We’re coming up on nearly a decade since Lexus first officially announced its attempt to take on the Ms, AMGs and RSs of the automotive world. Toyota’s premium brand selected F as its official designation for performance-oriented variants of its well-built but staid vehicles. Until the arrival of an LC-F at some future date, the RC-F can arguably be called the current Lexus performance herald.
For most of its nearly two decade history, the midsize RX crossover has been the best seller in the Lexus lineup by a fairly wide margin. Like other Lexi prior to the current generation, it also had generally inoffensive, but uninspired design. That all changed in 2015 with the debut of the fourth-generation RX including the hybrid RX450h F Sport that I recently drove. Whether you like the new design direction or not, this latest RX is at least less likely to get lost in a crowd.
Through the 1970s and early-1980s, three Japanese companies, Toyota, Nissan and Honda upended the American automotive industry. With the help of lower manufacturing costs in Japan and favorable exchange rates, they entered at the low end of the market and offered consumers, affordable, higher-quality and more efficient cars than they could get from Detroit. After gradually filling in their lineups from the bottom up, by the end of the decade, all three were ready to expand into more premium offerings. After Honda launched Acura in 1986, Toyota and Nissan brought us Lexus and Infiniti three years later. Thanks mainly to the flagship Lexus LS sedan, the premium car market has never been the same and I recently spent a week with the latest edition of the LS460 AWD to see how it has progressed in 25 years.
In the mid-1990s the original Lexus RX kicked off the wave of luxury utility vehicles that has now infected pretty much every premium brand short of Ferrari and McLaren. In time, Lexus added rebadged versions of the Toyota Sequoia and Land Cruiser large SUVs and has now fleshed out the lineup with the compact NX crossover. The addition of the NX has inflated Lexus utility sales to the point where they have nearly overtaken car sales, a promise that will likely be completed when the new RX hits the streets this fall. While we wait on the 2016 RX, I got to spend a week driving it’s little brother, the hybrid electric NX300h.
After debuting in 1989 with two sedans, the Camry-based ES250 and the big rear-wheel drive LS400, Lexus began to grow its lineup in 1991 with the sleek and stylish SC400. The original SC had a nine-year run before being replaced by a the bloated and lifeless second-generation model which is best forgotten. Now, after a suitable cooling off period, Lexus has returned to its roots with a new coupe more in keeping with the original and it gets a new RC badge. Does the 2015 RC350 F-Sport take Lexus in a new direction? Read on.
Scan the model lineups of every premium automotive brand available today and it would be hard to fathom that as recently as 1997, the luxury crossover utility vehicle didn’t exist. That was the year that Toyota’s premium Lexus brand launched the original RX300 into what marketers like to call a white-space segment and spawned a revolution. The RX is now into the waning years of its third-generation but it remains a segment leader and I recently spent a week driving one.