Luxe is more: Lexus presents 7-seater RX, refreshed variants

The bestselling Lexus in the world, the one widely regarded to have jumpstarted the luxury SUV segment when it was first introduced in 1998, has been significantly revitalized across the range. 

Boasting the same wheelbase measurement as its other siblings, the RX L variant nonetheless realizes more space for its third row through a slightly more elongated rear.
Photo courtesy of Lexus Philippines

And the four variants now find themselves here. 

Lexus Philippines recently unveiled the new RX – not yet earning an “all-new” appellation, but certainly wielding enough changes and additions to transcend a typical mid-cycle vehicle refresh.

Toyota and Lexus officials flank the new Lexus RX L. From left are Lexus Manila, Inc. president Raymond Rodriguez; Lexus Philippines senior vice president Jing Atienza; Lexus Philippines vice chairman Dr. David Go; Toyota Motor Philippines and Lexus Manila, Inc. chairman Alfred Ty; Lexus International RX chief engineer Takeaki Kato; Lexus Philippines president Satoru Suzuki, Lexus Asia Pacific general manager Christopher Taylor; and Lexus Philippines EVP Kei Mizuguchi.
A new touchscreen-based infotainment system is a highlight of the changes within.

We start with the most obvious change: the addition of a new variant called the RXL, which now boasts a third row for an additional two passengers. Though bearing the same wheelbase as its five-seater siblings the RXL has a protruded rear end past the second pair of wheels to accommodate the third row and cargo room, to boot (pardon the pun). Lexus says it’s all about “unique versatility without compromise,” as the third row wasn’t just made to fit the existing chassis. And to give more legroom to the third-row occupants (offered two seating positions), the second-row seats can slide forward.

Should the third row not be needed, the power-folding 50/50-split seats can be stowed away independently to realize even more cargo room – a “flat, gap-free luggage space,” as the Japan-headquartered premium carmaker puts it. This bay is big enough to swallow four golf bags. A tonneau cover can be stored under the luggage space floor because, well, who wants a tonneau cover lying about except when needed?

Under the hood of the RX 450H

Lexus Philippines, on the strength of a single dealership, has done the improbable and dominated the premium SUV segment. It reported in a release that it has “consistently (held) the highest market share since 2015.” For the first half of 2019, it has cornered 28 percent of the niche – good for first place. Of note, the RX is the top mover in the portfolio – surpassing sales even of its sedan siblings. As of June 2019, the model has sold 1,413 units since its local introduction in 2009. It has been described as a “keystone model” by Lexus Philippines (and Toyota Motor Philippines [TMP]) president Satoru Suzuki. 

In a speech, RX chief engineer Takeaki Kato revealed that 2.94 million units of the SUV have been sold worldwide, followed by the ES and IS. Of course, this means that Lexus cannot afford a misstep on the RX. Kato said that the company “listened to valuable feedback” and through these, “the extent of improvements with the new RX development offers greater depth across three key aspects: More sophisticated yet aggressive design, improved driving dynamics, and  advanced technologies with connectivity.”

Toyota Motor Philippines and Lexus Manila chairman Alfred Ty gets behind the wheel.

Speaking to WHEELS.PH, Lexus Philippines brand department vice president Carlo Ablaza said the popularity of the RX – which isn’t the most affordable in the Lexus stable – typifies the “very different luxury market we have in (the country).”

Based on the feedback they’ve received, Ablaza reported, “Car buyers like the high ground clearance, flexible space, sporty design, the generous cargo space.” He underscored, “This is a flexible vehicle.”

The RX chief engineer Takeaki Kato of Lexus International talks about the design philosophy behind the refreshed SUV.

Kato averred that the new RX “design inherits the current RX’s strengths, aggressive and high-tech image, while enhancing the elegance, pursuing seductive strength.” Its front fascia has changed with a new grille and headlamp design that takes cues from the LS. On the RX rear is a lowered and recast bumper given L-shaped taillamps. The front and rear bumpers are designed to accommodate a seamless integration of character lines to further lend dynamism to the SUV’s appearance. The new RX hybrid variant features a kick operation system for the powered liftgate, instead of an emblem sensor operation. This promises an operation time shortened by up to 1.5 seconds.

Lexus Philippines brand department vice president Carlo Ablaza

Large 20-inch aluminum wheels are now standard, in the RX, which also gets a total of 12 exterior color choices available, with new hues of Terrane Khaki and Ice Ecru.

Inside, a touch display banners the changes for the 2020 RX, complemented by a touchpad-type remote touch interface. A cellphone holder is at the upper console panel; and Kato said that there is now a total of six USB ports so passengers don’t have to argue over who gets to charge. Well, they still might argue over whose songs will get to be expressed through the 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system on the hybrid variant. To this end, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now be available. Good luck.

Lexus Manila president Raymond Rodriguez flashes an “L” sign.

Not all the changes are immediately obvious. An admitted weekend racer, Kato bestowed the RX with “increased controllability and stability (through) strategically positioned reinforcements, the extended use of spot welds and body adhesives, and advanced production technologies including laser screw welding.” Ablaza revealed that even the RX suspension was tuned, along with the stabilizer bars.

Lexus remains bullish about the business in the country, keeping in lockstep with its global feats. Said Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) and Lexus Manila chairman Alfred Ty, “Lexus concluded 2018 with the brand achieving multiple best-ever sales goals around the globe. Earlier this year, global Lexus sales crossed the 10 million mark from its inception 30 years ago, and is on track to finish 2019 with another new sales record. These achievements are made possible through bold innovations, superior quality vehicles, and an industry-leading customer experience. We are thrilled that our line-up has been continuing to grow at an amazing pace with the likes of the LC and RC, the LS and ES and the UX and NX and the tandem of the RX and LX.”

The 2020 Lexus RX is priced as follows:

RX 350 – P4.278 million

RX 350L – P4.758 million

RX 350 F Sport – P4.838 million

RX 450H – P5.078 million

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