SEA ISLAND, Ga. — If you are a fan of the RX, you are going to absolutely love the all-new 2010, next generation luxury crossover from Lexus.
Which is good, considering that’s exactly what Lexus had in mind when designing and engineering the new version of its best-selling nameplate.
With brand loyalty numbers soaring above the 60 percent mark, company officials believe most of its sales for the new RX, which begin arriving in dealerships this week, will come from existing RX owners looking to capture the new safety and technology features available in the vehicle they already love.
Currently, there are nearly 800,000 RX units on the road.
With more than 80,000 RX units sold in calendar year 2008, Lexus is confident the new model will generate North American sales above the 85,000 mark — even during the economic recession. Prior to the global economic crisis, RX sales topped 100,000 units in 2007.
During a product launch held last week in Georgia, I had a chance to log seat time in both the 2010 RX 350 and the RX 450h, which will arrive later this spring.
The 2010 RX is slightly larger than its predecessor, and thanks to a new rear double wishbone suspension system, offers a great deal more cargo room in back — more than 40 cubic feet.
While staying true to what customers love about RX, Lexus has incorporated a number of new technology and safety features that will enhance the RX experience.
Mindful of the global economy, they also found a way to add value by incorporating more than $2,000 of standard equipment while bringing the 2010 RX to the market at a price $900 lower than the previous model.
Available in front- or all-wheel drive configuration, the 2010 RX 350 has a base price starting at $36,800 for front-wheel drive, $38,200 for all-wheel drive.
With 10 options and nine available packages, Lexus is expecting the average equipped RX 350 will be in the $41,000-$44,000 range.
Pricing has not yet been announced for the hybrid RX 450h.
Lexus officials are projecting 80 percent of RX sales will be for the gas engine RX 350, produced at the company’s manufacturing facility in Canada. Projections call for the remaining 20 percent of sales opting for the hybrid RX 450h, produced in Japan.
In addition to improved visibility, standard safety features on the 2010 RX include 10 airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, vehicle stability control system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, hill-start assist control, new active headrest for front seat passengers, automatic high beam headlights and SmartAccess keyless entry with electro-biological sensors on the front doors that allow entry and locking without the need for a key or fob in your hand.
Optional safety features include HID lighting, a backup camera system with monitor in the center console for models equipped with navigation or in the rearview mirror for models without navigation system, a head-up display unit and a wide-view side monitor system using side mounted cameras (only for models equipped with navigation).
The new RX 350 is powered by an enhanced 3.5-liter V-6 engine delivering more horsepower and fuel economy. Rated at 275 horsepower/205 lbs.-ft.torque), it is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission. Rated as an Ultra Low Emissions vehicle, it has an EPA fuel economy of 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway.
The RX 450h incorporates an Atkinson-cycle Lexus Hybrid Drive with a next-generation hybrid power control inverter.
Rated as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, it generates a combined output of 295 horsepower while delivering an EPA fuel economy rating of 30 mpg city, 27 mpg highway.
When Lexus first introduced the RX for the 1999 model year, it created the luxury crossover segment. Today, there are 20 nameplates in a highly competitive segment.
The 2010 builds on the RX heritage with elegant styling changes, nicely appointed interior and extremely easy to use technology.
During the product launch, I found ride, handling and comfort very impressive.
If you are a fan of the RX, the new model will knock your socks off.
Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for 20years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.