December 10, 2012

Review: 2013 Lexus RX

The first time I consciously took in a Lexus RX, in the early noughties, I had an overwhelming impression of a crossover between a pregnant Honda Civic and Marty Feldman playing Igor in Young Frankenstein (1974): remember that? "Hump?! What hump?"

From the side, I was reminded of the lines of a Civic sedan at the top, but there was way too much at the bottom, giving that pregnant look. And then there was a hump stuck on the back, which made the RX one awkward looking SUV.

But the hump gave plenty of stowing space in the back, the safety rating was high, and the interior was very, very comfortable, true to its original moniker SLV, for Sport Luxury Vehicle. The Lexus RX became very popular with well-to-do moms who enjoyed the luxurious ride to their children's various sports activities.

For 2013, the Lexus RX retains top crash-test ratings. Like the moms driving it, the RX has lost its pregnant look. With the omission of the hump in the back it has acquired a streamlining that should help its fuel efficiency. It needs that help: its engine has ballooned from the original 2.2L to 3.5L. And despite its sleeker look the RX did get larger since its introduction in 1998: 8 inches longer, 2 inches wider. For all that, it still moves the same number of people: five. I guess a cello would have more space to slide around in the back.

Lexus is Toyota's luxury division: its cars come standard with perks like leather seats and high-end gadgets. Its dealers are kept strictly separate from dealers of other Toyota cars. And in Japan, there is a lot of English on its website, an interesting glimpse into the image of that slice of the Japanese demographic. The price list for the RX contains almost no Japanese, apart from the yen sign.

All versions of the RX are available in the home market. The table below lists them, omitting special editions like the FSPORT.

The smallest engine for the RX is a 2.7L gasoline engine. Of course, you can't buy that in the US. It has 14% better fuel efficiency with a 10% lower price tag, one of those examples where you win both ways by opting for a smaller engine. Its 185HP will still get you everywhere a mom needs to go, I promise: the 276HP delivered by the RX 350 is way too much for going to the parking lot next to the lacrosse field.

In Europe, you can't buy the conventional Lexus RX, it is available in the hybrid version only. But the RX 450h, with its 39mpg, earns only the "B" fuel economy label, which disqualifies it from the tax breaks enjoyed by real gas sippers. In the Netherlands, the RX450h costs about $100,000 at the 12/2012 exchange rate. In the British Isles, it's a little less, $71,600.

In Denmark the RX450h would set you back about $203,400 - metallic exterior paint would be $3850 extra. Prices include the registration fee plus what the Danish call "moms", by which they mean the totally punitive taxes levied on all automobiles. To put this in perspective: this much money would buy 200 high-end Danish bicycles. You'd have to be really determined to drive this thing.

It just goes to show, cars are cheap to buy in the US. Even the Lexus RX.


Lexus RX in Japan, the Netherlands and the U.S.

mpg quote (Japan)
mpg quote (US)
Japan NL US
RX 270 2WD
10.0km/L (24mpg)
¥ 4,300,000
$ 53,300
RX 350 2WD
9.1km/L (21mpg)
18 / 25 / 21 mpg
¥ 4,750,000
$ 57,800
  $ 39,310
RX 350 AWD
8.9 km/L (21mpg)
18 / 24 / 20 mpg
¥ 5,000,000
$ 60,900
  $ 40,710
RX 450h 2WD
17.4km/L (41mpg)
32 / 28 / 30 mpg
¥ 5,590,000
$ 68,000
€ 73,940
$ 95,600
$ 45,910
RX 450h AWD
16.4km/L (39mpg)
30 / 28 / 29 mpg
¥ 5,840,000
$ 70,100
€ 79,040
$ 102,200
$ 47,310



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