Right, first of all let me apologize for the relative lack of posts in the last week or so; I’ve been pretty ill with man flu (or a bad cold in all reality), that combined with the fact that my Nan has been down again meant that I had little spare time to fill the internet with more of my rubbish…especially as I’ve also had to be driving family round the South East of England, although I’ll explain that in more detail in a post tomorrow.
First of all though, I’m going to go back to a topic I’ve covered before; car face-lifts. Now yes I could easily go on again about the pros and cons, plus a few examples which dramatically changed my opinion of certain cars. But in fact I am going to stick to one in particular-a car already quite close to my heart but one that has only recently gone from making me puke to giving it a second or even third look.
That’s right, its the current generation RX! Now I already have a good depth of knowledge with the previous RX, especially the RX400h hybrid version, but on my travels over the last week I have seen quite a high number of the current version, and to be honest I have thoroughly changed my opinion when compared to 6 months or so ago. When it was first launched it basically looked like a previous generation RX had been left in the sun for abit too long; the ‘L-Finesse’ styling did not translate well, with the awkward grille not seeming to fit quite right with the headlamps and the rear lights looking mis-shapen, especially considering how sharp they had been before. With the smaller wheels of base spec models (especially in the US where the cheaper RX350 version was available), the RX was a candidate for one of the ugliest cars on thh road…that it was priced above rivals merely confounded my impression.
But my views were not necessarily shared with the rest of the population though. In the US the RX’s success has continued to build on the strength of previous generations, and in the UK the extremely low tax rates (relative to other SUV’s) meant that company car buyers could get a bit of a bargain. Of course figures of 144g/km and 44 mpg were a little far fetched for most owners, but those cheaper rates/road tax price plus a real-life fuel return of around 38mpg is still alot better than any rivals of the moment could achieve.
Or maybe they were all won over by the car’s interior? From the pictures and videos I have seen, the RX’s dashboard is pretty nifty and well constructed; surprisingly driver orientated and laden with technology, even I have to concede that the third generation RX looks like a great place to spend time. I also like the look of the ‘Remote Touch’ system that Lexus introduced on the car. Maybe it is a little more fiddly compared to MMI or iDrive, but any infotainment system has some sort of appeal and Lexus should be applauded for bringing something different to the marketplace. It is surprising that the company did not see fit to add a pair of folding rear seats to it’s new vehicle…but to be honest not many people would have used them, and it would have meant changing the over-all shape of the vehicle.
Much like the guy or girl in school who is friendly with everyone but friends with none, the RX was a popular vehicle with buyers but not one that created any kind of excitement or desire amongst customers (unless you were a 50 year-old divorcee). In the face of upcoming refreshed rivals from Mercedes, BMW and Acura, Lexus decided to give the market a bit of a surprise and face-lift the old faithful. Now we aren’t talking a few new light clusters or an LED strip, but neither a drastic re-design like second generation Ford Focus. Instead Lexus concentrated on adding their new corporate grille, complete with LED lighting, larger wheels and tweaked suspension. A new ‘F Sport’ trim was also added to give a sportier driving experience, although the benefits of this are dubious.
To my eyes Lexus were able to sort the main issue with their crossover, and whilst it may not be perfect it certainly makes me think twice about getting an RX at some point in the future, especially with those fantastic economy figures (on paper at least). It is testament to the RX’s continued success in the market that cars like Mercedes ML and BMW X5 have been redesigned with a softer driving experience in mind…the current ML in particular seems directed at the jugular of the Lexus, with the 4 cylinder diesel model being able to offer hybrid-style economy and emission figures.
Traditional Lexus buyers are not likely to pay much attention to the tweaks that have been made, apart from the fact that it is now slightly more distinctive to find in the golf club car park. But those shopping for a fuel efficient luxury SUV now may give the Lexus a second glance, and in future years anyone looking to purchase an RX would do well to choose this face lifted version over its rather dull predecessor.