Lexus' flagship SUV becomes more user-friendly with mid-life revamp
Lexus RX rebooted with new infotainment system Lexus' flagship SUV becomes more user-friendly with mid-life revamp ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The most significant change in the facelifted Lexus RX is not its sharper styling, more rigid chassis or roomier third row.

Strange as it may seem, it is its infotainment system, which now comes with a touchscreen.

While not an industry first, it is a huge improvement over the previous mouse-cursor contraption, which could rarely be operated without frazzled nerves.

It is possibly the largest touchscreen in town too. Now, keying in your destination or searching for your favourite radio station is easy-peasy.

This touchscreen format is expected to be rolled out across the Lexus range eventually. It certainly goes well with what the RX offers: comfort and peace of mind in a high-seating 4x4.

The facelifted car has a more rigid body, with increased use of adhesives and laser weld spots. Its stabiliser bars are hollow and thicker to better withstand flexing.

These improvements are not immediately apparent. But when you pick up the pace and gather more speed around bends, the RX seems to be more confident.

The steering feels a little more direct and quicker. The car is also now fitted with Active Cornering Assist, which is supposed to suppress understeer by modulating the brakes on either wheel. This feature may appear in the new Toyota Corolla.

The RX's ride is still as soft as a pillow, but this is a-okay with Lexus buyers, who want cushiness above all else. The car's shocks are now equipped with a "friction control device" (a rubber piece within the absorbers), which reduces high-frequency vibrations caused by small tarmac imperfections.

The car is still prone to bopping up and down if it encounters more serious undulations.

Despite that, it is still a very comfortable car - possibly the most comfy sport utility vehicle you can find here. But this is not only attributable to its ride and coherent chassis - it has to do with the car's supple seats and extraordinary quietness.

The quietness is partly due to its beefy and linear 3.5-litre V6, which makes progress fairly effortless despite the absence of turbocharging.

Comfort has also been enhanced for third-row occupants in the seven-seat RX350L reviewed here. Third-row seats can be adjusted (with the touch of a button) for more legroom or for more stowage in the boot.

But even with the additional legroom, the RX350L's last row is best reserved for small children. Those seated here have their own climate control panel.

The RX350L boasts a host of other new features, including an intelligent high beam which is able to dip on the side of an oncoming vehicle, yet remain fully powered elsewhere. Safety systems include lane-keeping, rear cross traffic alert and blindspot monitor.

On-board amenities now include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and wireless phone charging. Together with the infotainment touchscreen, they make life on the go quite pleasant. A hands-free tailgate adds to convenience.

Last but not least, the revised RX looks spiffier with a bold spindle grille with "L" motif mesh flanked by slimmer headlights, and a rear which resembles the flagship LS'.

In this case, the facelift is more than skin deep.