We were just commenting yesterday, as we piloted our 2009 Lexus RX 400h down California's HWY 5, that the crossover SUV was getting a bit long in the tooth. Starting February 2009, that will no longer be the case because the new 2010 RX 350 will be available, followed shortly by the RX 450h hybrid.
Lexus unveiled the updated RXs at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show. The new vehicles feature updated powertrains, new designs, and a much needed cabin tech refresh.
At the center of the cabin tech experience is the hard-drive-based navigation system with a new "Remote Touch" controller. This new mouselike joystick is positioned on the center console, where it falls naturally in the driver's hand. The operator controls an onscreen cursor with the joystick. We had a chance to try out the system and found it to be extremely natural and intuitive, but we'll have to wait until we can get one on the road before we can evaluate how the system works under duress.
The RX's new dashboard configuration moves the OLED further back into the dash for better daytime visibility. The RX also offers an optional LED-based heads-up display that Lexus claims is bright enough to be read in direct sunlight. Rear-seat entertainment is available in the form of seatback monitors. Revised steering wheel controls and a simplified center stack join old favorites--such as the Mark Levinson Surround Sound and dynamic radar cruise control--in rounding out the RX's greatly improved interior.
Under the hood, the RX 450h features an upgraded hybrid drive system, which utilizes a 3.5-liter V-6 running on the highly efficient Atkinson cycle and a pair of electric motors, one for each axle. The gasoline engine works with the front electric engine, while the rear electric engine kicks in when needed. This configuration is similar to that of the current model and offers the advantage of an all-wheel drive system, without the added weight or complexity of a center differential or a driveshaft running to the rear. Power has been increased to 295 horsepower (27 more than the current model).
Helping the hybrid drive keep efficiency in check are two new exhaust-based systems. The first is an exhaust-heat recovery system that reduces engine warm-up time allowing it to stop earlier, more often, and for longer periods. Running the engine less begets lower emissions and higher fuel economy. The second is a cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system that reduces engine pumping losses, which also helps to improve economy.
Meanwhile, the RX 350 will be powered by a conventional gasoline-burning 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with a six-speed automatic transaxle and available all-wheel drive.
The RX's face-lift pulls the headlamps tautly back in a fashion similar to the current-generation Toyota Camry, while the trapezoidal grille evokes the Lexus LS sedan. Aside from a few nips and tucks and a pair of new taillights, the rest of the RX's exterior is indistinguishable from the outgoing model.