The Lexus RX has always been predictably ovoid and utilitarian in its fundamental design, yet glossy in the details. For 2016, with the introduction of the fourth-generation RX, this predictability has been overthrown. The fourth generation is not just a daring departure for the RX, but also a strong hint that moving forward, not even the comfort- and utility-oriented models from this vaunted luxury brand will be staid.
All that grand posturing aside—and Lexus noting that the new look is bold—if you don’t see a cohesive design in the RX, you’re not alone. We think it looks like a mashup—a seemingly merged result of two or three design inspirations, and one that somehow works when it’s all together. As a sum, it’s a glorious, expressive design on the outside, and even after seeing this model on auto show floors, in pictures, and in a day of driving, we still see it as engaging and alive—technical, organic, and teasing odd influences of the SUV designs the RX has always eschewed.
The exterior—especially the RX’s roofline, and its appearance from the side and rear angles—is a daring departure for Lexus. From the front, the RX is at its most unified with the rest of the Lexus lineup. The front end offers up a version of the familiar spindle grille in front, with so-called "triple-L" headlamps, LED fog lamps, and LED daytime running lamps, plus various angles that combine to form a geometry we’ll just call menacing. Follow the profile and the roofline and it seems just a little more arched than before—coupe-like wouldn’t be an exaggeration—as it tapers in the back, teasing a C-pillar that’s blacked out so that it isn’t quite visually continuous.
The sides are by far the most challenging to take in at first look. Chunky, flared-then-planed wheel wells have dark matte-trim lips, combining with blacked-out lower-body trim to establish more of a rugged look than the RX has had before (it’s bucked that in the past). Cast your eyes higher up—above the rising rippled, indented flow at the lower doors, and you’ll reach a complex series of lines. One of them starts at the vehicle corners, just below the headlights, and flows seemingly under the wheel wells to continue through the
If you’ve been perplexed by how some of the angles look in pictures, you’ll have to trust us that they work better in the flesh—and out in the real world the RX somehow fits in much more easily than you might guess. It’s at its most dramatic from some of the rear-angle views, where if you quint, the sculpting and various upkicks together serve to make it look almost as if the rear wheels were larger than the fronts—obviously not true, but not a bad design target if that’s it.
Inside, the look is rather normalizing—it’s a place of order, calm, and precision; it’s not too busy, and it lets you forget that you’re in a vehicle that’s so involved from the outside. The dash and door trims of the new RX follow the look established by the latest GS and IS sport sedans—thankfully much more than the somewhat over-the-top, edgy-and-layered look of the smaller NX crossover. Just like nearly every other vehicle in the Toyota and Lexus stable, the dash makes a move to follow more of a horizontal orientation, and some nicely drawn, asymmetrical curves frame the center stack (which is canted toward the driver) and the center console, which has its own unusual upkick and curve on the right side, angling it over toward the driver.
Altogether, this offers plenty of cues that the RX is focused a little more toward the driver this time around. Otherwise, the RX cabins feel neat and well-designed—definitely less cluttered than some of Lexus’s other interior efforts of the past few years—with subtle colors, matte-black and matte-metallic trims combining to have the intended effect of being luxurious, as well as a good deal sportier than before.
Both RX 350 and RX 450h lines are offered in performance-oriented F Sport guise for 2016. They add a special dark-mesh grille, a more aggressive lower front spoiler and rear bumper trim, 20-inch alloy wheels, and F Sport badging—as well as exclusive F Sport seats, a unique steering wheel with paddle shifters, aluminum pedals and scuff plates, and F Sport gauges. There’s also an F Sport-exclusive Rioja Red interior leather hue.