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  1. Analysis
June 24, 2021

Interior design and technology – Lexus RX

The fourth generation Lexus RX recently received a series of upgrades. But what of its lavish interior?

By Matthew Beecham

Luxury defined

Notable changes to the RX exterior include a new rendition of the signature Lexus grille, with a mesh pattern of radiating “L” shapes that forms a design link to the UX urban crossover; slimmer headlight units; more rounded edges to the front bumper; and an extended line from the rocker panel that connects with the bottom of the grille.

The super plush cockpit is designed to help keep the driver alert and comfortable, supported by HMI technology that minimises distraction by making switches and controls easy to use.  A case in point is the 12.3-inch central display that now incorporates a touchscreen function, as an alternative to using the fiddly touchpad. So entering a postcode into the sat-nav is simplicity itself. To accommodate this new feature, the screen has been moved further forward on the centre console, giving a wider viewing angle and within easy reach of the driver and front seat passenger. The multimedia functions can also be operated using a trackpad or with voice control.

Beneath the touchscreen is the climate control panel that has been rationalised with several buttons being replaced by a series of toggle switches.

Driving-related switches and controls are arranged in a control zone that is concentrated immediately around the wooden steering wheel. These include the paddle shifts, drive mode select switches, each located for the best ergonomic performance, focusing on easy reach and operation.

Comfort and convenience features include dual-zone climate control, heated steering wheel and front seats, rear cabin air vents, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a tray to wirelessly recharge a smartphone. The latter has been made larger so that new-generation handsets can be accommodated.

To improve connectivity, the six USB ports dotted around the cabin now have a high amperage so that devices can be charged more quickly. Smartphones can be wirelessly integrated with the car’s multimedia system via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and connected services can be accessed using Lexus Link – which also offers the option of in-car WiFi.

A 360-degree bird’s eye view of the car’s position helps the driver gain an all-around view of the SUV when making low-speed manoeuvres or when driving off-road at a slow pace. The monitor also works in conjunction with the RX’s parking assist system and rear cross-traffic alert.

Head-up display

The driver’s focus is kept on the road ahead by locating the centre display screen, instrument panel and head-up display (HUD) in a tight cluster within their field of view. Lexus calls this concept ‘Seat in Control,’ a notion that from the moment you get in, all the controls needed are within reach and all the information is in plain view.

The HUD projects relevant vehicle information onto the windscreen in the driver’s line of sight. In addition to basic functionality, such as speed, fuel level and shift position, the display can also present speed limit signs, lane tracing assist warnings and navigation directions.

Audio system

Two audio systems are available: a 10-speaker Pioneer Premium sound system and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound system, depending on the trim selected.  The sound system uses Clari-Fi technology, developed by Harman, which supplements real-time frequencies that are lost in compressed audio files, such as MP3 and streaming audio files. This restores the sound quality and stereo mix as closely as possible to the original recording.


Given that the Lexus brand is known for fit and finish and material quality, the seat design has been a special focus of attention. The seat structure incorporates polyurethane foam wrapped around an iron frame. It’s the flat cushion and raised side sections that support the hips and keep the body stable, while subtle depressions in the cushion’s surface allow for smaller occupants to enjoy the same level of body holding as larger people.

Heated front seats are also standard for the driver and front passenger, along with new suction-type ventilation that draws directly from the air conditioning system for a quicker cooling effect.

Size-wise, the RX is both longer and wider than the previous generation model: width grew by 10mm to 1,895mm and length by 120mm to 4,890mm; the height was unchanged at 1,720mm. The driver and front passenger seats are low-set, providing plenty of headroom. The position of the steering wheel is closer to the driver and a lowered angle for the steering column creates a more engaging driving position. The quilting pattern on the front seat seatbacks matches that on the door panel trims.

By using a new frame construction for the front seats, more legroom is provided for the rear passengers, adding an extra 20mm of knee clearance compared to the previous model. And to help front seat occupants find the ideal seat position, the seat height adjustment range was increased by 15mm.

Lexus has accommodated an extra, family-friendly third row of power-adjustable seats in the RX L model by adding 110mm to the rear overhang, taking the vehicle’s overall length to 5,000mm, and by giving the tailgate window a steeper angle to provide a little more headroom for the rearmost passengers.

Further back, the powered liftgate reveals 453 litres of luggage space with all the seats up and 924 litres with the rear seats folded. The rear seats can be reclined and slid forward and backwards when in use for extra passenger comfort. To increase the cargo space, the rear seats can be folded flat by either releasing a catch on the seat back or pressing a button in the boot. A close-and-lock button next to the tailgate grab handle automatically closes the tailgate and locks the vehicle. There are also plenty of cubby holes to store paraphernalia including the wide glovebox that glides open effortlessly. The front door bins are also deep, wide with expandable side panels. The two cupholders in the front also offer generous and different depths.

Advanced driver assistance systems

Key to its safety performance is the latest version of Lexus Safety System+, an integrated safety package that provides a suite of active safety and driver assistance to help prevent accidents happening, or reduce their severity should an impact be unavoidable.

The Pre-Collision System (PCS) uses a front-mounted camera and millimetre-wave radar to detect vehicles and pedestrians on the road ahead. If it calculates a risk of a collision, it automatically warns the driver and provides extra braking force the moment the brake pedal is pressed. If the driver fails to react and the system judges a collision to be imminent, the brakes are automatically applied to reduce vehicle speed and the force of any impact, and the seatbelts are tensioned.

The functionality of the PCS has been increased so that it is now capable of detecting pedestrians in the vehicle’s path in both day and night-time driving, and bicycle riders during daylight hours.

The same radar unit is used to provide all-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), which helps the driver maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Once the way ahead is clear, the RX automatically accelerates to its pre-set cruising speed.

Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) detects when the RX deviates from its correct traffic lane, without the turn indicators being used. The system will automatically provide a warning and steering inputs to help keep the vehicle centred in its lane, detecting markings on the road surface or the road margin. These features operate when the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is being used and can be switched off if desired.

Other ADAS technologies include adaptive variable suspension control; panoramic view monitor; blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert with auto brake; parking support brake; and sway warning. The latter involves the use of cameras to monitor the car’s position in its lane and the driver’s steering inputs. If it detects degrees of vehicle swaying caused by driver distraction or drowsiness, it will sound an alert and display a warning on the multi-information display, recommending the driver takes a break.

On the road

Throughout the SUV cabin, the quality and finish of the upholstery, expensive-feeling trim materials and detailing continue to reflect the attention to detail that Lexus’ engineers have given the RX. It has a lot going for it. On a more practical level, forward vision is pretty good, uncompromised by the high seating position, low-profile dashboard and narrow A-pillars. Materials with various properties have been used in different areas of the SUV’s construction, giving strength, rigidity and lightweight in appropriate measure.

As we would expect, the ride is relatively quiet, thanks partly to the acoustic glass in the side windows (supplied by AGC Automotive), sound-damping coatings for the vehicle floor, positioning of the rear body frame to reduce lateral vibration and use of foam/sponge vibration damping material around the door apertures and front header. Sound-absorbing materials are featured in areas of the cabin, ceiling and floor to prevent the intrusion of noise from the engine compartment and from outside the vehicle, with full-edge double seals around the doors.

On balance, while our drive insulated us from the outside world, cocooned in comfort, it also felt cossetted and poised at every turn, providing a fabulous experience. Rival models include the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Volvo XC90 and BMW X5.

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