork and the addition of a fin on the bottom edge of the rear bumper which suppresses air flow turbulence behind the rear wheels. Beneath the car there is an engine undercover with a dimpled surface that creates air vortices as the car moves, enhancing the feeling of it being in firm contact with the road. Across the range, each model has a larger area of flat undercover and flat-surfaced heat insulators, creating a flat floor for smoother air flow.

F Sport models feature a bespoke front bumper that expresses a wide and low stance and contributes to aerodynamic performance. F Sport also gains 21-inch, exclusive, multi-spoke, black gloss aluminium wheels. The grille features an exclusive mesh pattern and has a seamless design that fuses the boundary between the body and the mesh grille, establishing a new and unique F Sport identity. Six-piston brake calipers are now standard on F Sport to achieve more linear and direct brake feel and deceleration.

A new metallic exterior colour, Sonic Copper (one of several options using Lexus’ advanced sonic paint technology for a more lustrous finish with deep contrasts), is added to the palette to bring to nine the number of exterior hues on offer for non-F Sport models and seven for F Sport variants.

Tazuna Crafted Cockpit

The RX’s interior expresses luxury through simplicity with a “less is more” approach which dispenses with superfluous details in favour of a cool, contemporary look featuring clean, uncluttered surfaces. The cabin retains elements that display Lexus’ takumi hand-crafted luxury and appeal to all the senses. Even the opening and closing feel and sound of the doors came under close scrutiny. Equipping the car with the new e-latch electronic door release system - which first debuted on the NX - has allowed the interior handles to be moved lower down and the upper section of the door panels to be carved out, creating an organic extension of the instrument panel.

The RX comes standard with a new, larger panoramic roof with an opening front section. To give the best possible view from the rear seats, the centre frame has the thinnest possible cross-section without compromising collision safety.

The theme of simplicity complements Lexus’ “tazuna” concept for the driver’s cockpit, which rationalises the location and ease of use of the controls and information sources, so that attention is focused on the job of driving. The tazuna approach can be seen in details such as the soft-touch steering wheel controls, head-up display and new multimedia system. The large, 14-inch touchscreen and the provision of physical buttons for frequently used functions help minimise driver head movement.

The list of standard equipment is unlimited but some of the more uncommon bits of standard comfort and convenience kit includes three-zone air conditioning, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, wireless charger, illuminated entry, Heads Up Display as well as seat heating and ventilation.

The interior packaging is pure SUV, delivering the necessary practicality, convenience and flexibility. Basic advantages are drawn from the GA-K platform, including the lower centre of gravity (-15mm), increased wheelbase (2,850mm, +60mm) and wider tracks (front +15mm, rear +45mm), achieved, as mentioned, within an overall length that is the same as the outgoing RX (4,890mm). The driver’s field of view is increased to provide top-class visibility for safer and more comfortable driving. This is helped by a new ergonomic design for the area around the front pillars to give a better sight-line when cornering. Accurate line-tracing is also helped by raising the front edge of the bonnet, so that it is easier to judge the vehicle’s corners, while optimising the height of the central bonnet bulge. Similarly, thinner rear quarter pillars give the driver a better rearward view, for example when merging onto a highway.

The design provides more knee room for rear seat passengers and access has been made easier. The rear load compartment matches the current RX for capacity, despite the new model having a shorter rear overhang. This is thanks to clever design solutions, including a thinner back door and a lower loading height. Cargo volume is 612 litres with the rear seats in place. This gives enough space to carry four 9.5-inch golf bags or two 77-litre and two 63-litre suitcases. There is extra space beneath the deck for tools and smaller items and roof rails are available so that accessories such as roof boxes and cycle carriers can be fitted.

The door panels and seat shoulders have a new embossed L-motif pattern that creates a shadow effect, inspired by the traditional Japanese kageri (dark shadow) aesthetic. F Sport interiors are distinguished by a sports steering wheel as well as unique trim and leather upholstery in a choice of Dark Rose or Black. Other models are sheathed in Hazel, Black or Dark Sepia (brown tone) leather with a choice of either Black or Bamboo trim.

Powertrains and Performance

The all-new RX provides more comprehensive segment coverage in terms of powertrain choice than any previous generation. More than 15 years’ experience in electrified powertrain technology has produced an evolved range of powertrains that includes an accessible and efficient full hybrid electric model, a completely new turbocharged performance hybrid and the first plug-in hybrid electric RX.

RX 450h+

“This one is truly going to set the cat amongst the pigeons. The RX 450h+, the very first plug-in hybrid electric RX is a true game changer in terms of the Lexus electrification journey. For the South African market with its ever-present electricity supply woes and fledgling charging network, there is frankly no better option,” states Glenn Crompton: Vice President of Lexus Marketing.

Limited pure electric range is achievable in the city with a battery that can be recharged using a charger or self-charging as with conventional hybrids. This is what sets it apart from its rivals. A homologated EV driving range of 65km (more than enough for an average daily commute) with all-electric driving is possible at speeds of up to 130km/h, but this figure is almost academic as once the battery charge is depleted, the vehicle switches seamlessly to its self-charging hybrid system, maintaining high fuel and emissions efficiency. This is in contrast to most other manufacturers’ systems, where the powertrain defaults to its internal combustion engine. The battery’s size and capacity and Lexus’ electrification know-how combine to deliver significantly lower fuel consumption and emissions. CO2 emissions (combined cycle) fall below 29g/km with fuel economy (drive mode-dependent) pegged at an unbelievably low average of just 1,3 litres/100km.

The RX’s plug-in hybrid system features a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre hybrid engine (paired to the Lexus e-CVT system) and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with 18.1kWh capacity. An additional rear electric motor enables Lexus E-Four fulltime all-wheel drive. While it offers similar power to the outgoing RX 450h, it produces more torque and faster acceleration. Total output is 227kW, which enables 0-100km/h acceleration in a brisk 6.5 seconds.

EV is the default mode – the car will run on electric power to the limit of is range, regardless of how hard the driver uses the accelerator. With the contribution of the lithium-ion battery maximised and more power coming from the electric motors, driving feels effortless yet refined. The driver also has the option of Auto EV/HV mode, which automatically brings the hybrid engine into play when extra power is needed, then returning to EV operation immediately afterwards. The driver can also select HV mode to maximise efficient operation, automatically maintaining the battery’s state of charge. Battery charging mode starts the engine to restore the battery charge level, helping ensure more battery power is available when EV driving is required, for example prior to entering a zero or low emissions zone, which is common in some European capitals.

The driver can use paddle controls to operate the Shiftmatic e-CVT transmission in a series of shift ranges, selecting “S” with the shift lever. This delivers engine braking force in six steps with a shift feel similar to a manual transmission. A low shift range enables high engine speed control for sharp acceleration response, increasing driver rewards.

Crompton adds: “The plug-in hybrid system uses a new transaxle that achieves a top-level balance of fuel economy and driving performance. The inclusion of a rear transaxle, with E-Four all-wheel drive, adds to driver confidence with stable performance assured in day-to-day driving.”

The new, high-capacity lithium-ion battery is compact and housed beneath the cabin floor, avoiding intrusion in cabin and load space. Its reliable performance and high output – qualities secured through Lexus’ long experience in battery technology – are central to the car’s good EV driving range. The RX 450h+ is fitted with a 6.6kW on-board charger. With a 230V/32A connection, a full battery recharge can be accomplished in about two hours 45 minutes. The RX 450h PHEV will launch officially to the public by November.

RX 500h

A milestone performance hybrid with Direct4, the RX 500h marks a breakthrough in hybrid electric technology that sets it apart from any Lexus hybrid model that has gone before. Lexus has successfully shifted the focus from optimum efficiency to produce a model with a genuine performance edge, raising the RX’s appeal with customers who want high-end electrified performance. It uses a completely new parallel hybrid architecture, featuring a turbocharged 2.4-litre turbo petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission, integrated front motor and power control unit, hybrid battery and a compact rear e-axle. Total system output is 273kW with 550Nm of torque, endowing the raciest RX with a 0-100km acceleration time of 6,2 seconds, yet fuel consumption is still very well contained at just 6,5L/100km.

The front electric motor is positioned between the engine and the transmission (which has a clutch on both sides), enabling great flexibility in power delivery and the ability for the vehicle to run in all-electric EV mode. The hybrid control system automatically switches between parallel and EV modes according to the driving situation, giving both powerful acceleration and fuel efficiency. While performance is at a level typical for a 3.0-litre V6 petrol model, the RX 500h’s hybrid system delivers around a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy. The driver experiences powerful performance and drivability characterised by a direct, “torqueful” feel with minimal delay between pressing the accelerator and drive force being delivered to all four wheels.

The RX 500h uses a new low-resistance nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery unit that delivers faster and stronger power output while supporting fuel economy. It has a bipolar structure and adopts new high-output components. It is installed beneath the car’s rear seat, avoiding loss of cabin or load space and is quieter, thanks to the refinement of its air-cooling system.

The intelligent all-wheel drive system uses a separate electric motor and inverter to constantly balance the power and torque between the front and rear axles in any driving situation. It automatically and seamlessly adjusts the level the drive force between the two axles – more quickly and precisely than any mechanical system could. Direct4 communicates a better feel between the road and steering wheel and delivers improved handling stability and driving dynamics at high speed.

Importantly for the RX 500h, it also enhances ride comfort with instant torque that helps control body movement. Its benefits are experienced in different driving scenarios:

  • Starting off – drive force is securely delivered to all four wheels
  • Straight line driving – vehicle remains steady at all times
  • Entering a bend – change of direction is smooth
  • Steering through a bend – steering provides good feedback
  • Accelerating out of a bend – easy for the driver to trace a faithful line
  • Exiting a bend – confident, direct acceleration. The balance of front/rear drive torque is adjusted to achieve ideal performance, with the front/rear balance adjusting between 100:0 and 20:80, according to the driving scenario. When pulling away and in straight-line driving the system controls the ratio at between 60:40 and 40:60, suppressing pitching and giving a direct acceleration feel. When cornering, the system uses information such as vehicle speed and steering angle to determine the drive force distribution and secure handling stability. Drive force is weighted towards the front axle (70:30 to 50:50) at the start of a turn, then more biased to the rear (50:50 to 20:80) when exiting the corner, giving good traction and maintaining stability.

The F Sport Performance with the enhanced 2.4-litre turbocharged HEV powertrain goes beyond the existing F Sport package in the RX 500h (exclusively available in F Sport grade). There are significant technical elements contributing to the greater dynamics of the Lexus Driving Signature.

Aluminium monoblock opposed six-piston brake calipers are used for the front brakes to provide a linear and direct brake feel. Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) is also newly adopted to steer the rear wheels up to four degrees in the opposite or same direction as the front wheels, depending on vehicle speed. At low speeds, the system provides excellent turning and manoeuvrability during cornering, while a high level of vehicle stability is achieved in the high-speed ranges.

Exclusive exterior design items include body-coloured lower panels accentuating the lower centre of gravity, black stainless-steel mouldings to enhance the window design graphics, and 21-inch aluminium wheels for higher refinement and a more powerful driving image.

The 2.4-litre turbocharged HEV also features Active Noise Control which eliminates the typical noise characteristics of the four-cylinder turbocharged engine, providing a pleasant driving experience with a great Lexus sound.

RX 350h

The new RX 350h is characterised by the improved smoothness and efficiency of its fourth-generation self-charging hybrid electric system. This 2.5-litre petrol drivetrain provides 184kW (total system output) and 0-100km/h acceleration in an acceptably rapid 7.9 seconds, performance comparable with the outgoing RX 450h, while at the same time producing lower emissions. Fuel economy is impressive at 5,4 litres per 100km. It benefits from the same programme of hybrid component improvements featured in the RX 450h+, including a new hybrid transaxle with a more compact design, lighter weight (22 percent mass reduction) and reduced friction losses as well as a smaller (9 percent volume reduction) and more efficient Power Control Unit (PCU). It is equipped with E-Four electric all-wheel drive as standard. The RX 350h is a strong alternative to competitor models powered by small-displacement engines and ideal for customers who prioritise comfort and efficiency.

RX 350

Alongside the afore-mentioned electrified options, there’s also the new 205kW turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine which realises higher torque (430Nm @ 1,700-3,600rpm) and higher output thanks to several advanced technologies like a centre injection system (for more stable combustion), lightweight, spherical lipless pistons (for high-speed combustion) and a continuously variable capacity oil pump (to modify discharge volume based on running conditions). A short-ratio eight-speed Direct Shift-8AT offers an improved shift control program for smooth acceleration and deceleration. The electronically controlled full-time AWD constantly varies the front-to-rear driving force distribution from 75:25 to 50:50 (depending on situation) to achieve an optimal contact patch and linear steering feel. The obligatory sprint from 0-100km/h is dispatched in a laudable 7,6 seconds, while an average fuel consumption of 8,7L/100km is achievable.

Dynamic Performance and the Lexus Driving Signature

An essential element in the Lexus “Next Chapter” is the enabling of a natural connection between driver and car, a “dialogue” in which the vehicle responds exactly as the driver intends and the driver always feels confident, comfortable and in control. This is the Lexus Driving Signature, a dynamic performance hallmark of all new Lexus models which the RX achieves through the strengthening of its fundamental qualities and refinement of its drive control.

For the RX, the use of high-rigidity foam around the back door aperture provides lightweight but effective reinforcement. Adopting the innovation introduced on the all-new NX, the RX has a twin-latch mechanism for the bonnet. This allows the bonnet to contribute to the overall rigidity of the car’s front end, while also delivering quieter performance with less vibration when travelling at speed.

A number of weight-saving measures have been implemented with the most notable being the change of the front wings from steel to aluminium – something that has also helped improve the car’s front/rear weight distribution. No detail is too small: the covers for the fuel filler and the RX 450h+ charging port have been switched from steel to resin.

At the rear there is a new multi-link set-up that is engineered for better lateral stability and handling higher levels of torque. A focus on improved component rigidity has contributed to better steering response and giving the driver a sense of the rear of the car having a secure, planted feel at all times.

The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), featured as standard across the range provides independent damping control at each wheel, contributing to a more comfortable ride on uneven surfaces, higher damping force when turning and flat ride stability. The driver can choose between two damping force control modes. Normal gives a high balance between steering response and ride comfort while Sport prioritises steering response and a flat ride, with more frequent use of hard/high damping force.

The RX adopts a new AHB-G electronically controlled braking system, a pressure-on demand system that uses a high-performance pump motor, giving a natural feel, controllability and responsiveness. Front-rear brake force distribution is controlled by independent pressure regulation, helping the vehicle maintain a stable posture. The system’s refinement is also reflected in a new damping mechanism for the brake pedal, giving smooth operation and controllability.

The sport-focused RX 500h F Sport is exclusively equipped with larger, 400mm diameter ventilated front discs and opposed six-piston aluminium monoblock callipers, Direct4 drive force control system and Dynamic Rear Steering or DRS (see content under RX 500h).

Advanced safety technologies based on the human-centred concept

Lexus continually develops safety technologies with one goal: zero fatalities and injuries from road accidents. Based on the belief that it is important to develop world-class advanced safety technologies faster and spread them to more vehicles, Lexus Safety System +3 was adopted for the all-new RX.

Elements of the integrated safety technology include (over and above the standard active and passive safety standards:

  • Pre-Crash Safety (PCS) - if the system detects a driver looking away while driving, it warns the driver at an early stage. It can assist in collision avoidance and damage mitigation by securing the driver's reaction time.
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) with all-speed following function. When activated, the system alerts the driver and provides supportive control to ensure a safe margin.
  • Lane Departure Alert (LDA) - If the system detects a driver looking away while driving, it activates an alert and lane departure control at an earlier time than usual.
  • Abnormal driver condition response system - if the driver's posture is significantly compromised during Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) control, the system judges that it is difficult for the driver to continue driving and warns others by flashing hazard lamps, etc., as the vehicle gradually decelerates. The vehicle is designed to stop within the lane.

Lexus RX Pricing



Lexus RX350

R1  424 000

Lexus RX 350h

R1 458 300

Lexus RX 350h F Sport

R1  543 200

Lexus RX 500 F Sport

R1 684 300

Lexus RX 450h+ 

TBC on release to dealer period (Nov. ’23)

Every Lexus RX is delivered with the Lexus Warranty Experience featuring an industry leading seven years/105 000km and for the Hybrid models, a leading eight years/195 000 km battery warranty.

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