Lexus RX VS Porsche Macan
- Greatness made better
- Such driving thrills, for an SUV...
- Genuine Porsche personality, not just a trumped up Audi
- Lack of standard active safety gear
- Expensive options
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|
When Kenny Rogers gets a facelift, he does the term justice. Have you seen him lately? He’s barely recognisable. It’s probably not often that Kenny and Porsche get mentioned in the same sentence, with the legendary Country singer and iconic sports car brand sharing few parallels.
Particularly when it comes to visual enhancements, that is, with the updated Porsche Macan barely qualifying for a lunchtime Botox analogy, let alone the standard facelift jargon we use to describe a mid-life refresh.
It’s been to the gym and sharpened up its wellbeing though, in an effort to keep what’s now the Porsche brand’s most popular model competitive among a whole host of other SUV rivals that have appeared in the 4.5 years since the Macan first hit down under.
Six months after it was revealed at the Paris motor show, the new Macan and Macan S arrive in Australia this week.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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 new Macan is only a smidge better in most areas, but it’s brought it up to date in most ways, but make sure you tick the option box for active cruise and AEB. That aside, it’s an astounding driver’s car for an SUV.
Given we haven’t driven the base Macan or any of the future variants yet, it’s impossible to nominate the sweet spot of the range, but the Macan S is a very good option.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
Do you wish Porsche had done more to the Macan? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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.
If you’re wanting to pick the updated Macan from the old one, it’s the full width tail-light that’s you’re biggest clue, with Porsche giving the typical “if it ain’t broke” approach to the rest of the exterior styling, despite a whole bunch of other changes under the skin and on the inside.
Aside from the rear light treatment which brings the Macan into line with Porsche’s more recent Panamera, 718 Boxster and Cayman, Cayenne and 992 911 designs, there’s also new LED headlights, subtle tweaks to the lower body details and some new wheel options rounding out the exterior differences.
But most importantly, the Macan still has that low, broad, squat stance that looks like a proper Porsche performance machine.
The Macan also now gets the same steering wheel as the 911, which is about as nice as steering wheels get, with a nice size, round shape and sexy knurled control wheels for the volume and menu controls.
There’s a whole bunch of other improvements you’d probably only notice back to back with the old car, including more aluminium in the suspension to reduce unsprung weight, completely new engine platforms and improved sound deadening for a quieter drive.
Kerb weight figures are hardly lithe though, at 1797kg and 1865kg between Macan and S.
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.
There’s nothing new of note on the practicality front, with the usual dual cup holders front and rear, bottle holders in each door (although the rears are a bit shallow), and a useful, array of 12V and USB points scattered throughout.
The back seat is the same as before, with enough headroom and rear legroom for shorter adults like my 172cm size, and therefore plenty of room for two kids, but the sloping roofline is probably a pain for taller parents loading child seats. Speaking of which, there’s two ISOFIX mounts back there for mounting baby seats as securely as possible.
The boot space is unchanged with a pretty decent 500 litre luggage capacity, with a spacesaver spare tyre under the floor, but in my experience the sloping tailgate that gives the Macan that sexy coupe shape can make it a bit difficult to load beyond cargo cover height.
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.
Pricing has also been discretely modified, with the base Macan now starting $1690 higher at $81,400, and the next rung Macan S shifting $2000 upwards to $97,500. You can calculate a drive away price here.
These are the only two updated models on the price list for now, with the range-topping Turbo tipped to arrive in 2020, and the GTS that sits between it and the S due in 2021.
Both trim levels are now in line with the Panamera and Cayenne the latest version of the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) multimedia/infotainment tech with a 10.9-inch touch screen display. This includes Apple CarPlay for iPhone users, but there’s still no Android Auto.
Both Macan and Macan S standard features also include leather trim, three-zone climate control air conditioning, GPS navigation system, Bluetooth, 14-way power adjustable seats, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, Park Assist with surround-view monitors and a power tailgate.
The Macan S adds piano black interior details, aluminium scuff plates, aluminium window trims, a silver tachometer, and a digital boost pressure gauge.
Aside from its stronger engine, mechanical Macan S upgrades include bigger front brakes with an extra two pistons to total six, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) adaptive dampers, silver dual exhaust outlets on either side and one inch larger 20-inch ten spoke alloys.
Seat heaters and active cruise control will still cost you more on either Macan, but one omission I find quite surprising is that they still don’t get much in the way of active safety gear as standard. Unlike pretty much every other premium SUV on the market, you’ve got to pay extra to get AEB with the active cruise control pack.
The car we spent most of our time in, which is not the Mamba Green car pictured here, was optioned with Miami Blue paint ($5,800), panoramic sunroof ($3,790), tinted headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus ($3,410), black 21-inch Sport Classic rims ($3,330), carbon interior package ($3,080), Sport Chrono Package with mode switch ($2,790), Bose surround sound system ($2,650), black exhaust tips ($1,890), Porsche Entry & Drive ($1,690), Lane Change Assist ($1,390), tinted full width tail-lights ($1,340), and gloss black roof rails and window trims ($1,260), heated front seats ($990), Light Comfort Package ($720) and Power Steering Plus ($650). This $34,780 worth of accessories brings its total RRP to $132,280, before on-road costs.
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 biggest mechanical news so far is that there’s no more diesel, along with all Porsche models, and the Macan S’s 3.0-litre petrol V6 loses one turbo in favour of a single, but more high tech, twin scroll unit.
This engine is already found in the Panamera, Cayenne and several Audi models.
For Macan S it means an extra 10kW more power and 20Nm more torque over the old version to now total 260kW between 5400-6400rpm, and 480Nm available between an impressively broad 1360-4800rpm.
This has knocked just a tenth off the 0-100km/h claim, which is now 5.1s in Sport Plus mode with the Sport Chrono Package optioned.
The base Macan’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine specs are unchanged, with 185kW available from 5000-6800rpm and 370Nm between 1600-4500rpm, with it’s 0-100km/h 6.7s 0-100km/h claim remaining.
The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission continues as the sole transmission available with either Macan, but has been recalibrated to suit the new engine in the Macan S.
The Porsche Traction Management (PTM) active all-wheel drive system continues to send power to all four wheels in either Macan grade.
Both versions have been prepared for towbar fitment, and carry maximum braked towing capacity of 2000kg and 2400kg for the Macan and Macan S respectively.
There’s still no sign of a plug-in hybrid or EV Macan, with the second-generation Macan set to at least offer an all-electric version in around 2023.
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.
With the diesel gone, you shouldn’t expect the Macan to set any benchmarks here, but the base Macan still carries a reasonable 7.4L/100km official combined fuel economy claim. The Macan S’s 8.9L figure is even more impressive given its performance advantage, however.
Both engines require top-shelf 98 RON Premium Unleaded to do their best, and their 75-litre fuel tank capacity suggests theoretical ranges between fills of 1013km and 842km for the Macan and S respectively.
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.
This is where it gets good. I’m yet to meet a performance SUV that surpasses the need for a qualifier at the end of every element of praise for its driving attributes to the tune of “for an SUV.”
But in my opinion, the Macan is the closest, with its relatively low body and broad stance bringing the driver closer to the centre of gravity (and action) than any I recall.
We’ve only driven the updated Macan S so far, but any Macan is likely to share the fundamentals that give it incredible stability at speed and make it genuinely good fun to drive fast.
The steering has nice feel, the wall of acceleration from the turbo engine is really good and the seven-speed PDK transmission is beautifully calibrated, particularly in the sport modes - I didn’t reach for the paddle shifters once.
If there’s one criticism of the drivetrain it’s a lack of aural theatre. Surely any Porsche with an S badge should be capable of roaring when asked, but the standard Macan S delivers little more than a muted growl. There is a sports exhaust system on the options list, but you’ll have to shell out $5,390 for it.
There was one particular run along a river bed on our drive route that strung dozens of varying radius bends together, with a mix of cambers that enabled the Macan S to truly shine. Aside from slightly accentuated fore and aft movement because of its short, but still tall body, it was almost as planted as an Audi RS 4, but with a more lively feel than I recall.
And when you’re not driving it like a Porsche, as most of us spend about 99 per cent of out time on the road, it’s still a really comfortable car. I had to look under the guards to make sure our particular example wasn’t fitted with the optional air suspension, even though it was riding on the bigger 21-inch wheels. Why can’t everyone do suspension like this?
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.
The Macan is an excellent example of why it’s important to look past a maximum five star safety rating. It carries no safety rating from ANCAP, but five stars from Euro NCAP based on a 2014 test.
Since that test, the Macan has introduced side and curtain airbags for rear passengers, so it’s in fact safer, but the test criteria has changed significantly in the past five years.
Australian versions of the new Macan come with dual front airbags, chest side and curtain airbags for all outboard passengers, reversing cameras covering 360 degrees with Park Assist front and rear, parking sensors and lane departure warning.
As mentioned above, they’re surprisingly lacking active safety features as standard. Unlike pretty much every other premium SUV on the market, you’ve got to pay an extra $2410 to get AEB with the active cruise control pack, and a further $1390 to get Lane Change Assist as two key examples.
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 Macan is covered by Porsche's standard three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is par for the course among premium brands, but lags behind the five-year-plus terms offered by most mainstream manufacturers these days. An extended warranty of up to 15 years can be arranged through Porsche, at a price.
Service intervals are a generous 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, but Porsche does not offer capped-price servicing to take the guesswork out of service costs or maintenance costs.
If there are any common problems or complaints, reliability issues or faults, they’ll likely appear on our Porsche Macan problems page.
You can calculate the Macan’s projected resale value via our Price and Specs page.