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Lexus RX 2017 review: 200T F-Sport

Spindle doctor: The bold design of the Lexus RX is not to everyone's tastes, but it's certainly not dull
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Having received its last major update in 2015 the Lexus RX is starting to get on. Is it able to still match it with the best in the segment?

Remember when Lexus design was about as adventurous as a warm cup of tea and a good lie down?

The Japanese luxury brand (and Toyota’s more expensive little brother) wasn’t exactly famed for taking risks on boundary-pushing looks. And that's not even me being mean - its own executives say they favoured conservatism over all else when working on an a new model. And thus everything looked like it was designed by a 75-year-old Japanese man, largely because it had been.

But gazing upon the angry, jutting jawline of the Lexus RX, those play-it-safe days suddenly feel a long time ago. If this RX isn’t the most striking (for better or for worse) SUV in its premium field, it’s got to be pretty darn close.

The cheapest and most youth-oriented model in the RX family is the 200T, making use of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine to propel the big SUV. And the one you see in these pictures is the F-Sport model, which scores a bespoke bodykit, unique alloys and other styling stuff to make it look even more aggressive on the road. 

Having received its last major update in 2015 (but with a mid-life tweak just around the corner) this RX is starting to get on a little bit. So we spent a week in the 200T to see if it's still able to mix it with the best in the segment. 

Lexus RX 2018: RX200t F-Sport
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$72,710

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Angry, aggressive and very un-Lexus, with a jaw that looks like Ivan Drago somehow transformed into an SUV - that pretty much sums up the RX. 

Lexus is already on record as saying its designers had mistakenly tried to make their cars appeal to everyone in the past, and so they ended up boring and tame as a result.

Now they're happy if one person in 10 really loves them. Exactly where you sit on that scale is up to you.

Up front, that 'Spindle Grille' (shaped a little like the Predator’s mouth) serves up plenty of road presence, while the sharply angled fog-light housings and deeply domed bonnet give it a more powerful stance than perhaps is justified by its 2.0-litre engine.

Up front, that 'Spindle Grille' serves up plenty of road presence. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) Up front, that 'Spindle Grille' serves up plenty of road presence. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Side on, the big and shining alloys, deep curve above the base of the doors and flared, squared-off wheel guards add plenty of personality to what could have (and in the past, would have) otherwise been a long and featureless stretch of metal.

The squared-off wheel guards add plenty of personality. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The squared-off wheel guards add plenty of personality. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Step inside and the cabin is premium-feeling, if a little busy, with the doors and dash covered in a combination of soft-touch materials and padded leather. The brushed aluminium-look central tunnel that separates the front seats is super wide, as it houses the  the cupholders, drive-mode selector and the strange mousepad that controls the entertainment system, but feels nice under the touch and becomes a kind of focal point in the cabin.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Australia’s laser focus on small and city-sized SUVs has been so intense that’s it’s easy to forget the joys of our bigger cars. Stretch out in the 4890mm long and 1895mm wide Lexus NX and it all comes flooding back. 

There’s plenty of space for up-front riders (even with the football pitch-sized centre console), as well as two cupholders and extendable pockets in each of the front doors. The cubby that splits the front seats is ridiculously deep, too, and is home to two USB connections, a power outlet and and aux-in point.

There’s plenty of space for up-front riders in the Lexus RX. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) There’s plenty of space for up-front riders in the Lexus RX. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Step into the back seat and you’re greeted by plenty of space in each of the window seats, although the central stack that houses the air vents and another power outlet does jut out into the legroom of the middle-seat passenger. There are two bonus cupholders hidden in a pulldown divider that drops from the middle seat, and two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.

Rear seats in place, the RX serves up 453 litres of luggage space, although you can stretch that to 924 litres by folding the backseats flat.

With the seats down, there is 924 litres of space. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) With the seats down, there is 924 litres of space. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

You’ll part with $86,551 for the Lexus RX 200T F-Sport - about $12k more than the non F-Sport model. And that’s not chump change. But your money does buy you 20-inch alloy wheels, proximity unlocking, LED head and tail-lights, roof rails, a powered boot and a huge powered sunroof.

In the cabin, you can expect leather seats, dual-zone air-con and push-button start, while technology is handled by a nav-equipped 12.3-inch screen that partners with a 15-speaker Mark Levinson stereo that's standard on this F-Sport-stamped model (the cheaper version makes do with a smaller screen and fewer speakers).

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

There was a time not so long ago when the thought of fitting a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine to a near two-tonne SUV would be truly torturous.

The turbocharged 2.0-litre engine produces 175kW/350Nm. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The turbocharged 2.0-litre engine produces 175kW/350Nm. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

But turbocharging has become so clever that the smallest engine in the RX range never feels underpowered. It'll serve up 175kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm at a low 1650rpm - enough to push the big Lexus from 0-100km/h in just 9.2 seconds. That power is fed through the a six-speed automatic and sent to the front wheels.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Lexus claims a 8.1 litres per 100km on the claimed/combined cycle (though we returned a much less happy number - one that started with an 11...).

Emissions are pegged at 189g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle, and the big Lexus' 72-litre fuel tank requires 95RON fuel.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Your love for the RX will likely depend on your priority list. Do you want the latest gadgets, a seamless multimedia interface and the kind of cool technology you can show off to your passengers?

Well, um, perhaps best keep looking, then. The in-cabin tech here feels a little off the pace now, and that cursed mouse-style controller still frustrates the bejeezus out of me.

But if a smooth, easy and quiet drive sits atop your list, then the RX 200T will grab you in all the right places.  Probably most impressive, it doesn't feel overly large and cumbersome, and is equally at home in the cramped inner city as it is eating up kays on the freeway.

The gearbox is silky-smooth seamless, switching between cogs without you even noticing, and the cabin is commendably quiet - especially when you're coasting though the ‘burbs - locking the worst of the outside word out of the cabin. The ride has clearly been engineered to iron out small, sharp road imperfections, but you can bounce around a bit in the cabin over speed bumps.

There was a time not so long ago when the thought of fitting a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine to a near two-tonne SUV would be truly torturous.

You can spice things up a little by selecting Sport or Sport + via the central dial and, while there’s no noticeable change in exhaust, the accelerator gets noticeably more sensitive and the gearing more aggressive; more wiling to hold a lower gear for longer, squeezing the most out of that little engine. 

It can feel a little heavy when you first brake into a corner, but beyond that the steering is smooth, predictable, and without a lot of dead-air play. It’s not a sports car by any measure, but it doesn't feel like you’re constantly dragging a big, heavy SUV around, either. 

But be warned, it’s not the most engaging of drives. This is not a car you'd ever wake up excited to run out to. It’s comfortable, capable and engaging enough, sure, but it never really stirs your emotions.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

4 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

There's no shortage of cushioning safety in the RX, with 10 airbags as standard. They join a parking camera, front and rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert.

Lane-departure warning and assist, blind-spot monitoring, active cruise and AEB join the list, too. All of which were enough for the Lexus RX to nab the maximum five-star crash rating when tested in Europe - a score that has since been adopted by ANCAP in Australia

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Expect a four year/100,000km warranty, with a trip to the service centre required every 12 months or 15,000km. And when the car does have to go back for a service, Lexus has received much praise from owners for offering a choice between a loan car, or a pick-up and delivery service from your home or office.

Verdict

Big, practical and comfortable, the Lexus RX 200T F-Sport deserves its place in the premium SUV pantheon. And don't let the little engine fool you, the turbocharged four-cylinder unit serves up plenty of poke to get the RX moving. But if it's fancy new technology that really excites you, prepare for mild disappointment, with the RX's in-cabin tech feeling a little underwhelming.

Are you one of the one in 10 who loves the Lexus look? Or does its face frighten you? Let us know in the comments section.

Pricing Guides

$82,870
Based on 63 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$68,888
Highest Price
$103,870

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
RX350 CRAFTED EDITION 3.5L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $73,900 – 92,510 2018 LEXUS RX 2018 RX350 CRAFTED EDITION Pricing and Specs
RX450h CRAFTED EDITION HYBRID 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $81,400 – 93,610 2018 LEXUS RX 2018 RX450h CRAFTED EDITION HYBRID Pricing and Specs
RX450h F Sport Hybrid 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $82,830 – 95,260 2018 LEXUS RX 2018 RX450h F Sport Hybrid Pricing and Specs
RX350 F-Sport 3.5L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $75,880 – 84,900 2018 LEXUS RX 2018 RX350 F-Sport Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Design7
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety9
Ownership8
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$72,710

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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