Quickies: Updating A Segment Original

Remember when I was in the Raleigh-Durham area for a media drive event on the current generation Lexus RX?

Since then, I worked with three current-gen RX models – an RX 350, an RX 450h F Sport, and an RX 350L. They've upheld the mantle of being the original offering in a class of premium mid-sized crossover/SUVs. Yet, I felt that they needed a little extra something to keep them out in front of the competition.

I headed to Naperville, Illinois – a suburb west of Chicago – to see the updates that Lexus made to the 2020 RX lineup.  

Why make a fuss about the Lexus RX? For starters, it is the best selling model in the lineup. While sales volume has been slightly down for calendar year 2019, the RX enjoyed a great October as they transitioned from remaining 2019 units to the updated 2020 models.

Plus, Lexus is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The first showrooms opened up in the fall of 1989 with just two sedans. The first RX would join the growing luxury vehicle lineup 21 years ago – being the first of its kind by kicking off a genre of automobile no premium brand could live without.

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What's new on the 2020 Lexus RX? The quick answer is "plenty." Let me go through them first…

There are a few updates that are immediately visible to the eyes. Lexus nipped and tucked the front clip area, especially around the lower part of the fascia. F Sport models get a flow-through lower grille to cool the brakes. You will also notice a new set of daytime running lights on the 2020 RX.

In terms of construction, Lexus went with a new set of laser screw welds along the side underneath the unibody. These welds run behind the wheel wells. This is to firm up structural integrity and rigidity at the lower part of the body. It also made the entry point of the four side doors lower, which will help those who had to enter and exit the RX when it got dirty. And, who wants to get dirty when they really don't need to?

To make life easier for everyone, Lexus improved the hands-free liftgate opening with a new kick sensor underneath the rear bumper.

The biggest change is actually inside. A lot of people are not fans of the Lexus infotainment system. The Remote Touch mouse-like controller lacked accuracy and was not intuitive. The same has been said about the trackpad that replaced the old mouse-like system. Now, this system features a touchscreen in either the standard 8-inch configuration or the available widescreen 12.3-inch version situated on top of the dashboard.

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To accommodate the touchscreen interface, Lexus designers moved the screen forward by five inches towards the driver and front passenger. If you can master the art of using their touchscreen, this will be a beneficial change for you.

If you do master the new touchscreen in the 2020 RX, you will now be able to integrate your smartphone using either Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latter is the first such integration in any Lexus model. You will also be able to integrate Amazon Alexa to control your home remotely. To complete the transformation of the Lexus RX's connectivity upgrades, onboard Wi-Fi is now available on the new RX.

Connecting your devices has taken a huge step forward, as there are now six USB ports for 2020. Up front, there are four ports – two of them can charge your device and connect it through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Second-row seat passengers will two USB ports of their own.

While some manufacturers are getting rid of their native onboard navigation systems, Lexus will retain theirs. The big change will be how their RX will receive updates for the system. Cloud technology will play a huge part in this, as updates will be downloaded to the car from Lexus.

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One thing that owners love about their Lexus RX vehicles is how safe they are. The 2020 RX becomes the first model to get the upgraded Lexus Safety System+ 2.0. In addition to all of the driver assistance features in this safety suite, the newest version now includes Low-light Pedestrian Detection and daytime bicyclist detection, Lane Trace Assist, and Road Sign Assist.

Perhaps the most exciting news about the 2020 RX is that the F Sport is now available with a Performance Package. This upgrade package is designed to improve the driving dynamics of this crossover/SUV. The new package adds a sport-tuned power steering, adaptive variable suspension, air intake, and sound generator, along with Sport + and Custom drive modes. In all, the F Sport receives some needed dampening and drive structure to the overall dynamics of this sporty version of this popular SUV/crossover.

The RX is offered in nine models, including three hybrids – one an F Sport model; another a three-row version. You can still get front-wheel-drive on the V6 models. And, yes, you can choose to go with a three-row RX L.

I got a chance to drive a 2020 RX 450hL around Naperville, Warrenville, and surrounding nearby areas. It is easy to spot the updates, however, Lexus left the core of the vehicle intact. It is a quiet, confident machine made for everyday life – exactly what you expect from an RX.

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Of course, the enthusiast in me would like to see how the RX F Sport Performance Package drives. To see the suspension tweaking and the addition of the Sport S+ mode in the RX 350 F Sport equipped with this package.

In short, the 2020 Lexus RX enters into the brand's 30th anniversary year as a cause to celebrate. It will continue to be a volume seller for Toyota's luxury brand not just because of the updates – but for fulfilling its mission for both loyal and new owners.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicles and some logistics provided by Toyota Motor North America

All photos by Randy Stern

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