ENTRY to a new Lexus luxury SUV has become almost $13,000 less expensive with the addition of a front-drive, four-cylinder, single-specification RX270 base model to the Japanese brand’s facelifted RX range.
Priced at $69,900 plus on-road costs, the RX270 is just $4500 more than the top-spec Kluger from parent company Toyota, widening the appeal of what is already Lexus’s second-best-selling model after the IS sedan.
In addition, price cuts across the board mean the petrol-electric hybrid RX450h variant – down $6888 to $82,900 – now costs just $176 more than the outgoing entry-level RX350 Prestige.
Lexus says the hybrid price drop has been made possible by the increase in worldwide hybrid vehicle sales leading to the reduced cost of components.
The Prestige specification level has been usurped by Luxury to bring the RX in line with the rest of its Lexus stablemates, and in petrol V6-powered RX350 form is $4914 less expensive at $77,900.
Just as Mercedes-Benz aimed to do with a four-cylinder version of its recently launched new M-Class, the RX270 enables Lexus to at least compete on price with the likes of Audi’s Q5 (from $62,200) and the BMW X3 (from $59,500) in the absence of a smaller SUV in its range.
However, the hybrid RX450h now compares well with the entry-level Benz SUV, as the new lower pricing of the rapid (0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds) yet fuel-efficient (6.3L/100km) Lexus pitches it just $1500 higher than ML250 BlueTec.
By comparison, the Mercedes is powered by a 150kW/500Nm four-cylinder diesel engine that manages 0-100km/h in a relatively slovenly 9.0 seconds and consumes 6.4L/100km.
Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb said customers have long been enquiring about a “smaller SUV suited to city driving” and described the new RX270 as providing “the space they need with the power they require”.
Revised styling featuring subtle cues marking out each variant and the ‘spindle grille’ design language that made its Australian showroom debut on the new GS sedan in April clothes a stiffer structure.
RX becomes the fourth model to receive the more aggressive, harder-edged F-Sport grade after the IS sedan, CT hybrid hatch and GS luxury sedan.
On the RX, F-Sport includes Yamaha-developed suspension upgrades, a larger, more sculpted-looking front bumper with mesh on the air intakes and exaggerated ‘spindle grille’, dark-chrome 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tyres, sporty interior trim (with dark silver highlights) and F-Sport branding.
RX350 F-Sport variants also get paddle-shifters for manually swapping cogs on the six-speed auto.
Interior changes across the range include ergonomic improvements such as reduced clutter, increased spacing and clearer labelling for the switchgear, the latest iteration of Lexus’s mouse-like Remote Touch infotainment system controller, a wider-opening lid for the centre console storage bin, and relocated USB/auxiliary inputs for the upgraded satellite-navigation and audio systems.
A larger multi-function display in the instrument panel is designed for better visibility and the hybrid system display that replaces the rev-counter on the RX450h has been updated to provide extra information.
Standard equipment across the range includes an updated hard-drive satellite-navigation unit with SUNA traffic updates, 12-speaker sound system with DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth streaming and USB/auxiliary inputs for iPod integration, automatic headlights and wipers, climate-control, a reversing camera, eight-way electric seats, a powered tailgate, voice control, rear privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels and metallic paint.
Range-wide standard safety kit includes 10 airbags (including knee bags for both front occupants), active head restraints and seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters.
On-board safety technologies include ESC, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and hill-start assist, and speed-sensitive electric power steering that automatically assists the driver when vehicle stability is compromised.
F Sport and Sports Luxury variants come with adaptive cruise control, which includes a pre-collision safety system.
Adaptive, self-levelling HID headlights and LED daytime-running lights are standard on the RX350 and RX450h, along with courtesy lighting (including puddle lamps) and self-dimming, heated mirrors, while the flagship RX450h Sports Luxury (now $7888 cheaper at $100,900) gets LED headlights.
Sports Luxury variants also get a head-up display, which has been updated to include selected gear, USB and Bluetooth streaming source information, plus improved sat-nav instructions.
A passenger side-view camera is also fitted to Sports Luxury variants to help the driver when parking or off-roading.
The RX270 is more softly sprung than other variants and is powered by a 2.7-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 138kW of power at 5800rpm and 252Nm of torque at 4200rpm, paired with a six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.
The 1950kg SUV will accelerate from rest to 100km/h in 11.0 seconds.
Unlike the V6-powered RX350 and hybrid RX450h, which are recommended to run on pricy 95 RON premium unleaded fuel, the RX270 is rated for 91 RON standard unleaded.
Combined fuel consumption is a relatively thirsty 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres, compared with the 225kW/370Nm 3.5-litre petrol V6 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueEfficiency, which consumes 8.5L/100km.
Statistics for the RX350 remain unchanged, with the same 204kW/346Nm 3.5-litre V6 as before still consuming 10.8L/100km.
The RX450h carries over its 188kW/317Nm 3.5-litre Atkinson cycle V6 petrol engine and continuously-variable transmission (CVT) with six simulated stepped ratios, supplemented by a 123kW/335Nm electric motor on the front axle and a 50kW/139Nm motor on the rear axle to provide all-wheel-drive.
It will accelerate to 100km/h in 7.8 seconds, with combined fuel consumption dropping 0.1L/100km to 6.3L/100km, while CO2 output is down a gram to 149g/km.
In addition to the pre-existing Eco and EV modes, the RX450h gets a Sport mode, which boosts mid-range acceleration and modifies the electric steering map to “increase driving enjoyment” while changing instrument illumination from blue to red.