Lexus RX VS Audi Q7
- Plush Luxury and Sports Luxury models
- Now with touchscreen and smartphone mirroring
- Good value and equipment
- F Sport ride compromised
- Not as dynamic as rivals
- Cabin could have seen more changes
- Sleek design.
- Great cabin.
- Still strong engine.
- Not much cheaper than the 200kW.
- Some options are ludicrously priced.
- No CarPlay or Android.
The Lexus RX is a big seller for the Japanese brand - in fact, it’s the most popular model in the range in Australia, accounting for more than one-in-four new Lexus models sold, and its the third most popular luxury SUV in Australia, too.
So when an updated version of the RX arrives, you can expect there to be some innovations worthy of attention. That’s certainly the case for the 2020 Lexus RX.
You might be able to pick the facelifted model by its styling changes, but only if you’re a trainspotter - the luxury large SUV hasn’t changed a whole lot since in launched in Australia in 2015.
Read on to find out what has changed, and whether the updated RX argues a strong case against its high-end, high-riding rivals.
Audi’s big banger Q7 relaunched late last year with a slimmer-hipped, lower slung replacement for the old bruiser.
There are a few bits missing that are standard on the more highly powered version, so with a relatively narrow price difference, is it a good fit for options-box tickers?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
The updated Lexus RX 2020 model brings some attractive additions and offers a number of compelling arguments against the German rivals it chiefly competes against.
The hybrid versions are truly efficient and impressive, but it’s the entry-level RX 300 Luxury that stands out as the potential value winner of this range.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The 200kW Q7 is a brilliant car and the 160kW is little different. It’s hard to make the economic case for spending less, though, as options will quickly land you in 200kW price territory unless, of course, you’ve stretched yourself for the $96,300 in the first place.
If you have stretched, you’re getting an even better overall car than the excellent BMW X5. The fundamentals of the Q7 are such that you could almost whack the 2.0 TFSI from the A3 in it and it would still be just fine.
Does the Audi Q7's new styling sway you or is the options list too pricey? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
While a number of luxury SUVs play it relatively safe when it comes to styling, the Lexus RX plays from a different angle in the segment. Angles. Yes, there are plenty.
The styling changes are subtle unless your eye is tuned to the finer details. Things like the different shaped inlays for the spindle grille, the slightly reshaped bumper bar with integrated cornering lights, the new headlight internals… but at a glance, it looks pretty similar to before, albeit a little broader looking due to the horizontal emphasis on the front-end design.
How does that translate to interior dimensions? The interior photos should give you an idea, but there’s been a bit of work done for the three-row models to improve the back seat space.
The rear has seen small changes too, with L-shape tail-light inlays, and revised lower bumper design to again broaden the look of the car.
There’s not much to tell the difference in profile, other than new wheel designs (18s on the entry car, 20s on the high grade versions). The profile gives away the difference in dimensions when you compare the five- and seven-seat models. The five-seater is 4890mm long, while the L model is 5000mm from tip to tail. Both models size up at 1895mm wide, and the five-seater is 1690mm tall - the same height as the 350 L model. The 450h is 1685mm tall, and the L models are 1700mm high.
One thing is for sure - the smaller RX model pulls off its sharp-edged sheetmetal look a bit better than the L versions. But what about interior dimensions? The interior photos should give you an idea, but there’s been a bit of work done for the three-row models to improve the back seat space.
The new Q7 is, thankfully, a lot less imposing than the first generation. That car really did loom and as time went by it became ever more covered in bling. The restraint of the new car is admirable (and good business sense – there’s bound to be a bigger Q8 before long) and looks more like a jacked-up wagon than a full-on SUV.
As is Audi’s wont, there’s lots of aluminium, particularly in the MQB Evo chassis itself (shared with some pretty posh things like the Bentley Bentayga) as well as doors and bonnet.
Despite being smaller, there are still seven seats in the Q7, with a reasonably accessible pair of rear pews providing you’re at least four years old and in possession of two working legs. That third row gets its own air-conditioning vents, cupholders (there are six in total) and somewhere to store your ration of Smarties.
The middle row of seats can be slid fore and aft through about 15cm to liberate or rob the third row of space. The middle rear seat passenger does have to contend with a fairly solid transmission tunnel, however.
Storage is well scattered around the cabin, with four bottle holders, a shallow bin under the centre armrest and a few cubby holes here and there to supplement the good-sized glove box. Audi says the minimum boot volume is 770L with the third row of seats down and 1955 with both rows folded away. With the third row up, an educated guess says somewhere in the region of 300L is still available. There's also ISOFIX child seat mounts for all five rear seats.
The driver gets a clean, clear dashboard with two big dials flanking the central info screen and, as usual, everything is spot-on ergonomically. The dash is considerably less visually weighty than the old car, with full width air-con vents, the middle section blowing diffuse air so you’re not in a windtunnel from a 1980s music video clip.
The biggest news here is that the media unit is now a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Rejoice! You don’t need to use the horrible trackpad controller anymore… but you can if you want to. It has capability for both. And it now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is also new to Lexus.
Of course it works a lot easier than the old one, plus there are four additional USB ports added to the cabin for all variants - making a total of six! - and all models also get paddle shifters on the steering wheel now, too.
Other elements of the cabin are pretty untouched - there are still plenty of buttons below the screen, plus decent storage consisting of cup holders between the front seats (and in a fold-down arm rest in the rear), plus there are cup holders in the third row for those models, too. There are bottle holders in the doors, and a few loose item storage bins (including a wireless phone charger in front of the shifter).
The seats are very comfortable (more so in the Luxury and Sports Luxury versions - the F Sport has firmer seats that aren’t as cushy) and offer good adjustment for taller occupants. The electric steering column adjustment is a nice touch, too.
Rear seat space is fine for adults and good for little ones. There’s decent headroom in models without the panoramic roof (the big glass ceiling does eat into space a bit), while knee-room is good across the board. Toe room is tight.
The second row can be slid fore and aft to improve space in the boot, or allow more space for those in the third row (if equipped). The rearmost seats now have a bit of adjustment as well, though still are best considered bonus seats for kids.
The luggage capacity varies depending on the model. The five-seat versions of the RX have a claimed storage space of 506 litres to the top of the back seat (or 453 litres to the cargo blind, as previously stated), while the seven seat model has 176 litres behind the third row seats, and 591L when the rearmost seats are folded down. You might want to consider a roof rack system for the roof rails if that boot space isn’t big enough.
The storage space includes a cargo cover (or retractable tonneau cover), and you can option a liner if you so choose.
Price and features
How much does the Lexus RX cost? Well, that varies depending on the model in the range, as there’s an extensive price list to consider, here.
There are three grades of Lexus RX - the entry-level Luxury, the athletically-intent F Sport, and the plush Sports Luxury flagship.
And then there’s the question of how many seats - because depending on the grade, you can go for a seven-seat version of the RX with a now-adjustable third row seat setup.
So yes, it’s a bit complicated, but the table below should help you figure out the model comparison for yourself:
Price (RRP - before on-road costs)
RX 300 Luxury
RX 300 F Sport
RX 300 Sports Luxury
RX 350 Luxury
RX 350 F Sport
RX 350 Sports Luxury
RX 450h Luxury
RX 450h F Sport
RX 450h Sports Luxury
RX 350L Luxury
RX 350L Sports Luxury
RX 450hL Luxury
RX 450hL Sports Luxury
Wondering if you should compare the Luxury vs the F Sport for your needs? Here’s a rundown of the trim levels and standard features in each.
The Luxury grade gets 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights (with auto on/off function and auto high-beam), front cornering lamps, rains sensing wipers, and a power tailgate with kick-to-open function.
Inside, Luxury models have the new 12.3-inch touch screen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a GPS navigation system (sat nav), DAB digital radio (as well as CD player and AM/FM radio), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a 12-speaker sound system, six USB ports (four front, two rear), wireless phone charging, smart key entry and push-button start, power adjustable steering column, climate control air-con and rear privacy glass (tinted windows). It runs a fake leather trim standard, and yes, there is a sunglass holder.
The step up to F Sport and Sports Luxury grades now sees adaptive LED high-beam headlights using “blade scan” technology fitted - they don’t shine the light at the road, rather at a mirror that spins at up to 12,000rpm and, according to the brand, boosts brightness and reach compared to conventional LED units. These variants run on 20-inch wheels, too.
F Sport and Sports Luxury models also gain adaptive variable suspension, plus they get leather interior trim (with sports seats in the F Sport) with heating and cooling for the front seats. The rear seats have retractable sunshades.
Being the sport edition, the F Sport features additional bracing front and rear for “an even more dynamic character”, with sports suspension, a Mark Levinson sound system with 15 speakers, and a 360-degree camera display.
Top-spec Sports Luxury versions further add power-adjustable rear seats, second-row seat heating and semi-aniline leather upholstery. No heated steering wheel or rear seat entertainment system, though.
Want more? There is a premium package - or Enhancement Pack, in Lexus speak - for Luxury variants which adds a panoramic sunroof on five-seat models or a smaller moonroof on seven-seaters, among other niceties. The cost and additional equipment varies depending on the model. You might need to shop around for rough-and-tumble accessories like a nudge bar, bull bar, rubber floor mats or less shiny rims.
Colour choices (or colors, as your autocorrect may insist) across the RX range include black, white, red, blue, silver, gold, grey and brown (bronze), plus there’s now a lovely green hue, too. You can choose between four different interior colour combos, as well.
Safety levels are up across the board - read the section below for more.
Across the board there is good value here, but that’s especially the case in the entry-grade RX 300 Luxury.
With a price just a few thousand down on the original 200kW version, it almost seems like Audi doesn’t really want you to buy the base model. The price difference is “only” $7600. Remember that bit.
Despite the lower sticker, there is a generous equipment list, particularly on the safety front. Standard are a 10-speaker stereo with DAB+, Bluetooth and dual USB ports, 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, blind spot sensor, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors and park assist, cruise control, electric front seats with driver’s seat memory, satnav, bi-xenon headlights with level adjustment, auto headlights and wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), electric tailgate and tyre-pressure monitoring.
Our car had the optional Audi Connect wifi hotspot feature ($750), metallic paint (at a hefty $2400), Assistance Package - which adds adaptive cruise, active lane assist, pre-sense front, traffic jam assist, collision assist and turn assist ($4075), LED headlights ($2800!), Parking Assistance Package, which adds auto-parking and 360-degree cameras ($1300), full body paint finish ($1300) and interior inlays of high gloss black and oak (an even more mystifying $1690). This brought the total to an eye-watering $110,615.
That’s only $5000 less than a similarly optioned 200kW, which has a few more standard additions, more power obviously, bigger wheels and the full digital “virtual dashboard” from the lovely TT. Of course, neither Q7 is particularly cheap. If you’re willing to lose all-wheel drive, you can have a BMW X5 starting at $86,200 for the rear-wheel drive 170kW 2.0 diesel (but only with five seats).
Audi’s MMI system controls the operation of the retractable 8.3-inch screen that rises majestically from the centre of the dash. MMI looks after the entertainment, satnav and various settings of the car and does a fine job of it, supplemented by a generous touchpad for you to write out your destination with your finger, or choose your radio station.
You can also speak in reasonably normal terms to the nav via voice activation and it will take you to the nearest public toilet, or a petrol station or a nearby Italian restaurant.
Engine & trans
If engine specs are your thing, prepare yourself! We’ve got the outputs and ratings for each of the powertrains here.
The entry-level RX 300 models run a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with 175kW of power (at 4800rpm) and 350Nm of torque (at 1650-4000rpm). It is front wheel drive only, and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. There is no manual transmission available.
Stepping up in engine size and horsepower is the RX 350, which has a 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine producing 221kW (at 6300rpm) and 370Nm (at 1650-4000rpm) in five-seat guise, while the seven-seater has slightly less power due to packaging constraints on the exhaust system - it has 216kW and 358Nm. RX 350 models have an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (a clever AWD system that mainly drives the front wheels but can add rear wheel drive when necessary - it’s not a serious 4WD / 4x4 system aimed at off road capability).
The RX 450h adds an electric motor and battery pack to the mix, with the 3.5-litre V6 engine and nickel-metal hydride battery back teaming with a 50kW electric drive rear motor. The combined power output of the hybrid is 230kW, but Lexus doesn’t specify a combined torque figure. It is AWD and uses a CVT with six-step ratios.
The kerb weight varies depending on the model, with RX 300 variants between 1890-1995kg, the RX 350 five-seater models between 1980-2090kg and seven-seaters between 2090-2150kg, while the RX 450h’s extra powertrain hardware means it weighs between 2105-2210kg (five-seat) and between 2220-2275kg (seven-seat).
The gross vehicle weight (GVW) ranges from 2500kg for the RX 300, 2575kg for the RX 350 five-seater (2720kg - seven-seater), and 2715kg (2840kg - seven-seater). So, be wary if you have a heavy family.
Planning on having a tow bar or tow hitch receiver fitted? The braked towing capacity for the RX 300 is just 1000kg, while the RX 350 can cope with 1500kg and so can the 450h… but the 450hL model is unable to tow.
Want a diesel RX? What about a plug in hybrid or LPG model? None of those are available at the time of writing.
The 160kW is the same basic unit as the 200kW, just with the lower power figure and 500Nm of torque (down from 600Nm) to push its 2135kg frame to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds.
Fuel economy, courtesy of the ZF eight speed automatic and stop-start, is a claimed 5.8L/100km and, it must be said, a fairly unlikely figure to achieve. We saw 9.2L/100km on the dash display, which is still pretty impressive for such a large vehicle.
The Q7 is also rated to tow 3500kg with trailer brakes.
Fuel economy is yet another consideration, and while there is a hybrid model, there are no fuel-sipping hybrids… plus Lexus’s turbo petrol doesn’t claim as low a figure as some of its rivals. There is an eco mode in each of the models.
For instance, the RX 300 claims fuel consumption of 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres, while the RX 350 is said to use 9.6L/100km for the five-seater and 10.2L/100km for the seven-seater.
The hybrid RX 450h five-seater claims fuel use of 5.7L/100km, and the seven-seat RX 450hL is said to use 6.0L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity is 72 litres for the RX 300 and RX 350, while the RX450h variants have a smaller 65-litre tank - that shouldn’t affect your potential mileage per tank though, because it uses less fuel.
Note: you need to use 95RON premium unleaded, no matter the model.
The company claims it has made a lot of changes to what’s under the metalwork of the RX, and I can tell you the results are a bit varied.
The revisions to the chassis - thicker stabiliser bars and softer suspension, revised bearings, retuned electric power steering, a new torque vectoring by braking system - generally make for a more enjoyable and comfortable drive experience. But that wasn’t really the case in one of the grades I drove.
It has to be said, though, that my time at launch was spent in the RX 450h Sports Luxury, which gets a plush adaptive suspension tune on the 20-inch wheel package, and also the RX 300 F Sport, which likewise runs 20s but has a firmer suspension setup with extra body stiffening.
What it meant was the two felt vastly different - the F Sport felt overly thumpy and fiddly over rippled or lumpy sections of road where the front suspension felt flummoxed. We didn’t do an off road review, but there was a long, patchy driveway on the road loop where the RX 300 F Sport didn’t feel at home at all. Ground clearance is 200mm for most models, while the 450h is 195mm.
That said, the RX 300 F Sport was perfectly fine on the freeway back to Sydney, and decent on slow-moving city streets, too.
On the other hand, the RX 450h was generally more composed, sedate in its actions, more measured in the way it handled bumps. Even without air suspension (as many rivals offer), the Sports Luxury model was a more Lexus-like experience - even if there is more noticeable road noise because the powertrain is so quiet.
The retuned steering offers a lightness that makes it feel easy to drive, and the turning radius (aka turning circle) is 11.8m, which is decent for a car of this size (no matter whether you get the smaller alloy wheels or the larger chrome wheels). Oddly, though, the lock-to-lock movement feels very hard to judge.
When it comes to performance figures, the hybrid versions have the edge. The 0-100 time for the five-seat RX 450h version is 7.7 seconds, while the five seater RX 350 claims 8.0sec and the RX 300 is said to do the sprint in 9.2sec. The L models are slower (RX 450hL - 8.0sec; RX 350L - 8.2sec).
The RX 450h felt effortless to drive - admittedly relaxed, and not exactly fun, but sorted and comfortable and predictable enough.
The overall impression for the drive experience in the updated RX range at launch was somewhat limited, as we didn’t get a chance to drive the biggest-selling RX 350 model, which accounts for about half of all RX sales here. A shame, too, because we get the feeling it’d be the sweet spot for a lot of people.
It might be down 40kW and 100Nm of torque, but the Q7 still feels pretty nimble for what is a very heavy car, despite its average weight loss of 325kg. The mid-range is very strong, meaning effortless overtaking from rarely more than a toe on the throttle pedal. When your car is this big, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether it will trip over itself when you’re in the cut and thrust of the school pick up or daily commute.
This is the first Q7 I’ve driven without the air suspension and it was a pleasant surprise. It rode and handled almost as well and you’d have to wonder whether it’s worth the extra outlay. When a press fleet has nothing but air-suspended cars, it makes journalists suspicious; I’m pleased to say there was no need. The only real difference is more noticeable body roll when you’re getting a bit ambitious in the corners. Not really a Q7’s core business.
The steering is quite light but weights up nicely in dynamic mode. It’s tidy in the bends and excels in the wet or dry; its stay with us coincided with some truly apocalyptic rain, which the car simply shrugged off. Needless to say, the cabin is extremely quiet, with just a slight rustle around the wing mirrors and a distant growl from the engine.
The safety rating of the Lexus RX range hasn’t changed since it was tested back in 2015, when it scored the maximum five-star ANCAP score. The criteria for achieving that score has shifted over the years, but the brand has improved safety equipment on all models in the RX range.
Features on all models include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that works at high and low speeds with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, plus every model has adaptive cruise control, lane trace assist (an evolution of lane keeping assist and lane departure warning that aims to keep you centred in your lane). Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a new “parking support braking system” incorporates rear AEB for static and moving objects into the mix, too.
There’s also traffic sign recognition, and every Lexus RX has 10 airbags (dual front, front side, driver and passenger knee, rear side and full length curtain).
There are dual ISOFIX baby car seat anchor points and three top-tether restraints in all RX models, while models with a third row also get an additional top tether.
The entry-level Luxury model gets a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, while the F Sport and Sports Luxury variants add a 360-degree camera. No model has semi-autonomous parking assist.
Where is the Lexus RX built? Japan is the answer.
Eight airbags, blind-spot sensor, forward-collision mitigation, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and active safety bonnet all add up to the maximum five ANCAP safety stars.
The Assistance Package, which adds adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, pre-sense front (to keep you from crashing into the car in front), collision assist (helps you out with your braking and steering when the car thinks you’re heading into a crash) and turn assist (stops you turning into the path of an oncoming car).
Lexus continues to resist offering a capped price servicing plan in Australia, and still doesn’t have a pre-pay service plan like all of its rival luxury brands. It’s a shame you can’t include a maintenance cost in your car finance, as that’s one of the big advantages of a pre-pay plan.
That might factor into your ownership decision, but indicative costs for servicing are about what you’d expect for a large luxury SUV. Read our Lexus service cost story here.
Service intervals for RX models are every 12 months/15,000km - and you when it’s time for a service you can either get a free loan car, or have your car collected and returned to your home or office when a service is required.
While the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo are all still running a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, Lexus has a four-year/100,000km plan. Hey, you could consider that an extended warranty based on the status quo! There’s the same cover for roadside assist, too.
If you’ve got concerns over common problems, complaints or issues, whether there have been transmission problems or issues with the engine or suspension - or if you just want to know our reliability ratings and resale value projections, you can head to our Lexus RX problems page.