CULVER CITY, CA – Lexus unveils here tonight a refreshed version of its longtime No.1-selling vehicle, the RX, pulling the covers off simultaneously in China.
The Toyota luxury brand adds standard safety equipment and tweaks the midsize CUV’s styling, dynamics and infotainment for the ’20 vehicle, likely going on sale in the U.S. late this year. Lexus says production of the refreshed RX and its three-row variant the RXL begins in the third quarter.
Last redesigned for ’16, the RX is a critically important model to Lexus. It typically accounts for a third of Lexus’ U.S. annual volume and has led Wards Intelligence’s Middle Luxury CUV segment since its inception in 1997.
Last year, Lexus sold a 10-year high 111,641 RXs, including 15,656 RX 450h hybrid variants, out of 298,310 total U.S. sales. Lexus also retails a 3-row RXL, which debuted in the ’18 model year and accounts for about 16% of total RX sales.
Perhaps the biggest news with the refreshed ’20 RX comes in the areas of infotainment and user experience.
Lexus adds a touchscreen as another way to access menus, in addition to the brand’s Remote Touch Controller pad, unpopular with some reviewers and owners.
The ’20 RX also gets standard Android Auto compatibility, the first Lexus model to receive it and making possible navigation via Google Maps or Waze. It also allows drivers and passengers to use Google Assistant for voice commands.
The RX, like other Lexuses, also will offer Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay, although integration of the latter falls shy of wireless CarPlay offered on some BMWs and the new Mercedes-Benz A220 with its MBUX infotainment system.
On RXs with the largest (12.3-in. [31-cm]) touchscreen is Lexus’ Dynamic Voice Command system. It can “recognize millions more phrases” than other Lexus voice-recognition systems, is more accurate, has “seamless address entry” and more searchable POIs, the luxury brand says.
Inside the new ’20 CUV, there now is a dedicated space in the center console for smartphone storage, standard paddle shifters and, on the RX 350L and RX 450hL, standard NuLuxe faux-leather seating and trim.
In addition to existing interior colors, Lexus adds a birch option available with certain exterior shades.
Lexus adds beige and green exterior options, with the green color shared with the entry-level Lexus UX CUV.
Exterior styling updates include front and rear fascias. One change apparent from photos is a different front bumper. The brand's signature spindle-shaped grille remains, although a mesh-insert now is available vs. the previous lateral design.
Lexus says headlamps are slimmed down from the ’19 RX.
Changes to the rear of the vehicle are not as apparent at first glance, with the angle of the reflectors and the rear bumper updated.
Standard on the ’20 RX is Lexus’ Safety System + 2.0 suite of technologies. The package, similar to one on the newest Toyotas including the Avalon large sedan, includes daytime bicyclist detection and low-light pedestrian detection (preceding only), as well as Road Sign Assist and lane-centering Lane Tracing Assist.
The LSS+ 2.0 system also offers more typical advanced driver-assist safety technologies such as adaptive cruise control.
For the driving enthusiast, two F Sport packages are available – one offering electric power steering and active sound control, while the other includes Lexus’ latest active variable suspension, first seen on the LC sport coupe.
Also available on the RX and RX hybrid is a F Sport appearance package including red leather seating.
The RX 350 and RX 450h’s powertrains continue unchanged. Both have Lexus’ 3.5L gasoline V-6 with its direct and port-injected D4-S fuel injection system, although the RX 450h hybrid’s mates the mill to two motor-generators.
Driving dynamics are improved, Lexus says, via now-hollow, yet-thicker, stabilizer bars in the front and rear, as well as retuned shock absorbers, new vibration-controlling dampers and a stiffer suspension with greater rigidity made possible by more spot welds and structural adhesive.
Lisa Materazzo, Lexus’ U.S. vice president of marketing, attributes the RX’s long tenure atop the midsize luxury CUV segment to listening to feedback from the vehicle’s owners and following through on their wants and needs.
“We know (the three-row variant was) what our guests wanted,” she tells Wards here ahead of the RX’s unveiling. “We were still leading in the segment (when it debuted in 2017), but we didn’t take our foot off the gas. We’re now introducing this 2020 model-year (vehicle) and the changes, I believe, are significant and it’s all an effort to raise the bar yet again.”
Sales of the RX dipped 1.4% through April to 31,051 units. However, the vehicle still had a sizable lead on its nearest competitor, the Mercedes GLC (20,744 sales in the same period).
Most RXs sold in the U.S. are assembled in Cambridge, ON, Canada, although some units sold here, including the RXL, are built in Kyushu, Japan.