It's the first time we've seen the F Sport variant in the Lexus RX range. How does it stand up to its European rivals?
The 2017 Lexus RX200t F Sport is a striking SUV that mixes luxury with a touch of performance. The Japanese company has stepped things up with its “in-your-face” styling over the years, breaking away from its, mostly, not-so-exciting designs of the past.
This Lexus RX is the next step-up from the NX crossover range, and below the huge four-wheel-drive LX. The F Sport with a 2.0-litre petrol engine arrives mid-range in the RX line-up, and starts from $86,840 (plus on-road costs) with the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury nudging $92,990.
When we were parked at the Punt Road traffic lights in Melbourne, a man crossed the road to just take a look at the car. Whether or not you’re a fan of its looks, it can appeal to those who want an SUV that makes a styling statement, while having a similar premium feel of a BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE. Although, with the base X5 SDrive25d starting at $86,100 and the GLE 250d at $86,900, the RX200t is starting to get friendly with its European rivals.
The car all-round is big, measuring 4.8-metres long, and it’s a tight squeeze in narrow laneways with its 1.8m width. From the driver's seat, it doesn’t feel as if you’re sitting in a truck, with its height at 1.6m.
Of course it has the signature Lexus grille, and those sharp edges continue down the side of the five-door SUV, with deep crease lines along the bottom of the doors, and one that stretches from the front wheel arch. The roof slopes down at the back, and as the painted bodywork doesn’t meet up with the D-pillar, it gives the effect of a floating roof. How very spaceship-like.
Stepping inside, you instantly smell the leather. The dashboard is large enough to eat your dinner off, and is covered in soft black trim with cream stitching. The door trim is much the same, with not-so-scratchy plastic on the door pockets. The latter is wide and has a clever flip-out flap to provide easy access to your drink bottles.
From a distance, the silver- and copper-plated plastic trim on the door and dashboard look swish, but upon closer inspection, the colours clash and look a little cheap. Directly in the centre is an analogue clock, no doubt gaining inspiration from Mercedes-Benz. While it’s a nice touch (and especially looks pretty lit up at night), does anyone read an analogue clock anymore?
This F Sport comes with the $3200 option of the 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System and Navigation System, which includes a 12.3-inch infotainment screen that’s like the in-car version of IMAX theatre. The sound system has the perfect mix of bass and treble, and it feels like you’re right in the recording studio. But, with the volume maxing out at 62, it leaves you wanting more.
It’s easy to get into the front seat of the RX200t without having to climb up into it, but getting out it becomes more of a slide, due to the seats positioned a fair way into the car. The driver's seat and leather-look steering wheel electronically move forward when the car is turned on, and conveniently moves back once the car is switched off.
As I like to sit close to the wheel, there’s barely any knee room, with my knee getting a bit too close for comfort to the engine start/stop button. Headroom is good, but for taller people, it could start to get a bit tight. Although, by opening the electric sunroof, room improves!
The leather-look gear knob, while it feels soft and premium, selecting a gear is everything but. It has the clunky Toyota transmission gate that is like a maze to get into your desired gear.
The centre console pops up and is flocked inside, with that compartment being removable to hide items underneath. On the side of the console on the passenger side is a shallow and long compartment to store very small items.
The partial leather sports seats are supportive, but you may find one notch up on the lumbar support is needed for the back. Heated and cooled seats are adjusted on the centre console, but half of the controls are hidden by the gearstick. Obviously, in summer heat, the cooled seats are a blessing, and the car's air conditioning ended up being switched off as a result.
There’s connections galore up-front too, with two USB inputs, a 12V connection and audio jack. Back seat passengers are also well looked after with a 12V connection, which is placed above a phone-sized rubber grip shelf. The rear seats have air vents, too.
It is incredibly spacious, and that is helped by having no centre hump thanks to the SUV being front-wheel drive. There’s plenty of knee room, even when the front seats are pushed back. But, there’s no toe room and headroom starts to become a bit cramped. Headroom for the centre passenger is worse, with a tall person potentially banging their head on the interior light and two reading lights. One handy feature is the rear seats can be slid back on rails, providing even knee room.
Once the armrest is pulled down, a pop-up lid reveals a plastic storage area. The press of a chrome-plated button, folds out two small cupholders at the end of the armrest which look impressive, but the deep rear door pockets are capable of bigger drink bottles. Just like the front, the rear gets two reading lights.
The back of the front seats have no hard plastics at all, rather soft padding, which is nice for a change! And there’s no fish-net map pockets, rather an elastic-spring flip-out feature. Back seats are just as comfy as the front, with more padding, but they are less moulded.
Boot space for the large car isn't quite so large. At 453L, it’s a massive 237L smaller than the X5. In the cargo area, there is no spare wheel, only a space saver. But there is a nice surprise in the form of a Lexus valet pack – it includes leather gloves, hand wash, a Lexus towel and Lexus rubber mat. Special.
Some nifty little features are revealed once you open the power tailgate, with two takeaway bag hooks, two interior lights, four tie-down latches and a 12V connector. The pullout luggage cover is flimsy and also requires you to nearly climb into the car to remove it. The boot is very high, so loading something big could prove a challenge.
Folding the 60:40 configured rear seats almost flat is a cinch. It’s done in two seconds, by two side-by-side levers in the boot. Clever, because you don’t need to walk around to each side of the car.
The RX200t gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating and you are protected with 10 airbags. The Lexus Safety System is packed with automatic high beam, all-speed radar active cruise control, lane keep assist and pre-collision safety system. The car even tells you if you’re coming up to a school zone or railway crossing. Nice.
The rear-view camera has rear guide assist, but the camera quality appears to be grainy. Helping to keep your eyes on the road is the ever-handy colour head-up display. Visibility all-round is actually quite clear with large side mirrors and the over-the-shoulder check is made a bit easier with a small quarter window on the C-pillar.
Selecting options for the infotainment, is done via a square “remote touch” joystick. This lets the whole car down. It’s fiddly and touchy, especially when going over bumps where you can lose your selection. While other Japanese makes have gone with the common rotary dial, it’s about time Lexus did the same.
Access to each application from the menu has a short lag, but the features are pretty cool. You can access traffic incidents and through Maintenance, you can enter dates as to when the oil or tyres were changed, for example, and set a reminder for the next change.
Climate control can be operated via the screen, but why bother using the irritating joystick, when it’s right there in front of you on the console!
Bluetooth connectivity is easy via of a couple of presses of buttons, and it reconnects in seconds every time you return to the car. The quality is clear, too.
Powering the Lexus is a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 175kW of power and 350Nm of torque. With a 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.2 seconds, it isn’t bad, but it’s 1.5 seconds slower than the X5.
In Eco mode, the green leaf symbol illuminates on the driver information screen when the car is being ‘kind to the environment’, and comes on at the most surprising times, even when climbing gentle slopes.
Turning the driving mode selection wheel to the right and engaging Sport mode, it kicks back a gear as the throttle becomes more touchy and it launches off the line far quicker. The engine is a tad noisy when accelerating, but once it has settled on a speed, it’s quiet enough to whisper.
The six-speed automatic transmission moves into each gear seamlessly. You can also put control into your own hands via the paddle-shifters. Pulling away from a standing start, the car does it quite slowly, until it gets around the 2200rpm mark where it then picks up the pace.
Even with the cool 20-inch alloy wheels, the sports-tuned adaptive suspension has a smooth ride, mixed with that sporty firmness.
Lexus claims a combined fuel economy reading of 8.1L/100km. We got a higher reading of 11.1, but keeping in mind, the majority our time behind the wheel was spent on the tiring urban grind.
A feature that is quite addictive to watch, is the fuel saving reading. The RX200t is equipped with stop/start, so you look forward to when the car's engine stops in traffic to watch your fuel saving start to rise.
Over the course of a week driving it in Eco mode, predominately in peak hour traffic, the Lexus was saving a millilitre of petrol every three seconds. It added up to saving 2.22L of petrol. If a litre of 91 unleaded petrol costs $1.24, for instance, then you’ve just saved yourself $143.14 in a year! Not bad.
Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty, bettering BMW and Mercedes-Benz by one year. Service of the RX200t over three years starts with a complimentary 12 months/15,000km tune, with the 24 months/30,000km service costing $616.30 and 36 months/45,000km at $628.
The striking design of the RX200t certainly catches the eye amongst its European rivals. With its premium interior too, you almost forget it’s a Japanese car. There are some features like the remote touch joystick and the small boot size, that once improved, the $86,840 price-tag would begin to stand-up to the X5 and GLE. But, with all that said, the RX200t is a stylish SUV that is sure to attract a crowd and not to mention, feels great to drive.
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