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By Jonathan Crouch
Added 15th January, 2016
, updated 25th January, 2019
The revised fourth generation Lexus RX looks a useful improvement. Jonathan Crouch reckons though, that'll it'll appeal to much the same kind of buyer.
You can't fault the way that Lexus listened to criticism of the original version of this CT200h and responded by ruthlessly sorting through its issues. The revised post-2014 version of this model is a much better prospect on the used market, thanks to its more supple ride and softer spring rates. Plus attention to detail made the facelifted version of this car as refined as the engine that drives it. With this revised CT, the CVT auto gearbox is more usable and the quirky looks have a bit more universal appeal. In short, it's a better prospect all round.
These changes are quite important we think. Essentially, a CT200h costs no more than the Toyota Prius it remains fundamentally based upon - yet offers extra quality, a more involving drive and the higher residual values of the prestigious Lexus brand. So why do media writers who consistently praise the Prius still disparage its Lexus stablemate? There was some logic in their arguments with the original version of this model: not so much with this revised version.
The typical middle management executive wants refinement, low running costs and a prestigious, quality feel. And if he or she can get all that bound up in a properly eco-friendly package, then so much the better. In offering all of these things, the CT200h makes an awful lot of sense if you're fed up with the default German choices in this segment. If you can find a good one, you may well find it a compelling package. On the balance sheet. And in your driveway.
The Lexus RX range gains a seven-seat body style. Family buyers can now take a second look at this car, as Jonathan Crouch reports.
The Lexus RX isn't the most capable luxury SUV you can buy. It isn't the sportiest to drive. And it's not the most affordable to buy. But despite all of that, it will continue to attract a significant following in this segment. Once you've bought the thing, after all, its running costs can be usefully less than even the most frugal of its diesel competitors.
While other manufacturers dithered over hybrid technology, Toyota's Lexus division got on and developed it. Their first hybrid RX was an impressive achievement and this one has added more stylish looks and extra technology to existing strengths of comfort, refinement and a high specification. There's also a slightly lengthened RX L seven-seat bodystyle if you want it. Overall , the reasons you'll want to buy this car really haven't changed very much. Comfort, efficiency and class. As ever with Lexus.
If you're seeking a spaciously compact, prestigiously badged premium five-door hatchback, then you're probably thinking diesel power and German badgework. Here's a different way to go, Lexus' improved first generation CT200h petrol/electric hybrid. The original version of this car needed a little perfecting but it's now a far more credible choice that's classy to own, efficient to run and kind to the environment. In practice, this car is somewhat restricted by the limits of its Prius mechanicals but that doesn't stop it delivering a package that will still be compelling to many target buyers.
True, a rival diesel BMW 1 Series or an Audi A3 will be better to drive. But, spec-adjusted, both will cost you more to buy, be noisier to live with, confine you to nastier cabins and cost a whole lot more to run on pricier fuel. To us, the limits of this Lexus seem a fair trade in exchange for all these benefits. This car adds up. On the balance sheet. And in your driveway.
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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