Lexus RX VS Porsche Cayenne
For those of us unlucky enough to remember the first Lexus RX to launch in Australia, the memories aren’t the fondest.
If you can’t remember it, just picture the stodgiest-looking SUV you can - make it so bland a mere picture of one could cure insomnia - dragging a glass-walled cube behind the rear wheels.
All of which makes the current-generation RX so incredible. I mean, just look at it; those big rims, the 3D-effect grille, the outrageous lines and creases. It’s about as far removed from its snooze-worthy predecessors as it is possible to get.
Little wonder, then, it has emerged as the second-strongest performer in the Lexus line-up. And with the RX recently refreshed (and with a seven-seat RX L model added for the first time) its high time we took a closer look at the Japanese premium brand’s large SUV.
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|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Since the Porsche Cayenne turned the automotive world upside down in the early noughties, it has continued to evolve and has grown to become one of the brand's biggest sellers.
One size up from the mid-size Macan, it's problematic for hardcore Porsche-philes, but there's no doubting this five-seat SUV's success, or the fact that it helps keep the famous German sports car maker well and truly in the black.
And this is the new, third-generation version, with an all-new chassis, fresh engines, and a bunch of dynamic, safety and multimedia tech enhancements.
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|Engine Type||4.1L turbo|
A comfortable and ferociously well-equipped offering (even from the cheapest trim level) - and with a very good ownership package to boot - the RX has earned its place high in the Lexus pecking order.
There are faster, more pulse-quickening SUVs available, of course, but as a sedate suburban warrior, the RX is hard to fault. For ours, we'd be opting for the bang-for-bucks sweet spot of the Luxury trim, paired with the punchy-but-efficient hybrid powertrain.
The Cayenne may be the Porsche of SUVs, but you can't have family car size and practicality without a few concessions.
It's fast, beautifully built, and engineered with a special eye for detail, and the well specced Cayenne S is the pick of the bunch for performance and value.
But it's worth remembering the SUV bit. This Porsche is more everyday enjoyment than track day excitement.
Is the Cayenne your kind of premium family truckster? Tell us in the comments below.
This current RX is like the butterfly that’s emerged from the caterpillar-cocoon of the older models, looking plenty premium and serving up road presence by the bagful.
No matter which model you go for, you’ll find the angry 'Spindle Grille' up front (which, for ours, is reminiscent of the Predator’s toothy grin, while 20-inch alloys are an impressive size, and a very un-Lexus body kit wraps from the front end all the way around to the rear spoiler.
The interior (check out the interior photos for a closer look) 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 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.
The design is new yet familiar. Longer (+63mm), wider (+44mm), lower to the ground, and lower overall (-9mm), yet the wheelbase is unchanged at just under 2.9m.
All models feature LED headlights, and the Cayenne and Cayenne S are identified by their silver grille slats, with the Turbo featuring matt and high-gloss black surfaces plus larger air intakes at the front.
Car-spotters will also notice narrower side windows with a sharper decline at rear (Porsche calls it the Flyline) and the C-pillars tilting forward for a racier look.
A full width horizontal light strip across the tail sits under a clear covering above a three-dimensional version of the Porsche logo.
And wheels now range in size from 19-inch on the Cayenne, 20-inch on the Cayenne S, to 21s on the Turbo, plus optional 22s, presumably for those who drive on billiard table smooth freeways at all times.
And the Cayenne now features staggered or mixed tyres for the first time, that is fatter rubber on the back than the front.
Inside, the biggest change is the adoption of the Panamera's 'Advanced Cockpit', with the central tachometer in the iconic five-gauge instrument cluster flanked by twin 7.0-inch screens to create a blended analogue/digital version of the classic Porsche five dial layout.
Plus, there's the sleek 12.3-inch screen in the centre running everything from nav and vehicle settings to audio control and phone calls, through touch and voice.
Again, it's a direct lift from the Panamera, and the screen layout can be customised to personal preference, with Apple CarPlay standard (but no Android Auto).
With dimensions stretching 4890mm long and 1895mm wide, the RX sits squarely in the large SUV category, and there’s plenty of space for riders in both the first and second row.
Up front, there is a cup holder for both driver and passenger and extendable pockets in each of the front doors, and the deep cubby that separates the front seats adds plenty of storage space, and is home to two USB connections, a power outlet and and aux connection, but there is no sunglass holder.
The interior dimensions ensure there’s plenty of space in the back seat, although the central stack that houses the air vents and another power outlet does jut out into the rear 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 along the backseat.
Open the automatic tailgate (by waving your hand in front of the Lexus badge) and you’ll find 453 litres of luggage capacity, with boot space increasing to 942 litres by folding the backseat down. Theres’s a sliding cargo cover (the SUV version of a tonneau cover), too.
Practicality highlights are more storage around the cabin, and a slide and recline adjustable rear seat.
Up front, the glove box is cooled, there are storage compartments under both seats, plus two cupholders, decent bottle holders in the doors, a 12-volt outlet (under the glove box), as well as two USB charge and connectivity ports in a generous console storage box.
Jump in the back and you'll find door bins with space for bottles, map pockets on the front seat backrests, a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, plus two USB charge ports and a 12-volt socket in the centre console.
The rear seat's tilt and slide party trick means there's plenty of leg and headroom in the rearmost, fully reclined position. But tweak a lever on the side and a pull handle under the cushion and you can move forward (in stages) to liberate as much as 100 litres of extra cargo space over the outgoing model, while maintaining seating for five (three without legs in the extreme forward position).
Porsche's official description of the rear bench offering “two comfortable seats outside left and right and one centre seat” accurately sums up the relatively squeezy plight of the centre rear passenger.
Cargo capacity is 770 litres with the 40/20/40 rear seat upright, and a handy 1710 with it folded forward. There are four tie-down anchor points, plus a netted storage area on the passenger side, two lights and yet another 12-volt power point.
An auto tailgate is standard on all models, and a 20-inch collapsible spare (with inflator kit) sits under the rear floor.
If towing is your thing the Cayenne's weight ceiling is 3.5-tonne for a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked. Porsche's 'Trailer Stability Management' system is standard.
Price and features
The Lexus RX arrives in plenty of trim and engine combinations, so exactly how much yours will cost is largely up to you.
The minimum RRP, though, is $74,251, which will buy you an RX300 Luxury. A little further up the price list lives the RX350 Luxury, at $81,421, which makes use of a bigger engine, while the hybrid RX450h Luxury will set you back $90,160.
The range then steps up to the second of three trim levels, the F Sport, for which you’ll be paying $86,551 for the RX300, $93,721 for the RX350 and $102,460 for the RX450h.
Finally, the range tops out with the Sport Luxury trim, which will push the budget to $92,701 for the RX300, $99,871 for the RX350 and $108,610 for the RX450h.
Okay, so that’s what you’ll be paying. But take a deep breath now, we’re dive into the model comparison.
Even the Luxury-badged cars are a premium package, arriving with 20-inch alloy wheels, tinted windows, a powered tailgate, LED headlights and fog lights (with daytime running lights) , a smart key with keyless entry, roof rails and rain-sensing wipers. Inside, expect a laundry list of standard features, including dual-zone climate control, sat nav (which, as far as GPS navigation systems go, is a breeze to operate), push-button start and leather trim.
Your 8.0-inch screen (it’s not a touch screen) pairs with digital radio and 12 speakers, there’s Bluetooth for your MP3s, as well as wireless charging (though iPhones require a special case), and you get heated and cooled front seats, too. Be warned; there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto anywhere in the range.
Step up to the F Sport - a pseudo sport edition - and you’ll add a bigger, 12.3-inch infotainment screen that adds a CD player and DVD player and pairs with a better Mark Levinson sound system complete with 15 speakers (including a subwoofer). You get a new colour head-up display (HUD), too, and a whole heap of sport-flavoured styling flourishes.
Compare that to the Sport Luxury, which adds with soft leather trim elements, heated seats in the second row (vs just the front seats on the F Sport trim) and a power folding function for the backseat. There’s no heated steering wheel here, but then, who needs one in Australia? The adaptive front lighting system cn be switched off, too, should you prefer the traditional approach.
Colours include 'Titanium' (metallic grey), 'Sonic Quartz' (white), 'Premium Silver', 'Onyx' (a kind of black), 'Graphite Black', 'Vermilion' (red), 'Metallic Silk' (rose gold), 'Deep Metallic Bronze' (a fancy brown) and 'Deep Blue'.
How many seats? That would be five. If you want a third row seat, then you’re shopping for the RX L, as the standard RX is strictly a five-seat affair.
A thick accessories catalogue includes specialty floor mats, roof rack and boot liner options, bull bar, nudge bar and rear seat entertainment system options, as well as a panoramic sunroof, which will set you back $3675. You won't find Homelink though (which automatically opens your garage door), as it's yet to be made available in Australia.
There are three models offered initially, starting with the Cayenne, powered by a 3.0-litre single turbo-petrol V6 for $116,300 before on-road costs. Then the 2.9-litre V6 Cayenne S adds a second turbo and around $40k to the price tag, coming in at $155,100.
The powerhouse Turbo tops the line-up with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 under the bonnet, and cost of entry sitting at $239,400.
Not a diesel in sight (for Australia) for the time being, with an E-Hybrid variant due here closer to the end of this year.
As you'd expect in this part of the market the standard equipment list is solid, with the Cayenne featuring partial leather trim, cruise control, LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, front seats with 14-way electric adjustment and memory settings, remote central locking with 'Keyless Go', the twin digital instrument displays, multi-function sports steering wheel (with gearshift paddles), auto tailgate, 'Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM - with adaptive dampers), 19-inch alloy wheels, and 'Porsche Communication Management' (PCM) with the 12.3-inch screen controlling nav, phone and audio (10-speaker, 150 watt and digital radio).
As well as it's more powerful twin-turbo V6 engine, the Cayenne S adds 'Adaptive PASM' (with air suspension), 20-inch alloy rims, twin dual-tube tailpipes, dynamic (directional) LED headlights, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, pedal faces in stainless steel, a 710-watt Bose 'Surround Sound System' with 14 speakers (including subwoofer), and metallic paint in any one of seven colours.
Then the Cayenne Turbo piles on the power and luxury with the twin-turbo V8 joined by 21-inch alloys (in dark titanium with highly polished surfaces) including wheel arch extensions in the exterior colour, 'Porsche Active Aero' (with adaptive roof spoiler), scrolling LED indicators, 'LED Matrix' headlights, 'smooth finish' leather upholstery, 18-way electronically-adjustable 'Adaptive Sports' front seats with unique trim and fatter side bolsters, front and rear seat heating (and ventilated/cooled front seats), exterior mirrors with kerb-view parking aid, a heated steering wheel, 'cross-brushed' aluminium interior highlights, and Alcantara roof lining (cloth on base and S).
If you're ready to stump up the big bucks, that's a heap of fruit to go with this car's comfort and performance potential.
Engine & trans
There are three (petrol) engine size options on offer; a turbocharged 2.0-litre in the RX300, a punchy V6 in the RX350 and a hybrid set-up in the RX450.
First up, the four-cylinder turbo engine serves up 175kW/350Nm (decent specs for a smaller engine), channelling it through a six-speed automatic gearbox and sending it on to the front wheels.
The six-cylinder petrol engine is good for 221kW/370Nm, sending that power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The hybrid (it’s not a plug-in hybrid) option uses the exact same engine, but paired with an electric motor that lifts the total output to 230kW/335Nm. That combination pairs with a CVT auto, sending its horsepower to all four wheels.
All are petrol powered (there are no diesel or LPG options, and no manual transmission, for that matter), and for ours, the combined engine specs of the hybrid powertrain make the most - and most expensive - sense.
While the Luxury, F-Sport and Sport Luxury models all have adjustable drive modes (including Eco mode), tweaking throttle response and gearing, only the Sport Luxury serves up true variable suspension.
The F Sport and Sport Luxury also make use of the Lexus AWD system (though 4WD aficionados will notice the lack of low range that prevents it being a true 4x4). The RX300 is front-wheel drive, with no rear-wheel drive options anywhere in the range.
Expect a braked towing capacity of at least 1000kg (provided you’ve picked a tow bar/tow hitch receiver from the accessories catalogue) with a gross vehicle weight that starts from 2500kg.
For reported problems and maintenance, including transmission problems, battery and oil type, and changing your timing belt or chain, see our owner’s page.
The new car's engines are lifted from the Panamera, and not only feature more power than the outgoing Cayenne, but Porsche claims improved fuel economy and lower emissions.
All feature an alloy block and heads, the Cayenne's 3.0-litre, single turbo V6 delivering 250kW from 5300-6400rpm, and 450Nm from just 1340rpm all the way to 5300rpm.
This 'base' engine features direct fuel-injection, 'VarioCam Plus' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side, and valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side), as well as the turbo located in the engine's vee to help minimise lag.
The Cayenne S's 2.9-litre V6 adds a second turbo to deliver 324kW from 5700-6600rpm, and 550Nm between 1800rpm and 5500rpm. It's shorter stroke design helps lift the rev ceiling by 300rpm (to 6800rpm).
Then the Cayenne Turbo adds two more cylinders to pump out no less than 404kW (542hp) across a narrow plateau from 5750-6000rpm, and 770Nm between 1960rpm and 4500rpm. The V8 also locates the turbos in the 'hot vee', but drops back to 'VarioCam' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side) without valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side.
All models now feature an eight-speed 'shift-by-wire' 'Tiptronic S' auto transmission, with drive going to all four wheels courtesy of Porsche's Active Traction Management system. The gear set in the Turbo (including the final drive) is slightly taller, although the seventh and eighth ratios are overdriven on all models to maximise fuel economy.
Claimed 0-100km/h times (with optional Sport Chrono package numbers in brackets) are: Cayenne – 6.2sec (5.9s), Cayenne S – 5.2sec (4.9s), Cayenne Turbo - 4.1sec (3.9s).
And if you have a very long driveway, leading up to your (presumably) very large house, you'll be pleased to know maximum velocity for the Cayenne is 245km/h, rising to 265km/h for the S, and a stonking 286km/h for the Turbo.
For the smaller, turbocharged engine, Lexus claims fuel economy of 8.1 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, with emissions pegged at 189g/km of CO2. Stepping up to the RX350 increases fuel consumption numbers to 9.6L/100km and 223g/km, while the hybrid gets by with impressive mileage of just 5.7L/100km and 131g/km.
Expect a 72-litre fuel tank that requires 95RON fuel in the 300 and 350, while the hybrid’s fuel tank capacity is 65 litres.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle ranges from 9.2L/100 km for the Cayenne (emitting 209g/km of C02 in the process), to 9.4L/100 km for the Cayenne S (213g/km), and 11.9L/100 km for the Cayenne Turbo (272g/km).
All models feature auto start-stop (with coasting), your only fuel option is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 90 litres of it to fill the tank.
If BMW serves up the 'ultimate driving machine' and Mercedes delivers 'the best or nothing', then surely the review tag line for the RX SUV range should be 'easy like a Sunday morning'.
Sure, there are sportier-feeling SUVs - and faster ones, too - but there is an easy comfort to the way the RX goes about its business that you’ll undoubtedly appreciate more frequently than you would harder suspension, more in-touch steering and the endless pursuit of speed and 0-100 performance figures.
For the record, though, the hybrid cars will sprint from 0-100km/h in a brisk 7.7sec, a smidge quicker than the 8.0sec of the regular V6. The RX300 records a far more leisurely 9.2sec.
Probably most impressive, the RX doesn't feel overly large and cumbersome, and nor does its turning radius, and it’s equally at home in the cramped inner city as it is eating up kays on the freeway. The six- or eight-speed transmission 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 road noise outside out of the cabin.
You can inject a little excitement by selecting 'Sport' or 'Sport +' via the central dial, tweaking the accelerator and steering settings, and in Sport Luxury cars, firming up the suspension, removing some of the lolling about in corners, though there’s no air suspension.
While the F-Sport and Sport Luxury cars are AWD-equipped, the off road capability is hampered somewhat by its ground clearance, big chrome-look wheels and skirtings. This is an SUV built for the city over the bush, but you likely don’t need us to tell you that.
The new Cayenne sits on the VW Group MLB Evo platform, which also underpins the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and the soon-to-arrive new generation VW Touareg.
It uses a lot of aluminium and lightweight high-strength steel which, in concert with the alloy body panels, makes the car not only stiffer, but lighter by up to 65kg.
We've driven each model over a two-day launch program in The Barossa Valley in South Australia, and can confirm the base Cayenne is quick, the S is properly fast, and the Turbo is ballistic.
The transmission is a conventional eight-speed auto, rather than Porsche's PDK dual-clutch, and shifts are quick but smooth in normal mode, transitioning to a sharper, even more precise response in Sport or Sport Plus.
Porsche stands proudly on its reputation as a great sports car maker and says the Cayenne fits easily into that context. But let's face it, this is a two tonne SUV, and while it's dynamically outstanding, it's no 911.
All models feature multi-link suspension front and rear including active dampers, with varying levels of suspension sophistication as you walk up the range, to three chamber air suspension on the Turbo.
On quick twisting B-roads it's fast, in the case of the Turbo, bloody fast. It grips hard thanks to fat Z-rated rubber and active drive distribution makes sure it puts its power down perfectly. But no matter how sophisticated the suspension tech, it still feels large and relatively top heavy.
The electromechanical steering is light, and while it's accurate, no matter which mode you're in road feel is modest.
Not surprisingly, the ride firms up in tune with sportier drive modes, but in Comfort, even the Turbo on 21-inch rims, soaked up the irregularities of at times choppy rural roads with surprising ease.
Given the car's mass and performance potential braking is an understandable priority, with even the base model featuring big ventilated rotors all around with four piston calipers at the front and two at the back.
The S ups that to six piston front and four at the rear, while the Turbo debuts Porsche's 'Surface Coated Brake' a Tungsten-Carbide coating on the discs and special pads for longer life and less dust. Of course, the front calipers are 10-piston with four at the rear (and they're white just to prove brake dust isn't a problem).
In typical Aussie conditions these monster brakes are like cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. Stopping power (on all models) is immense, and pedal feel is agreeably progressive.
We also headed off-road through rutted dirt and rocky climbs, and with five drive and chassis modes at its disposal the Cayenne ate it up.
The different off-highway modes ('Gravel', 'Mud' and 'Rock') will lock and unlock the centre and rear diff as required and the adjustable hill descent control made crawling down steep slopes a breeze. You can even option up an 'Offroad Package' bringing extra protection for vital components, as well as off-road specific info in the PCM and a compass display on the dash.
If you need to think about the dips and climbs on your country retreat, or maybe just the pitch of your driveway, the Cayenne and Cayenne S's approach and (with the Turbo in brackets) is 25.2degrees (23.3), ramp over is 18.7degrees (16.7), departure is 22.1degrees (20.4), ground clearance measures 210mm (190mm), and fording depth is 500mm (475mm).
Even the cheapest RX (which, admittedly, isn’t all that cheap) arrives with a long list of standard safety features, including a reversing camera, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, AEB, lane assist and parking sensors (but no park assist).
You’ll also find 10 airbags, and twin ISOFIX mountings for you baby car seat, as well as cruise control and the usual suite of braking and traction control systems.
The Lexus RX received a five-star ANCAP safety rating, the best possible ratings outcome, when tested in 2015. The Lexus RX is built in Japan.
Active safety systems include the usual suspects like ABS, ESC, and traction control (ASR), with the addition of other features under the 'Porsche Stability Management' umbrella, including ABD (torque vectoring by braking), and MSR (prevents slip on the drive wheels produced under engine braking)
There's also AEB (although the Porsche system doesn't bring the car to a complete stop), 'Park Assist' (front and rear) including 'Surround View', 'Lane Keeping Assist', 'Lane Change Assist', and tyre pressure monitoring.
But if all else fails passive features include an active bonnet (activated by pedestrians, cyclists, etc detected by the front camera), driver and front passenger airbag, knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, front side airbags, rear side airbags and full-length curtain bags.
There are three top tether points across the back seat with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions. ANCAP hasn't assessed the third generation Cayenne so far, but its Euro NCAP affiliate awarded a left-hand drive, 3.0-litre diesel model a maximum five stars in 2017.
Expect a four-year/100,000km warranty (that's 12 months longer than BMW or Mercedes-Benz, so think of it as a kind of extended warranty), and the RX will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 15,000km.
Your first service cost is gratis, and the total maintenance cost for each service is available online - so there are no surprises at the dealership.
For common problems, complaints, issues and the like, visit our Lexus RX owner’s page. But your owner’s manual should be required reading, too. Traditionally, Lexus product ranks well in reliability ratings, resale value and initial value rating charts.
The Cayenne is covered by Porsche's three year/unlimited km warranty, with paint covered for the same period, and a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty also included.
Porsche Roadside Assist provides 24/7/365 coverage for the life of the warranty, and after the warranty runs out is renewed for 12 months every time the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Porsche dealer, and the main service interval is 12 months/15,000km.
No capped price servicing is available, with final costs determined at the dealer level (in line with variable labour costs by state/territory). Indicative scheduled costs for the first four years/60,000km line up as: 12 months/15,000km (annual) - $695, 24 months/30,000km (intermediate) - $695, 36 months/45,000km (annual) - $695, and 48 months/60,000km (major) - $1300, for a total of $3385.