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By Jonathan Crouch
Added 17th February, 2020
The Lexus RX is more versatile in its seven-seat body style. Jonathan Crouch reports on the revised version.
This is a refreshing car in so many ways. Instead of simply copying its competitors in the full-sized executive saloon segment, Lexus continued to take a different approach with this fourth generation GS. You could ask why there's no diesel engine - but in doing so, you'd also have to answer the question as to why one might be needed when in hybrid form, this car can match the fuel and CO2 returns of any direct comparably performing V6 diesel rival you care to name, and do so with greater refinement and less poisonous emissions from cheaper fuel.
Hybrids like this one aren't a total solution to the automotive pollution we're inflicting on our planet, but the technology this Lexus pioneered in its sector represents an important step forward that some rivals are still struggling to match. Add in excellent equipment levels, famed reliability and a dealer network that makes you feel special and you can see why this car attracted so many satisfied and high profile owners. If you're buying in this sector and haven't owned a Lexus before, you probably won't be considering it. Perhaps you should be.
The fourth generation RX was certainly a much improved product - primarily to look at but also in terms of luxury, safety and technology. Less telling, we think, are the handling changes Lexus claimed to have made here: the car itself remains an SUV for the Riviera, rather than the racetrack. For most potential buyers though, that's as it should be. As one writer observed, 'the RX replaces dynamism with the calming aura of whale music and scented candles'. There's something in that.
We still like it though. Forget what the magazines tell you: buyers in search of a large luxury SUV typically prioritise luxury, style and tax-friendly efficiency above almost everything else, these elements being things that this Lexus can here nail more effectively than ever before. According to the brand, it's all about 'sharpened sophistication' and 'seductive strength'; we'd prefer simply to call this a more sensible way to own what remains a very indulgent kind of car.
This improved Lexus RC continues to be a welcome alternative in the ranks of relatively affordable executive coupes. Not everyone prioritises ultimate driving dynamics in a model of this kind and for those in search of luxury, this car may well satisfy.
Compared to coupe versions of obvious rivals like Mercedes C-Class, BMW's 4 Series and Audi's A5, this is a very different kind of contender. It feels more expensive and has the driveway presence and cabin feel of a £50,000 car rather than one costing £40,000 to £45,000. A certain kind of buyer will like this very much. And we can understand why.
Sometimes, first impressions count and we'd wager that this car, parked alongside a comparable BMW, Mercedes or Audi coupe, would be seen by most as the classier, more up-market proposition. That'll matter to potential coupe customers, as will the fact that this car is not only good looking but also beautifully built, agreeably rapid, lavishly equipped and everyday-usable.
Of course, the fact that it's a little larger and a little heavier than its rivals has an effect in the form of ultimate handling prowess. An RC isn't quite as agile to chuck around as coupe versions of the BMW 4 Series, the Audi A5 and the Mercedes C-Class would be. Nor is it quite as frugal in terms of up-front fuel and CO2 emission stats. Does that matter? We think probably not. The business buyers being targeted here don't want to drive like Fernando Alonso. And the hybrid version of this car that almost all of them will choose easily makes up for any slight efficiency shortfall with Benefit-in-Kind taxation savings that are hard to ignore. And in summary? Well ultimately, this is not only a more interesting, individualistic choice in this segment, but arguably a rather clever one. A certain kind of buyer will like this RC very much. And we can understand why.
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