Lexus RX 200t: Chiselled to perfection?

Is the new Lexus RX overstyled, or has the spindle grille come of age?

rx200t_3Gen Ikeda (how cool is that name) is the Lexus RX’s chief designer. I’m guessing he’s also Akio Toyoda’s shochu buddy to have gotten away with a design as extravagant as the fourth generation RX crossover. Like yours truly, if you’ve been sceptical of how the spindle grille was ever going to work out for Lexus, prepare to eat humble pie when you spot the new RX in traffic. It’s wild, it’s over the top, and it’s some kind of wonderful.


Spindle grille hits puberty

Perhaps it has to do with the new RX’s overall mass, but the spindle grille finally found some room to be properly fleshed out, spawning unbelievably sharp creases and body lines usually found on concept cars. Of course, it is easy to single out one of RX’s many styling elements and accuse Lexus of over-complicating things, but viewed as a whole, there is cohesion in the chaos of slashes and gouges on its skin. Given that the RX is a mainstay of the brand and sells in large numbers globally, you have to say that Lexus (and by association, Toyota) has indeed grown some gonads of late.


Confidence is also shown in the choice of engines offered. You have the obligatory 3.5-litre V6 in naturally aspirated and hybrid forms, but there’s now a 2.0-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder option, the same one as found in the smaller NX. Yes, there’s only so much one can expect from a 235hp/350Nm motor (along with a six-speed automatic) propelling an SUV that weighs a shade over two tonnes, and the modest numbers don’t lie – idle to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds; top speed of 200km/h – but as an ‘entry’ engine serving customers who probably rate fuel efficiency over performance, the RX 200t is entirely adequate within city confines. After all, when you have this much style, there’s no need to outrun envious onlookers.


Sharp outside, supple inside

It’s a sign of consumer vanity when the standard rim size on all variants of the new Lexus RX measures 20 inches in diameter. The cost of replacements will hit home when time comes, but Lexus has achieved the near impossible in that the RX retains a smooth ride quality which defies the 55-series rubber wrapped over those gorgeous F-Sport multi-spoke alloys. Not only is it capable of soaking the terrible tarmac we identify as roads in Kuala Lumpur, the typical rolling noise from 235mm wide rubber is well isolated too.


rx200t_8And then there’s that killer interior – a combination of high-quality materials, exemplary attention to touch points and overall ambiance. The choice of cowhide is also of the soft and supple variety, with contrast stitching that never wavers from its intended course. In F-Sport trim, the RX 200t looks and feels like a finely-cut suit, near impossible to fault. But there is one glaring flaw, and it’s how the infotainment controls work. It’s not so much that the Remote Touch Interface is slow and clumsy to use (it is by the way), but the user interface is plainly unintuitive, made worse by the amateurish choice of fonts and colours that are out of place in this well-appointed cabin. You know something isn’t quite sorted when the feedback tone is a comical-sounding ‘doink’. Needs work, Lexus.


RX interior exudes quality. Note flat floor; rear seat-backs can recline and fold down via powered controls.
Lexus is the new cool

Soft acceleration notwithstanding, the RX 200t is evidence of Lexus making further gains in how its new models drive. The existing formula of the last RX would have suited its customers just fine, but the manner which the new RX’s steering is weighted and geared (not too light and nicely linear), the positive feel and ease of modulation of the stop pedal, and overall body composure courtesy of its electronically-controlled adaptive suspension should give the Germans plenty to ponder over. Not that there’s an urgent need to measure up to the latter for the RX (or Harrier) has always charted its own course in this segment. But unlike past efforts where the RX appealed to customers with traditional mindsets (existing Japanese car owners and Toyota upgraders), this stunner of a crossover has the all the makings of cosmopolitan, cross-border success.

rx200t_2rx200t_1Lexus RX 200t F Sport
Price: RM422,990.00 (OTR w/o insurance)
Engine: 2.0-litre, inline-four, turbo petrol, AWD
Output: 235hp@4,800rpm, 350Nm@1,650rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto w/ shift paddles
Performance: 0-100km/h 9.5 seconds, top speed 200km/h
Fuel efficiency: 12.3 km/l
Wheels/tyres: 20in alloys, 235/55 R20
Safety: 10-airbags, Electronic Stability Control
Warranty: 3-years/100,000km