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Lexus brings 3 electric options to SA

Tech on the rise as third-generation Lexus Safety System combines with new electrified powertrains.

The Lexus RX has entered its fifth generation with three new electric powertrains and an upgrade to its safety technology.

At the core of the brand’s new offering, the RX 450h+ is the first RX to adopt Lexus plug-in hybrid technology. The RX 350h hybrid electric is positioned as an efficient alternative to lower displacement diesel and petrol powertrains. And Lexus is introducing its first performance-focused turbocharged hybrid, the RX 500h, which comes with Direct4 drive force control. 

The cars use the third-generation Lexus Safety System+, with an improved Pre-Crash System, and Lexus Safe Exit Assist, which prevents doors being opened into the path of vehicles or cyclists approaching from the rear.

Lexus’ “tazuna” simplicity concept rationalises the location and ease of use of controls and information sources, so that attention is focused on the job of driving. The tazuna approach can be seen in detail such as the soft-touch steering wheel controls, head-up display and new multimedia system. A large, 14-inch touchscreen and the provision of physical buttons for frequently used functions help minimise driver head movement.

The list of standard equipment for comfort and convenience includes three-zone air conditioning, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, wireless charger, illuminated entry, Heads Up Display, and seat heating and ventilation.

Lexus provided the following information on each of the electrified models:

RX 450h+

“This one is truly going to set the cat amongst the pigeons,” says Glenn Crompton, vice president of Lexus Marketing. “The RX 450h+, the very first plug-in hybrid electric RX is a true game changer in terms of the Lexus electrification journey. For the South African market with its ever-present electricity supply woes and fledgling charging network, there is frankly no better option.”

Limited pure electric range is achievable in the city with a battery that can be recharged using a charger or self-charging as with conventional hybrids. A homologated EV driving range of 65km (more than enough for an average daily commute) with all-electric driving is possible at speeds of up to 130km/h, but this figure is almost academic as once the battery charge is depleted, the vehicle switches seamlessly to its self-charging hybrid system, maintaining high fuel and emissions efficiency. 

This is in contrast to most other manufacturers’ systems, where the powertrain defaults to its internal combustion engine. The battery’s size and capacity and Lexus’ electrification know-how combine to deliver significantly lower fuel consumption and emissions. CO2 emissions (combined cycle) fall below 29g/km with fuel economy (drive mode-dependent) pegged at an unbelievably low average of just 1,3 litres/100km.

The RX’s plug-in hybrid system features a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre hybrid engine (paired to the Lexus e-CVT system) and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with 18.1kWh capacity. An additional rear electric motor enables Lexus E-Four fulltime all-wheel drive. While it offers similar power to the outgoing RX 450h, it produces more torque and faster acceleration. Total output is 227kW, which enables 0-100km/h acceleration in a brisk 6.5 seconds.

EV is the default mode – the car will run on electric power to the limit of is range, regardless of how hard the driver uses the accelerator. With the contribution of the lithium-ion battery maximised and more power coming from the electric motors, driving feels effortless yet refined. The driver also has the option of Auto EV/HV mode, which automatically brings the hybrid engine into play when extra power is needed, then returning to EV operation immediately afterwards. 

The driver can also select HV mode to maximise efficient operation, automatically maintaining the battery’s state of charge. Battery charging mode starts the engine to restore the battery charge level, helping ensure more battery power is available when EV driving is required, for example prior to entering a zero or low emissions zone, which is common in some European capitals.

The driver can use paddle controls to operate the Shiftmatic e-CVT transmission in a series of shift ranges, selecting “S” with the shift lever. This delivers engine braking force in six steps with a shift feel similar to a manual transmission. A low shift range enables high engine speed control for sharp acceleration response, increasing driver rewards.

Crompton says: “The plug-in hybrid system uses a new transaxle that achieves a top-level balance of fuel economy and driving performance. The inclusion of a rear transaxle, with E-Four all-wheel drive, adds to driver confidence with stable performance assured in day-to-day driving.”

The new, high-capacity lithium-ion battery is compact and housed beneath the cabin floor, avoiding intrusion in cabin and load space. Its reliable performance and high output – qualities secured through Lexus’ long experience in battery technology – are central to the car’s good EV driving range. The RX 450h+ is fitted with a 6.6kW on-board charger. With a 230V/32A connection, a full battery recharge can be accomplished in about two hours 45 minutes. The RX 450h PHEV will launch officially to the public by November.

RX 500h

A milestone performance hybrid with Direct4, the RX 500h marks a breakthrough in hybrid electric technology that sets it apart from any Lexus hybrid model that has gone before. Lexus has successfully shifted the focus from optimum efficiency to produce a model with a genuine performance edge, raising the RX’s appeal with customers who want high-end electrified performance. 

It uses a completely new parallel hybrid architecture, featuring a turbocharged 2.4-litre turbo petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission, integrated front motor and power control unit, hybrid battery and a compact rear e-axle. Total system output is 273kW with 550Nm of torque, endowing the raciest RX with a 0-100km acceleration time of 6,2 seconds, yet fuel consumption is still very well contained at just 6,5L/100km.

The front electric motor is positioned between the engine and the transmission (which has a clutch on both sides), enabling great flexibility in power delivery and the ability for the vehicle to run in all-electric EV mode. The hybrid control system automatically switches between parallel and EV modes according to the driving situation, giving both powerful acceleration and fuel efficiency. 

While performance is at a level typical for a 3.0-litre V6 petrol model, the RX 500h’s hybrid system delivers around a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy. The driver experiences powerful performance and drivability characterised by a direct, “torqueful” feel with minimal delay between pressing the accelerator and drive force being delivered to all four wheels.

The RX 500h uses a new low-resistance nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery unit that delivers faster and stronger power output while supporting fuel economy. It has a bipolar structure and adopts new high-output components. It is installed beneath the car’s rear seat, avoiding loss of cabin or load space and is quieter, thanks to the refinement of its air-cooling system.

The intelligent all-wheel drive system uses a separate electric motor and inverter to constantly balance the power and torque between the front and rear axles in any driving situation. It automatically and seamlessly adjusts the level the drive force between the two axles – more quickly and precisely than any mechanical system could. Direct4 communicates a better feel between the road and steering wheel and delivers improved handling stability and driving dynamics at high speed.

Importantly for the RX 500h, it also enhances ride comfort with instant torque that helps control body movement. Its benefits are experienced in different driving scenarios:

RX 350h

The new RX 350h is characterised by the improved smoothness and efficiency of its fourth-generation self-charging hybrid electric system. This 2.5-litre petrol drivetrain provides 184kW (total system output) and 0-100km/h acceleration in an acceptably rapid 7.9 seconds, performance comparable with the outgoing RX 450h, while at the same time producing lower emissions. Fuel economy is impressive at 5,4 litres per 100km. 

It benefits from the same programme of hybrid component improvements featured in the RX 450h+, including a new hybrid transaxle with a more compact design, lighter weight (22 percent mass reduction) and reduced friction losses as well as a smaller (9 percent volume reduction) and more efficient Power Control Unit (PCU). It is equipped with E-Four electric all-wheel drive as standard. The RX 350h is a strong alternative to competitor models powered by small-displacement engines and ideal for customers who prioritise comfort and efficiency.

Elements of the integrated safety technology include:

  • Pre-Crash Safety (PCS) – if the system detects a driver looking away while driving, it warns the driver at an early stage. It can assist in collision avoidance and damage mitigation by securing the driver’s reaction time.
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) with all-speed following function. When activated, the system alerts the driver and provides supportive control to ensure a safe margin.
  • Lane Departure Alert (LDA) – If the system detects a driver looking away while driving, it activates an alert and lane departure control at an earlier time than usual.
  • Abnormal driver condition response system – if the driver’s posture is significantly compromised during Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) control, the system judges that it is difficult for the driver to continue driving and warns others by flashing hazard lamps, etc., as the vehicle gradually decelerates. The vehicle is designed to stop within the lane.

Lexus RX Pricing

Model Price
Lexus RX 350hR1 458 300
Lexus RX 350h F SportR1 543 200
Lexus RX 450h+ TBC

The Hybrid models offer an eight years/195 000 km battery warranty.

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