STATE†OF LUX

Garage

ASH WESTERMAN

ON PAPER, THIS NEWBIEíS IN THE COMFORT ZONE

IN SOME SMALL, weird way, I canít help feeling like the automotive version of a toiletpaper hoarder. Driving around solo in a large SUV with seating for seven feels wilfully excessive in these times where weíre all supposed to be pulling together to buy and use only what we need. Each time I jump in, I feel like the bloke whoís just stuffed his garage with a few pallet-loads of Sorbent premium threeply, and I hear Scotty from Marketingís scolding tone: ďJust stop it.Ē

Fact is, my only daughter and her tribe of friends have gone from being lift-bludging teenagers to independent young women seemingly in just a few blinks of my eyes, so Iíll never fill the vacant six spots with them. So, short of taking up Uber driving, my ability to properly report on the real-world functionality of the flagship of the Lexus RX range, this 450hL Sports Luxury, is a little compromised.

But that wonít stop me from trying. The reason itís joined the garage is because the 13-model RX line-up was updated in Q3 last year, so weíre keen to see how successfully this fourth generation, now in the twilight of its life, has been rejuvenated.†And how this $111,070, V6-plus-dualmotor hybrid range-topper stacks up compared to Euro opponents, and whether it justifies the extra $16,600 over the 450hL Luxury model below it.

Iíll give a deeper dynamics and consumption assessment next month, but as a potential spoiler, letís get it out there: the RX is built upon the platform best known here in Oz for underpinning the previous-generation Camry. The 2019 update brought the†usual facelift stuff like new bumpers and lights, and improved multimedia with new 12.3-inch touchscreen, but more significant were the structural and suspension changes. Body stiffness was targeted by apparently adding 36 extra spot welds and 4.2 metres of adhesive to the construction, which improved rigidity enough to allow softer springs for improved ride comfort, while the diameter of the anti-roll bars was increased for better body control.

So itís appreciably better to drive than its predecessor, but the inescapable fact is that this car does feel dynamically a generation behind rivals built on more recent platforms.

But thatís road-tester talk, and this Garage section is more about a pseudo ownership experience, rather than driving the wheels off a family SUV in a way no owner ever would.

No doubt youíll have your own opinion as to the styling, but to my eye, the creases and slashes and squinty headlights combine to make it look more aggro than really necessary, and the long overhangs at each end are not from the design-classic playbook.

Inside, as youíd expect from Lexus, itís loaded with standard equipment, and youíll quickly spot things its Euro competitors will happily gouge you on, like premium audio by Mark Levinson, memory settings for the front passenger seat, sunroof, and head-up display.

The interior exudes a real sense of quality and attention to detail, and displays clear consideration of realworld functionality, including great storage. Obviously this car and my recently returned Genesis G70 are not rivals in a segment sense, but they are in terms of brand competitors, so itís worth pointing out that the RX smashes the G70 inside in terms of perceived quality, tactility, and feelgood factor. Everything from the silky movement of the audio knobs to the stitching on the steering wheel feels like itís the product of real care and craftsmanship.

First impressions suggest thatís going some way to overcoming a few sub-optimal elements, which weíll get to next month ... provided the TP stash holds out.

ASH WESTERMAN

REPORT ONE†INTRO

LEXUS RX450hL SPORTS LUXURY

Price as tested: $111,070†

This month: 513km @ 11.7L/100km