17 April 2023

The new Lexus RX is so refined, you (almost) don't care about all the beeping

| James Coleman
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2023 Lexus RX 350h

The 2023 Lexus RX 350h in Brindabella Business Park at the prettiest time of year. Photo: James Coleman.

Despite what Men in Black: International may have led you to believe, there is no such thing as a quiet getaway in a Lexus.

I’ve borrowed the all-new RX from Lexus of Canberra, and the remote key fob may as well be a doorbell. Unlock? Beep. Open the boot. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. Open a door when not in Park? You guessed it.

It even protests when you’re looking sideways at oncoming traffic at a roundabout because a thin camera atop the steering wheel has noticed your eyes have deviated from the straight and narrow.

It beeps at other things too, but I can’t remember exactly what because they all blended into white noise before long. The messages that flicked up on the driver’s screen weren’t much help either – you need some sort of degree to decipher what they’re on about sometimes.

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I don’t doubt Lexus’s new mid-size SUV is a very safe car. Take the door handles, for example – you don’t physically pull them out because Lexus favoured an “electrically-activated e-latch” system, so if a cyclist or vehicle is coming alongside, it can stop you opening the door onto them. Useful, particularly along perilous parallel-parking stretches.

But like an increasing number of modern cars, there is the presumption you are an idiot. Lexus seems to think you may not expect the boot to open after pushing the boot-open button and feels compelled to tell you via many beeps. You are probably not – for instance – Chris Hemsworth chasing baddies through the streets of London while wearing memory-erasing sunglasses.

Hang in there – that bit’s coming – but there’s one more lump to swallow.

The new RX range opens $15,000 more than the outgoing model, starting at $87,500 for my 350h Luxury model and the one attracting 90 per cent of the local buyers. The all-wheel-drive RX500h F Sport Performance sits at the top for $126,000, plus driveaway costs.

The enormous 14-inch infotainment screen helps you ignore the fact much of the tech is ripped from Toyota, but it is disappointing you’ll need an extra $5100 for the ‘Enhancement Pack’ to get now-commonplace items like a heads-up display, driver’s seat memory and wireless phone charging. There isn’t even a 360-degree camera. Kia gives you all this. Why not Lexus?

Don’t get me wrong, though – it’s clear the money has been spent – because to drive, the new RX is utterly sublime.

In itself, this is nothing new.

Go back 20 years, when the logos were gold (gold colour, not literally gold) and the interior was a sea of plush leather. You would enter a Lexus frayed by the cares and worries of the world and emerge at the end of your trip a new man. It was like a hug from your mum.

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The RX, as the brand’s oldest SUV nameplate, comes from deep within this period. Toyota executives first proposed the idea of wedding a luxury sedan to an SUV to create the ‘Sports Luxury Vehicle’ (SLV) over a pufferfish lunch in 1993.

The first RX arrived five years later, powered by a 3-litre V6 engine and dominated inside by a central LCD infotainment screen and a U-shaped slab of walnut trim. After all, the Japanese had done their homework and confirmed what we all know – a mere 7 per cent of SUV owners ever ventured off-road.

There have been four more generations since then, and while today’s RX has lost the analogue clock and gained a bit of a snout to go with the ‘spindle’ grille, the ethos is unchanged.

Underneath the floating roof and taut skin, you’ll find the same basic setup as a Camry Hybrid, but where the Toyota might be smooth enough to keep the stomach contents inside an overindulgent Uber passenger, this RX is next-level refined. You don’t so much drive between places as effortlessly waft, in the same way as I imagine a soul is transported to heaven. There is not a hint of jerkiness anywhere. And then there are the seats – the heated and ventilated seats.

It’s not a boat, though. Push the RX through corners with pace and even in base front-wheel-drive spec, all two tonnes of it hangs on in a way that would have Sir Isaac Newton heading back to the drawing board.

In fact, you’re left so unruffled by the end of your trip you don’t care it just beeped at you five times in a row because your door wasn’t shut properly.

2023 Lexus RX 350h

Underneath the trees in Curtin. Photo: James Coleman.

2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury

  • $92,600 (as tested)
  • 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, 184 kW
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), Front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • 5 litres per 100 km combined fuel usage
  • 0-100 km/h in 8.1 seconds
  • Yet to be safety tested by ANCAP.

Visit Lexus of Canberra for more information.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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