Five-Point Inspection: 2014 Lexus RX450h

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad
For years, the Lexus RX was the only crossover in the Japanese Luxury automakers lineup.

But with the introduction of a new compact crossover called the NX, Lexus could use the opportunity to expand on its long-loved nameplate. These are five areas that we think Lexus would be wise to revise when it comes time to launch the next generation RX.

Currently, the RX is smaller in every dimension when compared to its German rivals like the Mercedes ML and BMW X5. With passenger capacity limited to five, the RX is also missing out on a third-row option, which is something that the X5 and Acura MDX both offer.

SEE ALSO: Stretched Lexus RX Under Consideration as Seven Seater

With the NX also offering just two rows of seating, Lexus is now considering a three-row crossover, maybe even growing the RX a few inches with its next redesign, allowing it to compete directly with its full-size crossover rivals. Lexus Division boss Jeff Bracken said in the past that third-row seating is the number-one issue the brand hears from its dealers and Lexus could rectify that issue by growing the RX to meet that demand.

Speaking of the NX, its not only smaller, but it’s targeted at a younger audience. You can see this right in the details of the interior design. With boost gauges, dark aluminum accents, sharp angles, aggressively bolstered seats and bright red leather upholstery, the NX is clearly aimed at a sportier, more youthful buyer.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Lexus NX Revealed With Turbo and Hybrid Engines

While the RX interior (pictured above) is already quite luxurious, Lexus could up the ante by offering exclusive materials and a mature interior design.

The new NX is showing the world how Lexus wants its crossovers to stand out, but there’s no doubt it’s a bit polarizing. With sharp angles and a bizarre front lighting arrangement the NX looks anything but traditional.

This is a path Lexus should be wary of when it comes to redesigning the RX. Some might call the current model boring, but not all luxury car buyers want a car that shouts “look at me.” The proof comes with the RX’s sales numbers: it’s never been a good looking product, but that didn’t stop it from being a top seller in the luxury SUV segment for practically the entire past decade.

The Lexus RX450h in the pictures here features some impressive powertrain technology. A combined rating of 295 hp comes by way of two electric motors (one for each axle) and a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Sadly, this hybrid model has very few real-world benefits, since it’s hindered by the RX’s 4,652-lb curb weight. Here’s hoping the next car loses some weight. It would save fuel and probably offer more agile handling. We saw just 28 MPG during our week of testing, one mile per gallon below the combined EPA figure.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Lexus NX Performance Specifications Announced

While that is better than its competition (diesel versions of the BMW X5, Mercedes ML and Porsche Cayenne all get under 26 MPG), the turbocharged NX200t, with its smaller turbocharged engine and more efficient hybrid engine will really catch the eyes of gas-bill conscious Lexus customers who might not need all the space an RX offers.

Of course, while the NX will likely be lighter, it will also be less powerful too – its turbocharged engine peaks at 235 hp, while the hybrid model offers just under 200 hp.

By now we know the upcoming NX will be smaller and less powerful than the RX. What we don’t know is what it will cost.

We’d bet that it will be cheaper than the RX and when the upcoming next-generation RX comes, Lexus will have the opportunity to put a higher price premium on the bigger luxury crossover.

For a moment, consider Cadillac’s recent history. The introduction of the smaller, more affordable and sportier ATS allowed the segment-straddling CTS to grow into a properly proportioned sedan in line with the Mercedes E-Class or BMW 5 Series. Admittedly an apples-to-oranges comparison, it isn’t hard to imagine the NX pushing the RX in a similar fashion.

Interested in the Lexus RX? Then check out our new car shopping page. You can head straight to the Lexus RX lineup, or see what else Lexus has to offer.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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