Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible couldn’t pull-off the kind of challenge Lexus has with its RX SUV.
You all know the RX. You should do, it’s America’s best-selling luxury sport-ute. By a pretty huge margin. And it has achieved this quite remarkable feat despite having changed little over the past six years.
And, I hasten to add, this sales supremacy has continued despite the RX having a face only a mother could love.
So how has this mid-size sport-ute pulled off such a Mission Impossible-style task? Let me count the ways.
Firstly, Lexus essentially created the luxury SUV segment way back in 1998 with that first, bar-of-soap-shaped, Camry-based model.
And, ever since that initial version, it has continued to lavish the interior with more soft leather and fancy trimmings than a Coach handbag store.
Then there has been the single-minded focus on quality and reliability, backed by year-on-year J.D. Power and Associates dependability and quality awards. Bulletproof doesn’t even come close to describing it.
And despite constant criticisms, mostly from the automotive media, that the RX just wasn’t sporty enough, Lexus stuck with what it knows best – luxury and refinement.
One other reason for the RX’s sales dominance is that Lexus keeps giving owners a reason to go back and buy a new one. Hybrid versions, stretched versions, F-Sport models and a stream of limited edition offerings.
Everything from the Pebble Beach Edition, to the Thundercloud Edition, to the Silversport Edition. And yes, there was a leathery Coach Edition complete with a set of fancy Coach luggage.
Fast forward to today and the latest limited edition RX is the F-Sport Black Line that’s available on the RX 350 and RX 450h. L models too. I’ve just spent a week driving this 350 painted a very jazzy shade of blue that Lexus poetically calls Grecian Water.
Nothing too exciting here. But just enough to divert a buyer’s attention away from the new crop of excellent rivals, like the terrific new 2022 Genesis GV80, Lincoln’s new Nautilus and Aviator, and Acura’s MDX.
With the Black Line RX, you get unique body paint, 20-inch black-painted alloys, a shiny-black surround for that polarizing ‘spindle’ grille, and black paint for the ‘swoop’ along the lower part of the doors. It’s what’s called an ‘Appearance Package’
Slide inside and there are Nuluxe black leather seats with white accent panels and blue-colored stitching, blue stitching around the wheel and shifter, and blue-edging for the carpets. They even throw-in a couple of Lexus-branded Zero Halliburton rollerboard suitcases.
I know. Hardly worth the effort. But it’s another reason for the sales guy to call-up an existing RX customer coming off a three-year lease, or an owner stepping up from Lexus’ smaller NX model. Or someone who just wants a sportier-looking RX.
For me, it was another opportunity to remind myself about all that’s good about this still strong-selling, luxury family hauler.
It’s still as velvety-smooth and refined as ever. While rivals are switching to smaller, typically more frenetic, turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the RX sticks with its Teflon-like V6.
As before, the whispering 3.5-liter motor cranks out a meaty 295 horseys, and coupled to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic, delivers zippy performance with uncanny levels of refinement.
All the F-Sport chassis stiffening and Adaptive Variable Suspension doesn’t make too much of a difference to the RX’s handling. The focus here is still on a cushy-smooth ride, undemanding steering, and civilized road manners. In other words, exactly what the target buyer wants.
But if you’re not looking to be first away from the stoplight, or carve curves like an Andretti, this F-Sport Black Line will give you all the excitement you’ll want.
Lexus has actually just announced a new run of limited edition Black Line models, this time with the choice of White Pearl or Caviar–that’s gray–paint. Though this time, alas, no free luggage.
The 2022 RX350 Black Line starts at $49,450 with the hybrid RX 450h AWD Black Line stickering for $52,150. The longer-wheelbase RX 350L Black Line starts at $52,030 with the hybrid kicking-off at $55,290.
Go get ’em before they’re gone.