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Lexus introduces the all-new RX

Lexus introduces the all-new RX

Alvin Uy

Lexus expert Paul Williamsen shares his thoughts on the rousing success of the RX model    

Lexus recently invited us to test drive the all-new RX models in various trims in Santa Barbara, California where there is plenty of sunshine and the scenic routes, magnificent coast highways and verdant vineyards becoming the perfect backdrop for this 5th generation mid-size luxury crossover. 

Brief as the trip was, we were able to spend a lot of time with familiar Lexus personality Paul Williamsen, now the Product Education Manager for the Lexus College who’s in charge of product training for the US market and a familiar face among the PH motoring media.  

The Lexus RX from the onset has been a pioneer not only for the brand but the nameplate became a first in several aspects. For one, it was the first-ever crossover back when these vehicles weren’t even called crossovers. The first generation RX was based from the ES sedan of that time. Using the ES platform, it was given more height and ground clearance and it gave Lexus buyers a great platform, thanks to the creative product planners at that time and thankfully sold the idea to the company that gave rise to this model as related by Williamsen.  

First Generation RX (XU10)

Launched in 1997, the development of this new luxury crossover started around 1994, and at the public debut, it was called the Sport Luxury Vehicle or SLV, as a concept at the Chicago Auto Show. The “RX” nameplate stands for “Radiant Crossover” and has also been referenced as “Recreational Cross Country” in some markets.

“The RX has an interesting history for Lexus, looking back when it was first developed. The RX was specifically developed for Lexus USA. It was a segment back in the time then the people at Lexus USA back in the mid-90s saw an opportunity to create what we now call the “crossover” segment. Nobody else was doing that and no one had done that before. Honestly, back then, not everyone was convinced it was a good idea. Fortunately, the Lexus product planners won that argument and it became very quickly Lexus’ biggest selling model,” said Williamsen. The first generation RX took as much as half of the sales of the brand upon its introduction.

“Part of the thinking when Lexus was developing the RX was that we’ve got some great uni-body front wheel drive platforms but not everyone likes a sedan, like the ES or IS and they were able to see the possibility of making a 2-box SUV format instead of the 3-box sedan format out of that platform,” he added. The RX’s unitary construction was basically the ES platform with a ground clearance of 185mm that was sufficient to cope with most off-road conditions but the RX was designed to be elegant, sleek and passenger-oriented with a spacious cabin.

Second Generation RX (XU30)

By 2003, the second generation RX was previewed at the North American International Auto Show. The sleeker next generation RX had a coefficient of drag of Cd 0.35 and had more luxurious finish like genuine Golden Bird’s Eye maple or walnut wood trims and was using hi-fidelity audio brand Mark Levinson for its audio system. It came with more airbags and safety features specially on some variants like the Vehicle Stability Control, and in the Japanese domestic market, it even had the optional radar-assisted Pre-Collision System which was a world first for a production car.
Another first was the introduction of an RX Hybrid, a first in the segment. This generation became the world’s first production luxury hybrid vehicle, the brand also introduced the renowned Lexus Hybrid Drive system. Using the Lexus Hybrid Drive, only the front motor and engine were used under normal driving conditions. The rear motor is activated when using full-throttle acceleration or when the front wheels lost traction. Lexus also introduced more tech in this model, adding features like the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS), adjustable air suspension on its all-wheel drive variants and Dynamic Laser Cruise Control system as well as rain-sensing wipers.

Its RX 330 variant was named most appealing luxury SUV by J.D. Power and Associates in 2004 and was awarded as the Best Overall Value in the SUV market for over US$30,000 in 2003, 2004, and 2005 according to Intellichoice. The RX 400h variant was one of only four SUVs in 2006 Automotive Environmental Index of the top 30 most environmentally friendly vehicles by J.D. Power which also awarded top spot for entry-luxury SUVs in its 2005 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study.

Third Generation RX (AL10)

This third generation RX model was derived from the LF-Xh (Lexus Future-Crossover hybrid) concept that debuted at the 2007 Tokyo Auto Show. This generation RX was slightly larger and it was also this generation that the Japanese domestic market ceased using the Toyota Harrier and was the first time that the RX model was solely marketed in Japan under the Lexus brand and for the rest of the world as well.

Lexus RX 2009
  • Further enhancements were also done on the aerodynamics of the RX which has been reduced to Cd 0.33 while increasing its exterior dimensions and adding 5% more cargo room as well. Key features like SmartAccess keyless entry and start systems, Bluetooth connectivity, and a voice recognition system were added as segment firsts. The RX also became the most dependable vehicle in the US when it was awarded by J.D.Power in 2013. A significant mild-refresh update of its front also marked the introduction of the now-famous spindle-shaped front grille which was a central element of its L-finesse design language,

Fourth Generation RX (AL20)

It debuted in 2015 at the New York International Auto Show that came with a revised and bolder “spindle grille” Lexus signature front design. This was the first time also that saw the RX with an F Sport version of the hybrid. The later model years saw new three-row versions of the RX and even an extended wheelbase under the RX 350 L and RX 450h L variants in some markets. The refreshed RX models are equipped with the newer Lexus Safety System Plus 2.0 suite as well as new touchpad and touchscreen infotainment interfaces Lexus owners are now familiar with.

Fifth Generation RX (AL30)

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Introduced last May, the all-new RX uses the Lexus Global Architecture-K (GA-K) platform, which Lexus says is 198 pounds lighter than the previous platform with a center of gravity that is 0.6 inches lower versus its predecessor. It also used stronger metals and innovative adhesives and welds to improve overall rigidity. The new RX retained its 192.5-inch length but wheelbase grew by 2.36 inches totaling 112.2 inches and its track is widened by 0.59 inches in front and 1.77 inches in the rear, giving it wonders to its ride comfort, better legroom and cargo room plus better suspension dynamics.

With an all-new rear multi-link suspension design, it is attached to a rigid high-torsion rear body frame that facilitates more consistent suspension input/travel during acceleration, deceleration and steering. As of this writing, this generation will only have a two-row variant but will have the most number of trims/variants ever. Locally, we would expect the all-new RX to arrive later this 2022.

The new front three-dimensional spindle grille design which Lexus now calls the design element as “spindle body” stands out at first glance. The grille is noticeably smaller and less pointed than before. Its A-pillars have also been moved back to emphasize the elongated hood adding to its elegant profile.

“This is a completely new car, but still very much in character of the RX so we don’t disappoint its tremendously loyal fanbase. Long term RX owners will be very comfortable with the all-new RX,” said Williamsen.

Williamsen affirmed the impression that the F-Sport variant even has a sport wagon feel to it: “In the past, there has always been sort of a one-feel to the RX. They kind of drove the same across all variants. Whether it’s a 2-row or 3-row, hybrid or not, now we expanded the range of power trains, we now have 3 hybrids with one of them a plug-in, and an internal combustion engine as well.”

Each country, Williamsen said, will have various trims and suspension levels of the F-Sport that gives a wide palette for the new RX depending on the driving feels of each individual customer wants.

MAIN PHOTO: The all-new 5th gen RX in various trims on display in Santa Barbara, California.