And if it was him, the first “real” Lexus in history? According to the archives, this title goes unquestionably to the LS, launched in 1992. But this huge sedan equipped with a good old-fashioned V8 did not enchant the crowds outside the United States.. If Lexus is today seen as the competitor of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, it is thanks to the RX. Launched in 1997, this large SUV allowed the Japanese manufacturer to find its audience also in Europe. Best-seller of the chic Toyota label, it was above all the first hybrid SUV in history (2005). Result: 3.5 million models sold for just over a quarter of a century. Even in France, the RX is to date the most represented Lexus! However, this Japanese was really not cut out for us. In any case, that’s what I tell myself when I settle on board the fifth generation, 4.89 m long.
A more dynamic Lexus RX
However, from the first laps, “my” 500h reveals amazing maneuverability. And for good reason, Lexus has equipped this top-of-the-range version with a now well-known device: steerable rear wheels, which turn up to 4 degrees in the opposite direction or the same direction as the front wheels depending on the speed. In the Californian hinterland, more winding than you might think, the RX is therefore not clumsy despite a wheelbase extended by 6 cm (2.85 m). Lower but also benefiting from wider tracks than the older generation, this 2022 vintage contains its body roll well and takes turns with honors. There is no need to increase the pace too much aboard this strapping man weighing over 2.2 tonnes, because even if its front axle offers good grip, he ends up understeering, the whole crew being called to order by a sharp intervention of the ESP.
A new voluntary engine!
Even though it is based on a new platform (GA-K), this RX remains better in the register of the ride. Especially since without controlled damping, comfort remains acceptable. It would be even better if we didn’t touch the suspension stops on the big compressions or rebounds, but the compromise between rigor and softness is not bad. And we console ourselves with a new mechanical approval, which we also owe to a brand new traction chain. Because for this 500h non-rechargeable hybrid, the only engine available in France in addition to the rechargeable hybrid 450h+, Lexus has innovated.
First, by designing a 2.4 turbo derived from the 2.5 that equips the other hybrids of the Toyota group. Supercharged, this 4-cylinder now responds immediately to requests from the right foot, helped by an electric motor. The set, delivering 371 hp and 460 Nm of torque, provides a certain ease when overtaking… Especially since traction is never lacking, thanks to the Direct4 all-wheel drive which electronically controls the torque between the two axles. On the consumption side, this engine remains reasonable since at the end of our journey, the on-board computer showed 8.5 l/100 km. A good result if we take into account the route and our test pace which is not always representative of real life.
And since a novelty never comes alone, this RX 500h also inaugurates a brand new 6-speed automatic transmission. If it sometimes lacks softness and speed when downshifting, it easily makes you forget the uncontrolled revving. and offers a much higher level of comfort than the usual CVT effect transmission from the Japanese manufacturer.
Silence and softness aboard the Lexus RX
Something to enhance the tranquility that reigns aboard the RX, which welcomes its occupants in the most beautiful way. Well soundproofed, the passenger compartment is very well built and easy to navigate. As on board the new NX, with which the RX shares its dashboard, it is no longer necessary to decipher the multiple buttons. Everything now goes through the large 14-inch touch screen delivered as standard. Reactive and well thought out, this interface reduces the sub-menus to a minimum so that the functions are accessible in less than 3 clicks. Finally, let’s thank Lexus for having kept an adjustment of the interior temperature and the radio volume via traditional dials.
More dynamic than the old generation without losing comfort, the new Lexus RX widens the gap especially on the mechanical level, helped by a new engine and a new transmission. It is also distinguished by an extremely welcoming interior and improved ergonomics. Just like its price, which starts at €98,000 in this 500h version, which must be associated with the F Sport finish.