The facelifted Lexus RX has a raft of re-invigorated competition. It's time for a game of chess.
After being on the market for three years now, the Lexus RX gets a mid-life facelift including that spindle-like front grille, LED daytime-running front lights and the svelte steering wheel from the high-end GS executive saloon.
However, the revision is restricted to just the visual appearance. The entire engine range (see sidebar below) remains untouched.
This week, we'll see how all three RXs fare in a luxury SUV market that recently has seen a raft of re-invigorated competition.
The Lexus you see here is the RX350, the middle version that becomes the only luxury SUV in Thailand to come with a petrol-powered V6 if you don't count the Mazda CX-9, which is ageing and not conceived as a direct rival in terms of brand marketing.
Front gains LED daytime-running lights.
Although the cosmetic tweak is mild at its best, the fashionable LED lights help give the RX a refreshed presence, judging from curious onlookers on the road.
The steering wheel, finished with nice materials and incorporated with remote switches for various functions, helps lift a largely unchanged interior.
Speaking of the cabin, comfort remains a selling point in the RX in which the rear chairs can recline for chilling out.
Standard kit in the RX is also commendable such as the class-leading 10 airbags, front seats with cool-air ventilation and a sophisticated multi-media/sat-nav system.
The supple suspension makes for a comfortable primary ride, the light steering for effortless handling and a responsive V6 allows for convincing performance.
Then there's the petrol-electric hybrid of the RX450h that additionally rewards with V8-like oomph for driving enthusiasts while at the same time offering economy levels of a normal four-pot motor.
The RX270 and RX350 are quite thirsty on fuel. And don't think for a minute you can save money with the RX450h, for it costs the most in the whole range.
While ride comfort is generally fine, the secondary ride is spoiled by occasional underbody vibrations over ruts. It deteriorates as you scale further up the RX ladder (excessive weight of the hybrid system being the primary suspect).
Lastly, the RX sounds pricey at some 4-7 million baht.
That's because it's an import from Japan, whereas nearest rivals in that price range are either assembled in the country or enjoy special excise tax (the hybrid RX can't attract 10% because the V6 exceeds 3,000cc).
BUY OR BYE?
There are some likeable bits of the RX such as its sleek profile nearly matching the niche-breaking BMW X6, highly comfortable interior and refined petrol engines.
But the biggest problem is not from within but from its competition which has moved the game further.
For example, you might crave the RX270 for its cheap price. It might be slightly smaller in size, but the diesel-powered BMW X3 shines with its far superior economy, punchier performance, impeccable chassis set-up and lower price by nearly half-a-million baht.
If only size and power matter to you, the RX350 might suffice. But then there's the Mercedes-Benz M-class with its equally big, if slightly larger, body, sufficient pace and, again, lower price.
For those with plenty of money to spare, the RX450h may be the epitome in hybrid tech and offers rewarding performance. But for that kind of money, you can now get the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid (it gains that crucial 10%) which additionally boasts richer brand image, near-400hp performance and a brilliant chassis.
It appears the RX is cornered from all angles. In other words, it's checkmate for the RX.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor