Special Coverage

Auto Interiors Conference

Lexus interior designers handily bring a sense of calm and order inside the new ’10 RX 450h hybrid cross/utility vehicle – no small feat considering all the technology inside.

Contributing to the serenity of this all-new interior are enough artistic flourishes to warrant a special exhibit at the Guggenheim.

Take the dramatic swoops and bulges that make up the instrument panel. The lack of symmetry and the absence of a conventionally arrayed center stack make for a visually arresting experience that simultaneously soothes and engages.

For this unique achievement, Ward’si editors bestow on the new RX a special-achievement award for Design Harmony in the 2009 Interior of the Year competition.

It’s more than the instrument panel that impresses Ward’s judges with the RX’s artistic nature. Throughout the interior, the vehicle demonstrates its mission to introduce a new aesthetic that relies not on straight lines that intersect at right angles but instead on unconventional shapes that serve as strong design cues.

A shining example is the door panel, which has grown predictable over the years in too many vehicles. But in the new RX, the upper part of the 2-tone panel is trimmed to resemble the wing of a bird in flight.

The color scheme contributes to the feeling of tranquility, with ivory as the dominant shade, beautifully accented with deep grayish brown. Supple surfaces abound inside the RX – even on the headliner, where Lexus uses a suede-like fabric.

The use of glossy cherry-tone wood trim is restrained but well placed on the steering wheel, door trim, shifter and center console.

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Enabling the clutter-free look on the dashboard is the new remote-touch device in the center console that functions much like a computer mouse and controls the stereo and heating/air conditioning. The flat, joystick-like knob allows the driver to control numerous vehicle functions displayed on a menu on the navigation screen.

“This is a very well thought out interior,” Ward’s Dealer Business Editor Steve Finlay writes on his score sheet.

“I like the beige/black/wood scheme,” says Ward’s Associate Editor Byron Pope of the pre-production tester. “It seems like it would be a mish-mash, but it works – very pleasing to the eye.”

The previous-generation RX was a groundbreaking vehicle that was wildly successful for Lexus, but the interior sorely needed updating.

The new RX fits the bill handsomely and sets a new standard for artistic achievement within the automotive interior.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com