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New York show: Lexus lobs fourth-generation RX

Big brother: The Lexus RX builds on the styling of the smaller NX that arrived in Australia last year.

Lexus’ bigger, safer and sleeker RX SUV revealed ahead of 2016 Australian launch

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Lexus logo2 Apr 2015

LEXUS unveiled its larger and more tech-heavy fourth-generation RX SUV at the New York motor show overnight ahead of an Australian release in 2016.

The design marries elements of the current six-year-old model and the recently launched NX crossover, sticking largely with convention for the large luxury SUV rather than adopting a more coupe-like silhouette as suggested by a pre-show teaser image.

Up front, the new RX has a similar gaping ‘spindle grille’ to the NX, surrounded by chrome, while the L-shaped daytime running lights are more subtle than those on its smaller sibling.

Lexus says the redesigned headlights and foglights help give the RX an “elegant yet futuristic aura” while a side character line runs from beefier front fenders to the rear end.

It borrows from Range Rover in creating a ‘floating roof’ effect via blackened C-pillars, while the company says the flowing roofline minimises drag, reduces front and rear lift, improves stability and reduces wind noise.

Lexus’ so-called L-finesse design language also features at the rear in elements such as the L-shaped tail-lights, and at each corner the RX gains new 20-inch wheels that can be customised with different colour inserts.

Compared with the current model, the RX is 120mm longer (at 4890mm), 10mm wider (1895mm) and 5mm taller (1690mm), while the wheelbase has been stretched by 50mm (2790mm).

Inside, a 12.3-inch monitor sits atop the centre stack, a large head-up display is provided and the gearshift has moved closer to the stack to allow more room in the centre console.

The extended wheelbase makes for more legroom and knee-room throughout, however Lexus has advised that it will not now enable a third-row option to be included in the package.

New driver and passenger seats offer power reclining and heating functions, a retractable panoramic sunroof has been developed and laser-cut ornamentation is available as an option to underscore the message of “high levels of comfort and luxury” in the cabin.

Lexus RX chief designer Gen Ikeda said the sleek new look of the SUV had not impacted on practicality.

“We designed the RX to have a high amount of excitement and strength,” he said.

“The lengthened wheelbase and larger tyre size results in sporty, powerful proportions.

“Even while ensuring a high level of luxury and space within the cabin, the RX’s silhouette remains sleek and dynamic, while the interior has been designed for easy operation with luxurious execution.”

Lexus is still to disclose full specifications, saying only that the RX will use an “upgraded and more powerful” version of the 3.5-litre V6, matched with a new eight-speed automatic transmission.

It also says a number of changes have been made under the skin to ensure more “car-like handling”. These include a fortified chassis for greater control and stability, and a strengthened and stiffer body structure to improve handling response and reduce engine and road noise.

The MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension has been revised for improved ride and handling, and an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system becomes available as an option.

Other technology onboard includes Lexus’ recently announced Safety System+ (combining pre-collision and lane-departure warnings, and automatic high beam adjustment), lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view monitor, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

While model grades are yet to be announced, Lexus has confirmed an F Sport variant featuring the ‘F’ mesh grille, exclusive alloy wheels, unique colour and trim and a sports steering wheel.

Lexus says an active stabiliser on the F Sport keeps the RX flat through corners, while the driver can select AVS-enhanced Sport S+ mode, in addition to Eco, Normal and Sport S driving modes.

The current Australian line-up starts with the two-wheel-drive RX270 from $64,500 plus on-road costs, topping out at $97,000 for the all-wheel-drive RX450h Sports Luxury.

As with other Lexus model lines, the new RX is expected to offer Luxury and Sports Luxury grades (as well as F Sport). More information will be released closer to launch.

Lexus finished last year with 1866 RX sales, a 14.7 per cent decline over the previous year. This placed it well behind the segment-leading BMW X5 (4130) and the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class (3143), but ahead of the Audi Q7 (1355).

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.