With the RX, Lexus have singularly made a five-seater crossover that makes you feel as though they care.
- When moving or at standstill, it is just a really nice car to be in
- Superlative reliability mean you can by an older example without worrying that you are paying for someone else’s problems
- Excellent passive safety features resulting in a respectable ANCAP score
- Rear centre fold-down armrest table is weirdly suited to charcuterie on-the-go
- Low cost of ownership – parts are cheap and it can be serviced by most independent mechanics
- The RX270’s inline four cylinder maybe traded off too much power for fuel economy
- For a prestige buy, the driving and ownership experience is not particularly exciting, enticing or enthralling
- Active safety features like forward collision warning were only optional
- The infotainment system and navigation is just past it, making an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto kit a must
- No third-row seating option in the third-generation RX
It was early 2020, and President Biff could still tweet. I had just moved to Brisbane, and the news of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter-based demise broke the horrific monotony of bushfire reports. I was certain the only direction for 2020 was up. I bought a 2014 Lexus RX270 with less than 40,000km on the clock for $31,000. She had one previous Cairns-based owner who seemingly hadn’t ventured far from the tablelands.
Why did I buy it? Brisbane’s public transport hasn’t kept up with growth so I committed to buying my own wheels. Despite my distinct lack of genetically-linked financial obligations, I eschewed something fun and two-door (either ute or coupé). I wanted a car that could comfortably fit four adults with luggage in preparation for a 2020 full of friends from interstate and overseas freely visiting me in the Sunshine State to mindlessly traverse our nation’s many, practically irrelevant state borders – borders that are barely noticeable except for dinky signage and number plate slogans. How right I was!
My Lexus RX270 is a front-wheel-drive five-seater SUV powered by a kind-of/sort-of sufficient naturally aspirated inline 4-cylinder engine that outputs 139kW/252Nm through a silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission. This combination hauls the massive body from standstill to 100km/h in an unambitious 11 seconds, depending on wind direction and fuel load.
With the RX, Lexus have singularly made a five-seater crossover that makes you feel cared for. Most of all the Lexus RX is comfortable and quiet. Cabin noise is hushed by clever engineering and thick window glass. The only creak or rattle I ever notice is from the retractable load cover.
The seats, in soft leather, are like supportive couches that make almost everything else feel like church pews. Moreover, the hip-height and glass-house geometry make access and egress easy for those with lessened mobility as well as making loading child seats as ergonomic as possible.
The interior is lush, and definitely far nicer than any new car that retails for the RX270’s current used car price. The let down is cheapish plastic in places and a digital clock in centre stage when the modern thing is to go analogue. What catches the eye is classy dark interior wood inserts, covering two of the three up-front cup holders, courtesy of Yamaha Corporation’s piano division. ‘Yamaha?’ I hear you ask, ‘as in, the only conglomerate to successfully unlock the powerful synergies between quad-bike and tenor-saxophone production?’ Yes, the very same.
Unsurprisingly a comfortable “commanding driving position” is achievable, but what’s really handy for when my wife borrows the car is the three-position memory buttons that programme the (10-way) electric driver’s seat, steering wheel (tilt and telescopic) and wing mirror position so only the rear view mirror needs a manual adjustment if you can be bothered. It’s a great car for regular sharing as you programme in your elusive perfect driving position and never worry about it again.
Packaging is clever with the larger exterior dimensions mostly resulting in usable interior space. There are also nifty tricks like commodious door bins that were a generation ahead of their time, and a space beneath the centre console that my wife informs me is perfect for handbags.
With its wider body and lack of a transmission tunnel gobbling up interior space, the leg and headroom make the RX270 a true adult five-seater. I have tried it out with work colleagues on site visits. But four is the magic number here, as the centre rear seat folds down to reveal two cup holders and a table that is weirdly perfect for charcuterie.
With double wishbone rear suspension it’s not fair to describe handling as lacking, especially by SUV standards, but it is noticeably tuned for comfort and not competition. The ride is also well suited to charcuterie as the car coasts over rough and potholed surfaces comfortably ensuring your saucisson cuts are at little risk of making a break in all but extreme conditions.
In 2011, Australia’s car site of record, CarAdvice, described the Lexus RX as “useless off-road.” But since then, an avid group of enthusiasts have formed who modify their RX for off-roading. These people are idiots. There is no mud running potential to be unleashed. Do not believe their lies. Lexus has the LandCruiser based LX to meet that customer demand (and in the US the Prado-based GX): they never promised rough terrain capability and didn’t bake it in.
Lexus also offered the RX in V6 and V6 hybrid variants, both with four-wheel drive: the proposition here is about grip levels for driving in snow rather than river crossings. I currently average 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres, which is better than what the heavier hybrid can achieve. Taking the edge off the thirst is the fact that this is one of the last Lexus cars that can stomach 91 RON, and my mileage is on the cheap juice.
The steering isn’t honed but it’s precise enough for you to feel like you are in control. The turning circle is approximately four lanes, which is enough to handle supermarket car parks or a drive-through with a kink.
Standard technology includes electric tailgate, reversing camera, keyless entry, push button start, dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation on quite a generous centre screen.
My Lexus RX270 is from that weird intersection in time where it provides digital radio and Bluetooth support as well as play CD’s. The audio system has a USB A port in the centre console, which is good for power and data. You are able to plug in a thumb drive and play your favourite MP3. The RX’s best party trick is that it will play DVDs inserted into what most would think was a CD slot. Loitering in an airport short stay car park? Slip the RX in park and pop on Back to the Future II with Robert Zemeckis’ insightful Director’s commentary.
The Lexus RX infotainment system is a little fiddly and dated with haptic feedback joystick control. Thankfully there are plenty of physical buttons to bypass the on-screen menus. Lexus stopped releasing navigation updates a year after production ended, which is a lasting disappointment. Aftermarket Apple CarPlay and Android Auto kits that can be directly integrated with the infotainment system are your best bet for the latest maps.
The bigger disappointment is what features were optional. My RX270 lacks heated seats and head up display, and that’s okay. But given the second-gen RX was one of the first SUVs offered with a forward collision warning system, it’s a shame that the very effective active safety technology as well as adaptive cruise control weren’t included as standard until the fourth generation.
Nonetheless the passive safety of the Lexus RX is still excellent by modern standards. It features 10 airbags, including driver and front passenger knee, and side rear occupant protection. The car is also not prone to rolling, despite its height.
The crossover’s forgettable styling is more swoopy than slab sided. There is no off-road pretence – the design chasing class over ruggedness virtue-signalling.
While the pinched nose is not to everyone’s taste, the lack of low protrusion faux-front splitter means the RX270 can easily tackle deep gutters head first with no risk of scraping. The sloped rear windscreen is part of the model series customary form but many believe it cuts into luggage space. I just don’t buy into that, as I’ve never found myself packing my car full up past the waistline.
In addition to the styling aging gracefully, the Lexus RX holds up well with age. Unlike many of the competitors that look quite ratty after less than a decade, it’s rare to see an RX with yellow oxidation on the headlights, faded paint or missing clear coat. I’ve never felt like the car was out of place when driving up to a classy hotel or an overpriced property viewing.
The Lexus RX regularly topped globally luxury car sales charts since the first generation launch, and the vehicle it shares its platform with – the Toyota Camry – has one of the greatest sales track records ever. But what does this mean for you? The investment in the development of this car, and the platform it is based on is preeminent and it shows. This car has stand out: dependability, longevity, technology, thoughtfulness, polish, ergonomics, functionality, practicality. Yes, it is palpable that Toyota/Lexus played it safe with many of their choices and that can seem boring, but the other thing that makes this car boring is its biblical reliability.
You can go through years of ownership and only ever see the money-light when it flashes on start-up. Lexus warranties are a running joke, because the owners never use them. I happened to park my RX next to a twin with over 360,000km on the odometer. The owner cheerily reported only having to replace the battery (once), and the tyres (several times).
A stale criticism of all Lexus is that they are actually a Toyota. With the Lexus RX provenance: it both doesn’t matter that it is a Toyota and awesome that it is. Let me explain. At a time when Mercedes-Benz was infamously slashing engineering budgets, Lexus was becoming skilled at ensuring the components you can sense are special and unique, and the components that you don’t know about are straight-up Camry. The most visible elements that I recognise from Toyota are the wiper, indicator and cruise control stalks. The steering wheel, seats, headlights, door handles are pure Lexus.
Compare the replacement prices of an air conditioning condenser or power windows controller for a 2014 Mercedes-Benz ML350 or VW Touareg versus a Toyota Camry of the same era. I dare you. Then divide that through by relative probability of failure and you start to get the point. Moreover, the RX can be serviced at any independent mechanic that knows their way around a late model Camry, can’t do that with an Audi Q5.
It’s not just the commonality of spare parts that keep ownership cost very low, the RX tyres aren’t low profile nor extra wide (á la BMW X5) so are not ruinous to replace. I swapped out all four of my RX270’s tyres with a set of Bridgestone Ecopia for under a grand.
In absolute terms it is an excellent second hand SUV prospect. Relativistically it’s an even stronger case. Compared to contemporaneous offerings from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and (in particular) Land Rover the Lexus RX is very low risk and good value.
Lexus is not a brand for commitment-phobes. It’s the brand people end up turning to after getting burned by the European offerings, especially the stuff sourced West of France and East of Ireland.
If you’re looking to sow your wild oats while shopping for a prestige second hand car then this is just not for you. You will find it boring and you won’t appreciate breakdowns that didn’t happen. This is the car for someone willing to forego a new car warranty to get a more premium SUV experience, while not wanting to jeopardise peace of mind.
The third-generation Lexus RX is for someone who can afford a new Hyundai Venue or Mazda CX-3, or used Ford Territory or Nissan Qashqai but wants the space, and something much nicer without sacrificing tech or safety.
I’ve had some regrettable cars over the years, but my only regrets with my Lexus RX270 are I didn’t get one with more pep and the forward collision warning system. They are out there, I just hadn’t done my research.
The kind of people who could afford to make the Lexus RX a sales success are not the type to flog their cars nor hold onto them for long periods. There are plenty for sale, and it’s actually harder to find a bad used RX than a good one. If you want in, here’s the tip – when faced by a choice between low miles or high spec, go with the high spec. Don’t be afraid to push the boat out on odometer readings. As long as the car has been regularly serviced then the excess kilometres are about as concerning as they’d be on a Prado.
Owner: Robert Sciberras
2013 Lexus RX270 (FWD): owner review
2013 Lexus RX RX270 Wagon
Technology & Connectivity