2010 Lexus RX Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Redesigned for 2010, again in gasoline-engine and hybrid-powertrain form
  • Nearly all dimensions have increased, if only slightly
  • Gas-engine RX 350 holds 3.5-liter V-6, rated 275 hp
  • Enhanced Lexus Hybrid Drive in RX 450h works with 295-hp V-6 engine
  • Both RX models come with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD)
  • 10 standard air bags, including front knee air bags and side-impact air bags for front and rear seats
  • New wide-angle side-view monitor
  • New "Remote Touch" controller for Lexus's navigation system
  • Long options list includes Pre-Collision System and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management
  • Sales of RX 350 begin in February 2009; RX 450h follows in spring

Introduction

Originally launched for the 1999 model year, the Lexus RX soon set the stage for a booming premium utility market. A redesign for 2004 gave Lexus's crossover a new look and a larger, more powerful V-6 engine, and the Lexus RX 400h hybrid model joined the regular RX for 2006. For 2010, Lexus has redesigned its midsize RX crossover SUV, including appearance revisions, stronger gasoline and hybrid powertrains, and a new 6-speed automatic transmission for the RX 350 model.

The redesigned 2010 RX 350 and newly named RX 450h made their world debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November of 2008. Sales of the 2010 RX 350 begin in February of 2009. The RX 450h will follow a couple of months later.

Design

Nearly all dimensions have increased for the new 2010 RX, and a specially-designed vehicle undertray helps yield what Lexus calls a "segment-leading" drag coefficient of 0.32, suggesting improved aerodynamics. Styling modifications include an inverted-trapezoid front-end design. Seating five occupants, the new RX features a "dual-zone cockpit." A white organic LED display promises wide-angle readability while an optional head-up display uses high-intensity LEDs for easier reading in sunlight, Lexus says.

Model Lineup

As before, the RX comes in two forms. The RX 350 is equipped with a traditional gasoline engine, while the RX 450h contains a hybrid (gasoline/electric) powertrain. Aluminum-alloy 18-inch wheels are standard on the RX 350, and 19-inch wheels come on the RX 450h. Hybrid models also have unique styling touches to set it apart, including a distinctive grille, hybrid badges, and blue-tinted headlamps and taillamps. LED taillamps are optional for the RX 450h.

Despite its premium status, Lexus's RX has a substantial options list, including Mark Levinson Surround Sound, dual-screen rear-seat entertainment, and dynamic radar cruise control. An optional Sports package provides a sport-tuned suspension. An available Hard Disk Drive navigation system includes a new "Remote Touch" controller on the center console, and is said to be as natural to use as a computer mouse. The controller may be customized to the driver's preferred level of feedback and new casual language voice recognition in the navigation system can respond to conversational commands. XM satellite radio compatibility is standard, now including XM NavTraffic and NavWeather features.

A wide-angle side-view monitor is new for 2010. A camera under the passenger-side mirror provides a display that lets the driver check hard-to-view areas, by selecting a button on the navigation screen or the steering wheel.

Hardware

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 will use a 275-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine (5 hp more than in 2009). In the RX 450h hybrid model, a 295-hp version of the V-6 engine is part of the gasoline/electric powertrain, meaning that output has increased by 27 hp, compared to the first-generation, 2006 RX 400h hybrid model. A new 6-speed sequential-shift transmission mates with the RX 350's 3.5-liter V-6 engine, supplanting the prior RX 350's 5-speed automatic and sending power to the front wheels. The available Active Torque Control AWD system alters torque according to driving conditions, according to Lexus.

The hybrid-powertrain RX 450h is equipped with standard front-wheel drive or an optional part-time AWD system that sends the optimal amount of power to the rear wheels, based upon conditions. With its rear-mounted electric motor-generator, all four wheels on the RX 450h perform regenerative braking, which helps keep the hybrid battery charged. Hybrid models use a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Notably, both RX models have a new double-wishbone rear suspension, which allows 5 percent more cargo volume than in the prior version, according to Lexus. All models can also tow up to 3500 pounds.

Safety

Every 2010 Lexus RX contains 10 air bags, including dual-stage front air bags; knee air bags for both front occupants; seat-mounted side-impact air bags for both front and rear occupants; and side-curtain air bags. Front-seat active headrests are also standard. An available Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system integrates Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), anti-lock brakes with brake assist, Hill Assist Control, and traction control. VDIM can help prevent skids while cornering, according to Lexus. For 2010, the Lexus Pre-Collision System is optional on the RX. It uses millimeter-wave radar technology to detect a potential frontal collision. Then, it can prime the brake assist feature and retract the front seat belts in anticipation of a crash, the automaker explains.

Technology

Two new technologies improve the efficiency of the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, according to the company. An exhaust-heat recovery system reduces engine warm-up time, which allows it to shut off earlier and more often-and for longer time periods. Also, a cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system reduces engine pumping losses, with the goal of improving fuel economy. In other technology news, an "intelligent" Adaptive Front-lighting System is available, with high-intensity-discharge headlamps that anticipate upcoming vehicle location based on speed and steering angle, swiveling the headlamps into the impending turn or curve. Hybrid models can have adaptive lighting with LED low-beams and halogen high-beams.