December 4, 2008 Lexus debuted the replacement for both the current RX 400h hybrid and the RX 350 petrol engine models at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. The new RX 450h will replace both models in the UK to produce an all-hybrid RX range, while in North America a non-hybrid RX 350 will also be offered. Both the RX 350 and RX 450h are propelled by a 3.5-liter 6-cylinder petrol engine which provides 205kW (275hp) with the 450h’s augmented by an electric motor to provide a combined output of 220kW (295hp).

Both models sport upgraded interiors with more high tech features such as a voice recognition that allows everything from the sat nav to the heating to be controlled via voice control. If voice control is a bit too Knight Rider for you then the cars’ systems can also be controlled using the “Remote Touch” controller, which is being likened to a touch-based computer mouse which allows for the level of haptic feedback, or touch sensitivity able to be fine tuned.

Optional extras for the Japanese built 350 and 450h include LED headlights with automatic high beam switching, 19-inch wheels, radar cruise control and a new side-view monitor which uses a camera mounted in the passenger-side mirror to allow the driver to check for passenger side obstacles. Like other Lexus models, a high end Mark Levinson surround sound audio system and dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system is also available.

The safety conscious can rest assured with both models boasting 10 airbags as standard plus active headrests, while driving aids include vehicle stability control, hill assist control, and an adaptive front light system. Also available is the optional Pre-Collison System (PCS), which Lexus claims, “relies on millimeter-wave radar technology to recognize a possible frontal collision and primes the brake assist and retracts the driver's and front passenger's seat-belt in anticipation of the crash".

No prices yet, but the new 2010 model Lexus RX 350 is due to go on sale in North America from February 2009, followed shortly thereafter by the RX 450h with a “late summer” date given for the RX 450h’s European release.

Darren Quick