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Couple of Lexus SUVs with varied personalities are handed over to us in the middle of a boulder scape, must be interesting this, finding out what they are all about

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It isn’t every day that I find myself trying to choose between cars that are worth several crores and I certainly haven’t found myself in the presence of India’s newest luxury nameplate – Lexus. But, today isn’t every day and there isn’t one, but a pair of Lexus’ parked in front of me. Here, out in the boulder-scape of Ramnagar, close to Bangalore, we’ve got the LX and the RX to play around with. They may share the same badge on the grille, but they are as far opposed as any two SUVs can be, both in terms of technology and personality. Yes, Toyota held off for a long time before finally giving the nod to their luxury arm to begin India operations and now they need to sort out duty related issues that completely built units face. For now, they are fairly expensive, but they do afford you a certain degree of exclusivity. How do they fare in the real world? Read on to find out.

Photography: Rajeev Gaikwad

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Design
Like I’d said before, these two SUVs are a far apart as they could possibly be. A quick glance in their general direction is enough to confirm this theory. While both cars have massive grilles plastered up front, its only the general shape of it that they share. The LX 450d is every bit an old-school burly SUV with squared off lines and massive panels to make it even more imposing a form. It is massive, standing more than five metres in length, and is tall as well. It does get LED treatment on its lamps and a rather menacing looking toothy grille at the front. The RX on the other hand is a proper contemporary design with its swooping roofline and stretched back headlamps. Even the grille gets a slicker mesh treatment which has far less visual bulk. Although the RX looks smaller, it isn’t exactly compact. It is a shade under the five-metre mark and weighs over two tonnes.

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Interiors
Settle into the cabin and you get a taste of what a Lexus is about. Inside the LX, the design is more traditional. There are a fair number of buttons to control a myriad of functions, including a dedicated cluster just for off-road use. The dashboard is a mix of soft touch plastics, leather wrapped bits and wood inserts. If there is a function you can think of, there is a button dedicated to it. The seats are vented and gives you the option of cooling things down or warming bits of you, as the weather demands. There’s a massive screen that sits at the top of the centre console, but unfortunately you can control it using only a rather fidgety joystick.

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Interiors
The RX’s cabin is less traditional and looks pretty cool with its contrasting red leather upholstery. Stylish bits including the steering and the centre console make the RX very distinct. Don’t forget the drilled aluminium pedals and the instrument cluster that changes colours when you go from relaxed driving in Eco mode to crisper throttle responses in Sport mode. This one doesn’t come with the off-road gizmos that the LX gets, instead it is about smooth on-road performance.

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Engines and performance
It’s not just the styling front that these two cars are poles apart on, it is in what sits under the hood too. Traditional as the LX seems on the outside, it is on the inside too. A good old mammoth 4.5-litre, V8, turbocharged diesel motor powers the four-wheels in the LX. It makes a modest 261bhp, but more importantly it produces an impressive 650Nm of twist to get a move on with the near three tonne SUV. In fact, it does well enough to dispense power via the six-speed automatic transmission to propel it to 100kph in a little over eight seconds. Yes, it isn’t the quickest thing you’ll ever drive, but then that’s not what it is about – the LX is about comfort and off-road ability.

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Engines and performance
However, the RX is from a different era in comparison. Unlike the LX, it is a Lexus from the current generation and is powered by a hybrid motor. There are two electric motors – one at the front and one at the back – working in conjunction with a 3.5-litre, V6 petrol to produce 308bhp. It is good enough to propel the RX to 100kph in 7.7 seconds, yes, that is still better than the LX. Yes, the RX is lighter, but it is the initial burst of torque from the electric motors that helps it achieve this sort of acceleration. While, it cannot match up to the LX in terms of torque, it does manage excellent efficiency thanks to the option of driving in full electric mode and using its batteries to improve on its drinking habits as far as petrol is concerned.

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Ride and handling
While horsepower is all good, it is down to what the cars feel like on the road that matters. While the LX450d may be an old-school SUV, it does have some bits sorted out like none other. I believed the RX had good ride quality as I drove around the Bengaluru- Mysore highway and then onto the backroads around Ramnagar. It’s got a slight firm edge, but it still manages to soak up most of what the surface has to throw at it, but then I stepped into the LX and it simply blew me away. It has an incredibly impressive ride quality and nothing really manages to get it bent out of shape. In fact, it even remains comfortable while going off-road and that is pretty difficult to do. On the flip side, the LX does suffer from a fair amount of body roll while going around corners thanks to its high centre of gravity and sizeable bulk. That isn’t much of a problem for the RX though. It manages reasonable ride and is pretty good around corners too. Yes, the batteries make the RX450h heavy, but it also gives it great weight distribution. It would’ve been nice to have a more communicative steering, but these cars have an obvious bend towards comfort.

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Conclusion
There is absolutely no doubt that these two cars are meant for different purposes and they have been carefully designed to deliver these experiences. If it is an old-school hulk that your heart desires, the LX is the one for you. It wafts over broken roads, has a great amount of space and packs in an old school diesel motor with plenty of grunt. More than everything else, the LX is pretty much unparalleled in its off-road ability. However, how willing would you be to take a car that costs roughly 3, crores on the road, out on a dirt trail? Well, it is most likely that you won’t and the LX will never really get to show you what it does the best.

That isn’t so much of a problem with the RX though. This one is all about style and finesse, things it manages even when it is parked in your driveway. Contrast leather in the cabin and a hard working hybrid system makes this RX450h a far more contemporary car. However, it’s transmission isn’t gratifying and the dash board on both these cars need an immediate upgrade to be brought up to date with its rivals. At 1.3 crores, the RX is certainly more appealing of the two and serves a bit of style statement too.

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Lexus LX 450d

Pros: Ride comfort, off-road ability
Cons: Expensive, out dated dashboard

Verdict: Comfortable interiors and immense off-road ability. However, the price tag is difficult to look past especially considering the interface that feels outdated.

Price: Rs 2.21 crore (ex-showroom Delhi)

Dimensions (LxWxH): 5080x1980x1865mm
Engine: 4.5-litre, V8, diesel
Power: 261bhp; Torque: 650Nm
0-100kph: 8.6 sec; Top Speed: 210kph
Weight: 2840kg; Fuel tank: 93 litres

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Lexus RX 450h F Sport

Pros: Distinct design and style, efficient motor
Cons: Needs a more interactive dash, gearbox

Verdict: Gets you the exclusivity that a Lexus can at a less demanding price tag. Would’ve been great if there was a better dash board and gearbox to go with the experience.

Price: Rs 1.28 crore (ex-showroom Delhi)

Dimensions (LxWxH): 4890x1895x1685mm
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, petrol - hybrid
Power: 308bhp (petrol + electric motors)
0-100kph: 7.7 sec; Top Speed: 200kph
Weight: 2210kg; Fuel tank: 65 litres

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