The Lexus RX series has long been the company’s best-selling vehicle. Since its debut in 1999 as the RX 300, this midsize luxury crossover SUV has won over buyers with its easy-to-drive nature, plush interior, virtually silent and vibration-free powertrain and very high build quality. Thanks to above-average reliability, the RX has provided its owners with a stress-free experience. The RX range consists of the RX 300, RX350 and RX450 h. The current model, which has been on sale since 2016, has received minor updates for 2021.
The RX unmissable gapping spindle grille remains largely unchanged for 2021. However, Lexus designers have added a new modulation to the ‘L’ pattern mesh and a new frame that blends into the side of the front bumpers providing a unified profile. The new slender headlamps give the front fascia a sharper look. The front bumper now features a line below the redesigned headlights, which separates the top and bottom portions of the front grill. Below the line are two side intakes and LED fog lights.
Moving on to the side of the 2021 RX is a character line that runs from the front of the vehicle to the rear. The blacked-out C-pillars provide the illusion of a floating roofline. The rear fenders blend with the bottom section of the C-pillars, lending a distinctively elegant and powerful shape to side.
The redesigned rear bumper features a new underbody shield that hides the exhaust and muffler while accentuating the vehicle’s width on the hybrid version of the RX. The redesigned LED L-shaped taillights, which wrap around the sides of the vehicle, create a distinguishable pattern at night.
One of the biggest changes to 2021 RX is the significant enhancements that contribute to driving comfort thanks to changes to the suspension and increased body rigidity. Lexus aims to deliver a pleasurable driving experience to the RX range through agile handling and exhilarating driving pleasure. New to the 2021 RX range is the Active Cornering Assist (ACA) that suppresses understeer when stepping on the throttle in mid-corner by adjusting the characteristics of the Electric Power Steering (EPS) and using the brakes. The result is a truly linear steering feel, allowing the RX to accurately trace the desired driving. Lexus engineers have also redesigned 2021 RX’s to feature a new Friction Control Device, which further reduces high-frequency vibrations caused by road surface imperfections.
The engine choices for the 2021 RX remain unchanged for the RX 300, RX 350 and RX 450 h. The RX 300 features a four-cylinder turbocharged unit with an output of 228 hp (170 kW) and 350 Nm of torque, which is paired to a 6-speed automatic. The RX 350 is powered by a 3.5 litre V6 with an output of 295 hp (220 kW) and 363 Nm of torque merged to an eight-speed automatic. The RX 450 h is equipped with the RX 350’s 3.5 litre V6 and an additional electric motor for a combined output of 308 hp (230 kW) and 335 Nm of torque. This particular unit is married to a CVT.
Inside, the RX’s luxurious interior is one of comfort and luxury, with repositioned trim pieces that exude a high level of class. A large heads-up display (HUD) takes centre stage, while the information display area, featuring a 12.3-inches monitor, has been separated from the main operations area. The monitor now features touch functionality and comes as standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Music is channelled throughout the interior via a 12-speaker system or an optional 835-watt, 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround System. Optional two 11.6-inch rear screens mounted on the back of the front seat, provide entertainment to the rear seat passengers.
The functions of the various interior components are distinguished by carefully selected materials. The centre-cluster controls and the air-conditioner vents are composed of durable materials, while soft, luxurious materials are used for those parts which come into contact with human hands. Rear-seat occupants are treated to plenty of leg and knee space. The seats offer heating and power reclining features and also provide a luxury feel. The retractable power panorama roof enhances the RX interior’s spaciousness and provides occupants with a refreshing open-air experience.
Practical L variant
With the RX L models, one has the option of third-row seating. The RX-L is stretched by 110 mm (4.3 inches) at the rear and used a steeper rear window angle than on the two-row models. This offers great headroom for third-row passengers and greater storage space when with the seats folded down. The standard seven-seat version uses a 60/40 split bench-type seat. Access to the third row is made easy with the touch of a lever that slides the second seat forward. The available six-seat configuration features second-row captain’s chairs that make third-row access easier with walk-in convenience. A tri-zone climate control system gives third-row passengers separate rear air conditioning and dedicated vents.
For those who prefer even more excitement and performance in their luxury sport-utility vehicles, there is the RX F Sport, which is available with all of the model’s engine offerings. RX designated with the F Sport badge is equipped with several special visual and performance features that set them apart from other versions. In the RX’s case, the spindle grille and lower centrepiece of the rear bumper possess an “F” mesh design, instantly giving the vehicle a sportier look.
Exclusive F Sport alloy wheels give the 2021 RX a classy look. Inside, the driver is treated to a custom F Sport instrument cluster as well as a sport steering wheel, featuring perforated leather and an attractive F Sport emblem, complete with paddle shifters. Exclusive colours and trim pieces are also part of the sporty package. The RX F Sport’s performance on the road has been enhanced by an active stabilizer system that keeps the vehicle’s body movement in check during cornering.
The full-length side curtain airbags cover seats. The Lexus Safety System + features Pre-Collision System (PCS) and Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA) with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam (IHB) and All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. The optional safety system includes a Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Intuitive Parking Assist and Cross-Traffic Braking.
Even though this current-generation RX is getting ageing fast, it still remains a strong option in the competitive luxury SUV segment. It delivers smooth acceleration and, combined with the unflappable ride quality, makes the RX one of the most comfortable SUVs you can buy. The Lexus brand has no local support at the moment but parts are available from Toyota Kenya, located along Mombasa Road and Westlands in Nairobi. Toyota should consider adding the Lexus brand into its expanding portfolio in Kenya. Prices in South Africa start at R 1,074,200 for the RX 350 for those who want to ship in a tropicalized unit.
What we like
• Smooth ride
• Quiet and luxurious interior
• Plenty of standard equipment
What we don’t like
• No local dealer support
• The design might not be to everyone’s taste
• Limited legroom on the L-variant third row
• Mercedes GLE
• BMW X5
• Jaguar F-Pace