What are you driving?
The '2020 model year' Lexus RX SUV, in its regular five-seat guise. Lexus has not altered the core of its luxury hybrid SUV, so it's still powered by a combination of a silky-smooth 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and two electric motors - one of them purely for the rear axle. It's one of those so-called 'self-charging' hybrids, which means you don't have to (and indeed, you cannot) plug it in to charge up the battery. And while there are other non-hybrid versions of the Lexus RX in existence in other markets, we're not offered them in Ireland. Buyers here can choose between this five-seat variant, however, and the longer RX 450hL, which features an extra row of (quite small) rear seats.
The 2020 Lexus RX can be distinguished by its redesigned lights and bumpers front and rear, a new radiator grille and, depending on specification, new alloy wheels, too. Lexus has quietly enhanced the RX's already impressive roster of safety equipment, as well, updating and extending the functionality of several of the driver assistance systems.
Many will be keen to hear about the modernised infotainment, however, especially as it was one of the few negative things we could say about the cabin of the RX. Now a 12.3-inch touchscreen is standard, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system can be operated by touch or via the mouse trackpad-like 'Remote Touch Pad'.
In terms of pricing and trim options, the entry-level RX 450h Executive costs €78,580, the best-selling Luxury version (tested here) is €79,950 and above that sit the F Sport and Premium specifications, the former with changes to the chassis as well as its appearance.
Name its best bits
It's difficult not to be impressed by the serenity of the Lexus RX at most speeds. It's brilliant at isolating its occupants from the outside world, making it feel more luxurious than many alternative SUVs at this price point. The quietness of the hybrid powertrain and the smoothness of the lovely V6 petrol engine all contribute to that. The system dips in and out of purely electric running as it sees fit, though you can press the EV mode if you want to maximise that ability. There's a Sport driving mode as well, which seamlessly alters the appearance of the dials and enhances response to the throttle.
Thankfully, though, Lexus resisted trying to make the RX handle 'sportily' as many of its rivals do. While that can mean a disconnected feeling through an interesting set of corners, and less iron-fisted body control over undulations than some, it also results in a very comfortable ride, making long journeys in particular a joy. The body style may say 'SUV', but the RX feels like a luxury saloon for the most part.
For the record, Lexus did tweak the chassis of the RX for 2020, subtly enhancing its abilities, but if you really care about how it corners, you should consider going for the further enhanced F Sport model.
Anything that bugs you?
Now, as our test drive was conducted in a cold and dark January, we didn't find the RX in EV mode as often as expected, even in stop-start traffic. That, and the fact that we drove the car mostly in an urban environment, helps explain the relatively poor average fuel consumption we recorded (over 12 litres/100km). So, while it's undoubtedly cleaner in such conditions (Lexus points out that the RX emits six times less NOx than one of its biggest diesel-powered rivals), a diesel alternative might prove more economical for some drivers.
And one other thing to note is that the RX is not an SUV that is designed to cope with serious off-road work. Sure, power can be sent to the rear wheels when needed (via the electric motor), but for the most part it operates in front-wheel-drive mode and you can even feel the front tyres losing traction for a moment in slippery conditions before the rear axle helps out.
And why have you given it this rating?
Lexus has breathed upon a likeable car to enhance its appeal and take away some of its foibles. Given the slow move away from diesel, the RX is more relevant than ever, though we can't help but feel that Lexus needs a plug-in hybrid powertrain for this car sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, there's no arguing with the quality and luxury of the RX, making it a tempting ownership proposition.