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The new Lexus RX is quite a thing in terms of refinement and frugality. The fact this premium luxury SUV has been such a strong seller for the luxury arm of Toyota since inception in 1998 is testament to it being a very well sorted all-rounder. Now into its fifth generation, the RX is hybrid only, which will not only make it exempt from the incoming Road User Chargers which will affect buyers of pure EVs and PHEVs, but will allow Lexus to continue towards its goal of having the entirety of its range being powered by some form of electrification.

I attended the launch of the RX last year and if you follow my automotive ramblings on Tarmac Life you will remember my thoughts on the RX350h Limited which dropped a couple of weeks back. Now it’s time for “Part 2” and going whole hog with the most performance focused Lexus RX out there, the new RX500h F-Sport.

Being the flagship of the RX family, the F-Sport sports the biggest price tag, namely a snip under $150k, or $149,800. The clues that this RX is about blending that aforementioned refinement and frugality and mixing it with some sporting prowess are obvious. From a style perspective, you only need look at the matte blacked out 21-inch alloys on Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, blacked out Lexus F-Sport spindle grill, black mirrors and accents fore and aft, and plenty of F-Sport badges to get the gist.

Whereas the RX350h is more about classical elegance, there is nothing subtle about the F-Sport in terms of looks. Plus, the F-Sport is unique to the 500, so it’s F-Sport or nothing if you want the flagship RX in your life.

The biggest allusion to performance comes from within. The RX500h F-Sport gets is power from a new 2.4L turbocharged four cylinder engine coupled to an electric motor driving all four wheels via a Lexus DIRECT4 AWD system and a six speed automatic transmission. As a result, the numbers speak for themselves. The RX500h F-Sport is the most powerful “Radiant Crossover” yet with a combined 273kW and 460Nm of torque.

The DIRECT4 AWD ensures the maximum amount of torque is sent each wheel and dynamic rear wheel steering means the rear wheels can steer or counter steer whether at lower or higher speeds to ensure the F-Sport can achieve the tightest turning circle or have the ability to change direction as sharply as possible. Small wonder this variant of the RX was developed extensively at Toyota’s Shimoyama test track and can crack the sprint to 100km/h from a standstill in 6.2 seconds.

The only trade off with the extra poke is the RX500h is not quite as frugal as the RX350h, with combined fuel figures of 7.2L/100km. Even when trying to drive as gently and as economically as possible, I seldom saw fuel averages drop below 9.8L/100km.

Naturally the inside is identical to the RX350h in just about every way. The Lexus “Tazuna” design philosophy is in full swing here but there are added F-Sport details like badging, a sports steering wheel, brushed aluminium pedals and F-Sport embossed leather and ultrasuede seats which are both heated and ventilated. I still maintain the new RX has some of the most comfortable seats in this class.

You get all the same fruit as the RX350h as standard including that new 14-inch infotainment system Qi wireless charging, 360-degree reversing camera, three zone air-con with Lexus Climate Concierge, power boot lid, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, E-Latch one touch door handles, the latest generation Lexus bladescan headlights, and all the Lexus Safety System+ goodies you could imagine such as lane tracing assist, adaptive cruise control and curve speed reduction.

Extra kit unique to the F-Sport includes a full panoramic roof and Lexus Teammate Advanced Park, the latter is dead handy for assisting the drive in finding a space. You also get a very responsive driver monitor system. A little too responsive for my liking as it start beeping the moment I took my eyes off the road for what must have felt like a second.

When you are at the helm of the RX500h F-Sport, it certainly becomes abundantly clear the difference between it and the RX350h is like night and day. That turbo four pot completely transforms the driving characteristics, leaving the F-Sport feeling almost like a different car.

It feels much more responsive and that extra torque with those extra 100kW provide some impressive straight line grunt, something which you don’t expect at first. It even makes a nice rumble from low down to high up in the rev range. Like the RX350h, you certainly feel the 2,750kg weight, but the RX500h just feels so much livelier and eager to get going.

That six-speed automatic is also feels much more responsive and serves up much crisper and more immediate shifts than the conventional E-CVT. You can also chuck it into corners with greater confidence and when you are finished clowning around, you can still munch up the miles by using the F-Sport as a motorway cruiser. With that marvellous 21-speaker Mark Levinson sound system set just right, the world is drowned out and you can spiritedly barrell to your destination in comfort.

Aside from it being a tad thirstier than the RX350h, the RX500h is the RX to go for. While it commands a considerable premium over the regular RX350, and in the range of $150k you are facing some tough competition from Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, the RX500h F-Sport has an appeal and is easily the most fun Lexus SUV out there in my view. An already immensely capable luxury SUV has just become even more desirable.

RATING: 8/10

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