Mountain Wheels: Updates to Lexus’s LX and RX models change up power and tech |

Mountain Wheels: Updates to Lexus’s LX and RX models change up power and tech

Imposing in a classy way, the 2022 F-Sport version of the massive Lexus LX 600 SUV gets 409 twin-turbo horsepower.
Courtesy photo

Lexus made some significant steps with big changes to a couple of its more popular models, including the RX and the all-new, full-size LX. If you feel like living up to one of the brand’s holiday ads, here’s some last-minute gift-giving advice.

The biggest transformation is in the new 2022 LX 600, the de-facto replacement for the outgoing Land Cruiser — a Tundra-powered goliath that’s about as modernized and menacing as anything you’ll find out there. I had an F-Sport model, with prices starting at $89,000 or more for the other 409-horsepower, 17 mpg models, or $107,585 here. But for luxurious and hyper-versatile top-of-the-heap SUV motoring, it’s quite the achievement, and a huge change from previous models.

That ample displacement from the 3.5-liter twin-turbo engine is still slightly hampered by some 5,665 pounds of LX curb weight, including more red leather than I’ve ever seen, but once it kicks in, this is a smooth and sophisticated, high-speed cruiser like no other. The oversized cooler box in the elbow console box, with Russian, Arabic and Chinese instructions, also suggests some of the vehicle’s global reach.

Up front, it’s got a spindle-shaped grille so gigantic that it puts a Suburban to shame, plus dark gray 22-inch wheels; the shinier grille on regular models is somewhat overwhelming. In the rear, they’ve adopted the new, angular and austere look you might have seen on a Nissan Pathfinder, with a 200-inch overall size.

Inside, you’ll get the cumulative total of all of Lexus’s recent tech and stylistic upgrades, including a digital instrument panel, and a massive wall with two navigation and auxiliary screens, one of which focuses heavily on the LX’s off-road capabilities.

My first thought is that the large, solid, fixed running boards on this model might interfere with rock crawling, but it has everything from low range to crawl modes, and ride height and differential lock controls are there on a glossy, aluminum-edged central console.

That’s part of a striking interior design suite that includes a flat dash, cool door arches and more plush leather than … well, almost any other vehicle. The base LX model does not have third-row seating but F-Sport, Premium and Ultra Luxury models do feature power fold-flat 50/50 split seats.

In a similar vein but much more down to earth, I also had a chance to drive a prototype model of the approximately $50,000 2023 RX 350h, which takes on much of the new, clean lines of the smaller NX and injects a little of the LX’s splash, at about half the price.

The lineup will include a new 275-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder as the base engine or the 2.5-liter hybrid setup I drove, with just 246 horsepower. A surprisingly quick, 366-horsepower RX F-Sport AWD 500h model will also be available, starting at $63,000.

The new, smaller powertrain setup promises 37 mpg in city driving but I got figures of 34 mpg and lower during my high-elevation drives. I also got a considerable amount of engine and whine from the electronic continuously-variable transmission while heading up the steeper slopes. It also pre-shifted automatically and quite noticeably to slow itself on downhill inclines.

The RX gets the same very odd dual-thumb-controlled steering wheel input system I found on the NX, which offers switchable inputs but relies on a head-up display for you to have any idea what the hell you’re doing. There’s also no “talk to the car” intelligent assistant button — you gotta reach over and tap that on the navigation screen, where it sort of strangely floats and blocks other applications.

As I say, prototype car, so who knows, including what I think was a test version of the new Lexus Teammate self-drive tech. There’s face sensors above the wheel and under the right circumstances, the damned car drove itself — full cornering, lane-keeping and all.

Like the NX, it also gets new micro-sized, futuristic interior door handles which you gotta push (or yank a couple of times) to open the doors.

Finally, and a little more traditional, I also had an outing in the outgoing 2022 RX 450h, an F-Sport model priced at $62,450. The older hybrid was a 3.5-liter variety with more overall power (308 hp) but mileage ratings of 31 city, 28 highway. That extra power was helpful for the short period I commuted on I-25 north of Denver, and did not seem to diminish the vehicle’s stated mileage. I won’t miss the slide-and-scratch input controller pad or the slightly hidden controls; the car has a good overall feel and might offer a better price, if you can still find one before the new models arrive.

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