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Test Drive: Lexus RX 200t — Matured, not aged

Lexus hits the proverbial nail on the head with new RX aimed at an older audience

By Vishal Bhaskaran
Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-19You either love that front end or you absolutely hate it. Beauty is in the eye of the car beholder so goes the cliche but the Lexus family spindle grille makes the kind of statement anyone would notice, whether your reaction is positive or not.

And reactions went across the scale: gasps and expletive-laden admiration all the way to full blown disgust. One thing’s for sure, no one has used the word “boring” to describe how a Lexus looks in a very long time.

This RX for example bins the safe styling of its predecessor yet claims to have grown up to make room at the lower end of the market — for younger buyers — for the Lexus NX, its all-new crossover SUV baby brother.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-38

The logical step to take then if you have a radical new product to cater to a radical-thinking crowd is to allow one of your bestselling cars to take the mature and elegant approach to entice the the equally mature crowd you’re trying to pull. In this decade however, that does not seem to be the Lexus way.

They have upped, it seems, both the luxury and edgy factors; a risky combination which only time will be able to validate with how well the all-new Mk4 RX does.

Performance

Lexus’s new 2.0-litre turbo is an exceptional base engine, used also in the IS 200t and NX 200t. Most of our test drive period was spend in eco mode to see just how economical it could be and we averaged about 11.5km/litre, not bad for a car weighing in the neighbourhood of 1,900kg.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-02

The roads near the Melaka International Motorsport Circuit which this writer drove down to are of changing elevation with windy stretches, and in Sport mode the RX handled its weight with a nimbleness that could put smaller SUVs to shame.

And we mean significantly smaller, there’s some trick tech in the RX that Lexus calls Roll Skyhook Control which uses an active stabiliser to counter body roll and increase cornering stability.

The F SPORT-specific performance dampers in our test car had a hand in this of course, but we suspect this variant won’t represent the bulk of RX 200t sales simply because buyers would prefer a softer suspension setup found in other variants.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-33

On smooth roads there is largely no issue, for example the RX was a composed and stable cruiser with decent insulation on the drive to Melaka, but over sudden irregularities such as speed humps and potholes the ride really does show some weakness.

Cabin 

Luxury is more than just materials and design — in both the RX scores highly, it is an attention to detail that gives drivers features they never knew the needed. Take, for example, the analogue clock in the dash. First of all, a digital clock is nobody’s idea of premium so a point for Lexus there, but then we find out that the clock is GPS-linked and will self-adjust to when you cross time zones. Impressive.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-60

Space is commendable, the wide stretch of the dashboard enhancing roominess yet managing to keep the driver engaged with the angled centre console and a nice selection of useless but informative displays on the instrument panel: boost pressure, a G-force map, individual tyre loading, etc.

Overall space for occupants is above expectations despite the coupe-y silhouette — the floating roof effect of the blacked out C- and D-pillars is a nice touch, the new RX is about 120mm longer than its predecessor, 48mm of which is between the axles.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-71

The second row is a power folding 60:40 split affair, obviously more useful than a time zone-sensitive analogue clock with buttons in the boot for convenience.

With regards to Lexus’s EMV Remote Touch Interface infotainment system however, the mouse-like controller falls woefully short of other systems such as BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI. Overshooting options happens more often than not, and the menu layout is not as intuitive as we would have liked.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-74

Verdict

There has never been a bad Lexus RX, but this fourth generation model is truly exceptional as a premium soft-roader SUV. There is very little Toyota-ness anyone can gripe about, which a lot of luxury traditionalists do.

As serious an effort as any to steal German luxury automobile sales, this time its also armed with an efficient small-capacity turbo as is the rest of the competition so performance and efficiency is right up there with premium quality and luxurious feel.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-62

Considering that the starting point of Lexus RX ownership at RM388,800 for the Premium variant is roughly what you would have to pay for a Lexus IS200t F Sport or Lexus NX F Sport, the value here is incredible both in size and practicality and an altogether much higher rung in the brand’s model hierarchy.

From what we can tell, the Lexus ownership experience is on par if not better then other more established luxury brands. Put it down to having to oversell yourself to be noticed but whatever the reason may be, exceptional customer care can sometimes inculcate brand loyalty better than fantastic product. With this all-new matured RX, Lexus has it on both counts.

Lexus RX 200t F SPORT-76

Specifications of the Lexus RX 200t F SPORT

Engine: 8AR-FTS 2.0-litre in-line four, twin-scroll turbocharged

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with Dynamic Torque Control AWD

Max Power: 235hp from 4,800rpm – 5,600rpm

Max Torque: 350Nm from 1,650rpm – 4,000rpm

Fuel Consumption (combined): 11.5km/litre (as tested)

Safety features: 10 airbags, ABS with EBD and BA, traction control, vehicle stability control, hill start assist, tire pressure warning system, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, rear view camera with panoramic view monitor,

Price: RM422,990.00 OTR without insurance, three-year/100,000km warranty whichever comes first.

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