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Lexus RX in depth

It mightn't look all that different from the old model, but the new RX debuts the company's new Remote Touch infotainment control system. We take a look at that and the rest of the RX350 has to offer.

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Derek Fung
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1 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Take one RX, melt

It mightn't look all that different from the old model, but the new RX debuts the company's new Remote Touch infotainment control system and, should you desire, an upgraded hybrid drivetrain.

To make the new RX, Toyota seems to have taken the old one, stuck it in an oven and then slashed it with a knife or two.

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2 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

It's better over here

We're not a huge fan of the droopy headlights, but the rear is quite nice — especially the LED tail-lights — and we're quite partial to chrome accents on the lower edge of the doors. Although it looks larger than before, it's only grown a maximum of 4cm in any direction.

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3 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Don't go chasing waterfalls

The new interior doesn't hold the same aesthetic appeal as the old one, but it's more functional. The materials are nice, although we could easily do without the wood.

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4 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Germany + Japan = Remote Touch

BMW started the ball rolling with iDrive, a small metal knob in the centre console through which you could control all of the car's functions, like air-con, audio, entertainment, sat nav and settings. Now that Audi and Mercedes have duly followed, it's time for Lexus to jump on the bandwagon. Instead of scroll wheel though, the Remote Touch controller is a flat pad that resembles a trackball.

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5 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Remote Touch quick tour

The controller moves a cursor around the screen, sort of like a mouse, but the cursor can't wander off screen. Rather than snapping to clickable buttons, the controller will send a mild shock of feedback and provide more resistance whenever you move over a button. It actually makes zipping to the right key on the keyboard quite brisk. Now if only Lexus would bin its DVD sat nav system for a hard-drive or flash memory model.

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6 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Now with more sense

Lexus has finally decided to more clearly delineate the air-con and audio systems. You also don't need to dive into the Remote Touch menus to change which vents are in use.

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7 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Your teeth are blue

There's Bluetooth hands-free, naturally, but the voice recognition system is still limited to calling contacts, and only after you've created five second voice tags for them.

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8 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

I just wanted to give you a heads up

Thanks to a small projector and mirror the RX sports a heads up display featuring speed and next turn information. It worked well most of the time, but pop on a pair of sunnies or drive when there's a lot of cars about after dusk and it becomes almost impossible to see.

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9 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Heart-shaped box

Somewhere under the sea of plastic is the RX350's 3.5-litre V6. It proved more than capable of hauling around nearly two tonnes of vehicle. Like many a rock and roll star it likes a drink. 16.5L/100km in the city to be exact.

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10 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Lift me up buttercup

We let the auto tailgate do its thing most of the time because it's on the wrong side of heavy.

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11 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Every day is a hump day

Spend AU$1000 for the optional full-size spare tyre — a space saver is standard — and you'll get this hump in the boot that prevents the cargo area from being completely flat when you fold down the rear seats.

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12 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Room with a view

There's plenty of leg space even when sitting behind an aspiring NBA star.

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13 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Tag! You're it

There's space for some oddments underneath the centre console.

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14 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Warm me up Scotty

Heated and cooled seats are standard on the Sports Luxury, but on our car they resolutely refused to warm our frozen butts, insisting instead on a steady stream of cool air.

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15 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Bright Optitron instruments are standard fare for Lexus, but this time around the backlighting is provided by an OLED array.

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16 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Cable clutter be gone

We had to consult the manual to find the 12V outlets. There's one in the boot and two underneath a false floor in the centre console bin. The RX's auxiliary jack lives here too.

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17 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Have key will travel

We've scratched our heads before about keyless start — it's cool, but ever so slightly unnecessary. And like our time with the IS250 we managed to mash the alarm distress button instead of the boot release in the dead of the night.

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18 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

On a wing and a prayer, part I

Indicators in door mirrors aren't really that special any more, but ...

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19 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

On a wing and a prayer, part II

On the Sports Luxury there's a camera mounted to the underside to help you park like a pro and prevent nasty scuffing of your precious 19-inch alloys.

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20 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Hippy thug life

After reviewing the RX450h, we're still not won over by the latest model's looks, but it does look mean and almost gangsta in black.

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21 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Spot the difference, part I

Only an owner or the super keen would be able to spot the difference between the petrol RX350 and the hybrid RX450h.

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Spot the difference, part II

There's, of course, blue-tinted badges.

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Spot the difference, part III

There's also blue-tinted light clusters.

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Spot the difference, part IV

And a neon blue glow to the scuff plates.

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25 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Blue light

Xenon headlights that follow the steering are standard on the RX450h range.

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26 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Here's lookin' at you

The 19-inch alloy wheels on our RX450h Sports were simply gorgeous.

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27 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Drivetrain talk, part I

The RX450h features a petrol engine and two electric motors powered by a large nickel-metal hydride battery pack.

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28 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Drivetrain talk, part II

The 3.5-litre V6 produces 183kW of power on its lonesome. Together with the two electric engines the RX450h has 220kW at its disposal.

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29 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Space traveller

A space-saver spare tyre resides underneath the floor of the boot.

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30 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Appliance power

Next to the spare tyre is the car's 12V accessories' battery.

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31 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Vent it all out

Should the hybrid's nickel-metal hydride battery get a bit warm, hot air can escape through these vents underneath the rear seats.

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32 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

No engine noise

The tachometer is replaced by a power meter in the instrument cluster. In lieu of the regular engine chatter, there's an all too easily missed Ready light to signal that the RX450h is ready to be driven off.

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33 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Bob Brown mode

With eco mode on, the accelerator becomes as unresponsive as a politician with a large electoral mandate.

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34 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Power to the wheels, part I

Usually when you're stationary the petrol motor lies dormant, but when you start the RX450h for the first time during a day, the petrol engine is fired up to bring it to a decent working temperature.

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35 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Power to the wheels, part II

At speeds above 30 or 40km/h, the petrol engine does all the work.

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36 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Power to the wheels, part III

Most of the petrol engine's power is sent to the front wheels, but some is directed to the front electric motor which recharges the batteries.

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37 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Power to the wheels, part IV

At low speeds or when you're cruising down a hill, the RX450h runs on electric power alone.

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38 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Power to the wheels, part V

Depending on the road situation — for example, front wheel traction is poor — the rear electric motor can be called upon to provide a bit of four-wheel drive action.

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39 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

EV mode

The RX450h can be forced into running on electric juice alone. Unlike the Prius there's no dedicated EV button on the dash, instead you'll have to hunt through a menu.

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40 of 40 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Regenerative braking

Hit the brakes and the electric motors begin to work as generators, recapturing otherwise wasted energy and storing it in the battery pack.

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