On a recent trip we had to the west coast of United States and specifically to Oregon State in Portland, we had the chance to be among very few media to test drive the all-new 2016 Lexus RX 350. The invitation came out from Al-Futtaim Motor Company, official distributor of Toyota and Lexus in the United Arab Emirates.
The 2016 Lexus RX 350 has been totally redesigned, with far-reaching and futuristic designing that turns the conventionally conformist RX into something that turn heads! Nevertheless, it is also the revolution inside the cabin as well as a systematic start afresh and succeeding reengineering of this midsize luxury crossover's driving dynamics that truthfully magnifies the RX's charm.
Since the model's launch in 1998, the Lexus RX has proved immensely popular with those needing the flexibility of a sport-utility vehicle combined with the driving comfort of a luxury sedan, all wrapped in an attractive, elegant package. The all-new RX's mix of sharp creases and curves represents a bold evolution in the model's styling, sharing the same design DNA with other recently-launched models in the Lexus lineup. Moreover, this perennial best-selling luxury crossover adds advanced new redesigned hybrid and gasoline powertrains, sophisticated safety technologies, driver aids and welcome new convenience and technology features to make this the best Lexus sport-utility vehicle offering to date.
The front view of the new RX is characterized by an emboldened version of the Lexus brand's signature spindle grille, featuring a chrome-plated border and triple L-shape-LED headlamps. The available L-shaped LED headlight is accompanied by 18 individual LEDs that surround the headlights and not only act as turn signal indicators, but also illuminate sequentially from the inside section of the headlamp toward the outside when the driver activates the turn signal-a first for Lexus. A compact Bi-LED headlight is standard. Also, the Adaptive High-beam System (AHS) is available on certain RX models. By using a camera located behind the windshield glass and millimeter-wave radar to detect light from vehicles in front, AHS automatically optimizes the headlamp light distribution so that the high beams don't directly illuminate preceding or oncoming vehicles.
The spindle design theme of the front of the RX also defines its rear design, providing a high level of aesthetic balance and consistency to the vehicle's overall demeanor. The LED rear combination L-shaped taillights envelope the tailgate while wrapping forward around the rear fender sections, resulting in a powerful and wide stance. Of particular note are the blacked-out C-pillars, which provide a floating-roof effect never before seen on a Lexus product. Other new exterior features are flush-fitting headlight washers, panoramic moon roof design, solid roof rails, redesigned Smart Entry System door handles and convenient door handle illumination. Also, three new exterior colors have been added: Graphite Black GF (Glass Flake), Amber CS (Crystal Shine) and Deep Blue MC (Mica). All RX models feature a highly scratch-resistant self-restoring coat in the body paint, which uses a high-performance macromolecular polymer. The high elasticity of the material helps to improve scratch resistance, such as from car washes or fingernail marks around the door handles, and it possesses a high level of gloss retention that helps to improve the initial gloss and color of the paint over a long period of time.
A choice of five different stylish aluminum wheel packages (availability varies by model/geographic region) are now available with the RX, including an 18-in. seven-spoke wheel (standard model) and four distinct 20-in. wheel sets.
The interior of the new RX reflects an impeccable balance of functionality and opulence. Like virtually everything else on this exceptionally well-crafted and thoughtful redesign of the RX, there have been a number of enhancements to the interior trim. Depending upon model and geographic market, available interior trims include bamboo, walnut, Shimamoku, 3D film or laser cut wood, emphasizing the new RX's peerless new design theme. For the 3D Film, a glossy black is used for the base, and a three-dimensional embossed pattern is then applied to create a high-quality film design with a sense of depth.
With an interior space optimized for five passengers, the new RX's lowered rear floor section helps provide seating position comparable to that of the rear-seat passengers in the flagship Lexus LS luxury sedan. The new RX features improved rear cargo space-larger than competing crossovers within the segment-with room enough to fit hefty items including up to four large suitcases or multiple golf bags. New for this model year is the available Touchless Power Back Door, a Lexus first, which allows users to open the rear hatch by placing a hand near the Lexus emblem.
Lexus designers and engineers have given a great deal of consideration to the layout of the redesigned center console of the RX, which has led to improvements in the usability of switchgear and the accessibility of cup holders and storage areas. Based upon the concept of Lexus's Human Machine Interface (HMI) that allows the driver to concentrate on the road ahead with minimal distraction, a feature incorporated into the design of the new-look instrument panel is a Heads-Up Display (HUD) system. The redesigned instrument cluster offers the driver instantaneous information with a quick glance at its large and easy-to-read gauge faces.
Powertrains and Drivelines
Adding to the versatility and capability of the all-new Lexus RX are several choices of powertrains (availability varies by geographic region and marketplace):
•RX 200t: a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine (8AR-FTS) paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
•RX 350: a 3.5-liter direct-injected V-6 gasoline engine (2GR-FKS) mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
•RX 450h hybrid: now with a 3.5-liter direct-injected V-6 gasoline engine (2GR-FXS) and revised hybrid powertrain componentry.
2.0-liter Turbocharged Inline 4-Cylinder Engine
The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 is the newest addition to the RX's stable of excellent powerplants, delivering both exceptional fuel economy and exhilarating driving performance, characterized by crisp throttle response and instantaneous torque throughout the rev range. The engine produces 235 hp at 4800-5600 rpm with 350 Nm of torque from 1650-4000 rpm and comes mated to a 6-speed Super Electronically Controlled Transaxle (6 Super ECT) automatic transmission.
3.5-liter Direct-Injected V-6 Gasoline Engine
The available 3.5-liter direct-injected gasoline-powered V-6 engine (2GR-FKS) brings class-leading levels of performance, fuel efficiency and reduced emissions while delivering prodigious power when summoned by the driver, with smooth and highly refined operating characteristics in normal everyday operation. Power is rated at 292 hp at 6300 rpm with 360 Nm of torque at 4700 rpm.
To enhance breathing and fuel efficiency, Lexus engineers rely on an all-new cylinder head design with reshaped intake ports and combustion chambers for added efficiency in the engine's combustion process, D-4S fuel injection system that enables direct injection to the cylinders with high fuel pressure, and a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, whose close gear ratios have been tuned to provide excellent punch off the line and robust passing power while maintaining excellent fuel economy.
3.5-liter Direct-Injected V-6 Hybrid Engine and Lexus Hybrid Drive
A paragon of efficiency with plentiful power when needed, the completely reengineered 3.5-liter direct-injected V-6 hybrid engine (2GR-FXS) is an evolution of the base 6-cylinder drivetrain, now producing a combined system output of 308 hp at 6000 rpm with 335 Nm of torque at 4600 rpm.
In a Lexus first for a hybrid vehicle, the all-new RX is available with an optimally tuned sound generator system that creates a powerful and distinctive performance-oriented intake sound by using air intake pulsations to raise the sound pressure level with three distinct resonance frequencies. This sound generator system is also available with the non-hybrid V-6-powered drivetrain in the RX. The 2GR-FXS also features newly shaped intake ports and combustion chambers that generate a high degree of tumble inside the cylinders and improve combustion.
The hybrid-powered drivetrain in the all-new Lexus RX is the latest, most advanced iteration of the Lexus Hybrid Drive system. Its key components and control systems have been improved and reengineered to deliver class-leading fuel economy, minimal emissions and excellent on-road performance that will satisfy the most demanding driving enthusiast.
The transmission includes a hybrid front transaxle with new features including a transmission oil cooler (water cooled) for improved motor cooling a pre-loaded differential for performance and straight line stability. The rear transaxle (for models equipped with AWD), which combines an electric motor with a reduction drive, features a new three-shaft configuration and aluminum case and cover to reduce weight. Thanks to these upgrades, the Lexus Hybrid Drive system achieves class-leading driving performance, quietness and fuel economy.
Among other updates to the hybrid system are a design evolution of the Power Control Unit (PCU) and HV Engine Control Unit (ECU) that delivers better energy efficiency; more driver-friendly operation and more refined performance; implementation of a lighter, more efficient hybrid system coolant electric water pump;, and packaging changes to the hybrid battery that result in a more compact design for improved space efficiency. Also, the control functions of the E-Four rear drive electric motor (AWD models) have been improved for better response when accelerating during turns.
Platform, Chassis and Driving Dynamics
To further improve driving performance as well as feedback to the driver, a number of updates and improvements have been made throughout the structurally sound and highly-refined platform of the all-new Lexus RX. Although the new RX utilizes an updated version of the underbody platform of its predecessor, it has been given revamped front engine mounts to the sub-frame structure. The side engine mounts have been relocated to enhance the vehicle's lateral responsiveness, resulting in the engine sitting tighter in the compartment, which provides for sharper steering feel and better overall cornering reaction of the chassis. And, this newfound agility comes at no sacrifice to the RX's trademark smoothness and quietness.
The available Drive Mode Select system allows the driver to choose between distinct drive settings depending upon vehicle model and equipment. The settings regulate the damping force of the suspension system, adjust engine output, re-map the throttle and modify other key parameters of the engine and chassis. "ECO" mode moderates engine power output, throttle response and the climate control system for increased fuel efficiency. "NORMAL" provides an even balance between engine performance and fuel economy (both "ECO" and "NORMAL" utilize a suspension setting that prioritizes comfort). In "SPORT," the driver is treated to more performance through enhanced throttle response and improved acceleration while sharpening the feel of the Electric Power Steering (EPS) system. The "SPORT S" setting (available with vehicles equipped with the Adaptive Variable Suspension system) offers even a higher level of performance with aggressive throttle mapping and quicker drivetrain response. (In hybrid-powered RX models with AVS, this is accomplished when the hybrid system allows for enhanced accelerator response and feeling of more powerful acceleration.) The all-out "SPORT S+" setting combines the powertrain enhancements of the "SPORT S" mode while sharpening the feel of the Electric Power Steering (EPS) system and a stiffer suspension setting for flatter cornering. In "CUSTOMIZE," the driver can individually choose the powertrain and chassis mode.
A number of advanced driving aids and safety technologies are available on the new Lexus RX including:
• Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
• Rear Cross Traffic Alert/Rear Crossing Traffic Alert
• Lane Departure Alert (Select markets)
• Lane Keeping Assist
• Sway Warning System
• Intuitive Parking Assist/Lexus Parking Assist-sensor
• Parking Assist Monitor
• Panoramic View Monitor
• Adaptive High-beam System
• Blind Spot Monitor
• Adaptive Variable Suspension Control
• Road Sign Assist (European-spec models only)
The standard audio system includes HD Radio™, Bluetooth® audio and nine speakers, with frequently used switches placed closest to the driver. The available 12-speaker Pioneer audio system offers crisp, clear sound broadcast throughout the cabin through speakers along the sides of the instrument panel and 20-cm subwoofers and newly-developed 18-cm woofers in the front doors. Discerning audiophiles will enjoy the available 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround System, with its advanced Clari-Fi™ compressed music restoration technology, Green Edge™ high-efficiency conversion technology and Unity™, which brings the high-range and mid-range cone positions as close together as possible to realize a smooth connection between mid- and high-range sounds.
The optional 12.3-in. navigation system with Electro Multi Vision (EMV) display features a large Thin Film Transistor (TFT) liquid crystal display, improved Lexus Multimedia with new-look graphics and the handy computer mouse-like Remote Touch interface. A navigation system with an 8-in. Thin Film Transistor (TFT) liquid crystal display is available that features a high level of contrasting clarity as well as minimal color variation when viewed at different angles from either the driver or the front passenger seat.
F Sport Version
The 2016 RX F SPORT elevates the sporty image of the RX to an entirely new level. Available across the entire RX line, FSPORT models include a number of special visual and performance features that set them apart from other versions. The first thing the driver will notice is the exclusive instrumentation cluster that consists of an 8-in. Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) that's characterized by a large, easy-to-read circular gauge that artistically combines a tachometer and a digital speed indicator.
All RX F SPORT models boast excellent handling, thanks in part to the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system-which controls the damping force of the shock absorbers at each individual wheel in response to road surface conditions and driver inputs-and the Active Stabilizer System that suppresses body roll in accordance to the unevenness of the road surface. Also, the sound generator, available on RX350 and RX450h, enhances the F SPORT driving experience, using air intake pulsations to tune the sound of the engine to produce frequencies that are perceived to be pleasant to the ear during acceleration in the mid- to high-rpm range.
The interior of the RX F SPORT has been styled to match the vehicle's sporty disposition. You'll find highly supportive quilted seats that are exclusive to the F SPORT, as is an exclusive interior color choice, Dark Rose. The unique perforated leather-wrapped shift lever and three-spoke sport steering wheel with F SPORT badge, and aluminum interior trim accents, drilled non-slip lightweight aluminum accelerator and brake pedals and foot rest add extra flair to this exciting model's invigorating character.
The exterior features an exclusive black-out mesh grille, lower spoiler section and satin-finish chrome-plated lower protector with black side mirrors to match the grille. The vehicle's new front fascia design accentuates a low center of gravity, as does the new satin-finish chrome plated lower bumper section at the rear of the vehicle. Exclusive multi-spoke 20-in. aluminum alloy wheels and subtle but distinctive F SPORT badging round out its expressive exterior. A total of eight exterior colors are available, including an F SPORT exclusive, White Nova.
When our journey ended on board of the new RX, we can definitely admit without a doubt that it is a complete vehicle. The new sporty suspension, increased power and bolder front grill just makes the all-new RX a more sophisticated vehicle than its predecessor. It is now available at any dealer around the Middle-East and GCC. For UAE buyers it is instantaneously starting November at Al-Futtaim showrooms.
Rivals: Porsche Macan S, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Lincoln MKX, Land Rover Discovery Sport
Pros: Head turning style, quiet ride, heaps of drivers assist technologies, enhanced handling, gorgeous inside cabin, comfortable
Cons: Futuristic styling might not appeal to conservative buyers, incomprehensible tech controls, still no third row
One word: seduction
2.0-liter Turbocharged Inline 4-Cylinder, 235 hp @ 4800-5600 rpm, 350 Nm @ 1650-4000 rpm
6-speed SECT automatic transmission, FWD/AWD
Weight: 1,928 kg
3.5-liter Direct-Injected V6, 292 hp @ 6300 rpm, 360 Nm @ 4700 rpm
Quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, AWD
Weight: 2,020 kg
3.5-liter V6 Hybrid Engine, 308 hp @ 6000 rpm, 335 Nm @ 4600 rpm
Quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, AWD
Weight: 2,150 kg
0 to 100 kph: 7.0-7.4 sec, top speed: 200 kph, fuel consumption: 7.7-12.1/ 100km