Driving the new RX 270 outside the city area underlines how carefully Lexus engineers aimed the design philosophy at the target market.
The RX 350 and RX 450 have sold successfully to buyers of luxury SUVs, but many in this price range never venture far beyond the city, and big power is more for bragging rights than anything else.
Enter the 270 version, which is an RX after a "biggest loser" diet. The V6 engine? Dropped in favour of a 2.7-litre four-cylinder. The all-wheel-drive system? Dropped in favour of front-wheel-drive.
With no tailshaft and no rear differential, plus a number of other engineering improvements and economies, the result is a weight saving of 135kg over the RX 350 - and a whopping 255kg against the RX 450.
The problem is, at 1950kg, the junior RX it is still a stayer rather than a sprinter, and during a country run with all three models the 270's new engine had to work hard to keep up.
Past customers familiar with the renowned smooth and almost silent Lexus power delivery will be surprised when they give the 270 a decent boot of throttle. Dare I say it, but it is very clearly a four-cylinder engine.
But running around the 'burbs there is little doubt that owners will appreciate the vast array of equipment that is now included in the entry price of $69,900.
This includes satellite navigation featuring traffic alert, a reversing camera with guide assist, power rear tailgate, eight-way power seats, leather-accented interior, smart entry and smart start, 12-speaker audio, advanced Bluetooth with audio streaming and voice command, steering wheel easy access, Lexus VDIM stability control system, privacy glass, daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, Digital Audio (DAB+) and metallic paint.
The 350 and 450 models get the same high level of standard features, with additional former options now included.
There are now three grades of the 350 and 450 models, and all the prices are reduced. The Luxury 350 is $77,900, a reduction of $5000 on the previous model, and the 450 starts at $82,900, a reduction of $6500.
The top-of-the-range 450H Sports Luxury is $100,800, which is $8000 less than the model it replaces.
All the RX models have been restyled, with a more aggressive front end being the biggest change. The F-Sport versions bring some of the driving-mode technology from the recent GS release, in effect allowing an enthusiastic driver to experience three cars in one, from country cruising to driving agility that belies the RX's bulk.
The electronics really do make that much difference. But none of that helps if the basic suspension design isn't good, and that's where the Lexus RX scores very highly.
On broken surfaces the RX tracks better than one of its senior German SUV competitors.
No other SUV leaps out of a corner with more instant response than the 450H with its immediate maximum torque from the petrol/electric driveline.But the RX 270 might have most success as a "first" Lexus because I can't see experienced Lexus chaps and their dear ladies easily accepting the higher noise levels of the four-cylinder engine.
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