Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s Lexus Div. takes the wraps off its new RX cross/utility vehicles here today at the Los Angeles auto show.

Both the standard and hybrid-electric vehicle for the ’10 model year retain their 3.5L V-6 engines.

However, for the second-generation RX HEV, dubbed RX 450h, a more efficient inverter is combined with the 3.5L V-6, helping boost horsepower 27 over the outgoing RX 400h’s 268 hp.

To improve the efficiency of Lexus’ Hybrid Drive technology, an exhaust-heat recovery system has been added, reducing warm-up time, while a cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system lessens engine pumping losses, Lexus says.

The new, third-generation RX 350 gets an additional 5 hp from the ’09 model, as well as a 6-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous 5-speed automatic.

The RX HEV retains an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.

The RX has grown in every dimension from the ’09 model, gaining 1 in. (2.5 cm) in its wheelbase, 0.4 ins. (1 cm) in height and 1.6 ins. (4.1 cm) in both length and width.

With the optional towing package, both the gasoline-engine and hybrid-electric RXs still can pull 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg), Lexus says.

A double-wishbone rear suspension is new for both models, allowing for 5% more cargo volume and easier loading, the auto maker says.

Lexus-first technologies debuting in the ’10 RX series include an optional hard-disk drive navigation system featuring a “Remote Touch” controller the auto maker says “is as natural to the driver’s hand as a computer mouse.”

And, as first reported by Ward’s, the RX will offer standard voice recognition with casual-speech functionality.

A class-leading 10 airbags are standard, Lexus says, while optional safety technologies include a pre-collision system, intelligent adaptive front lighting and an automatic high-beam system. The latter switches beams automatically from high to low when a vehicle is oncoming.

Also optional on the RX is a wide-angle, side-view monitor, which transmits an image to the navigation screen on the passenger side of the vehicle via a camera placed below the side-view mirror.

Lexus describes the ’10 RX’s appearance as “strong” and “powerful,” with a pronounced shoulder.

The RX 450h receives unique badging and an exclusive grille design and front bumper.

The ’10 RX 350 goes on sale in the U.S. in February, while the RX 450h hits U.S. Lexus dealerships in the spring.

Ward’s data shows sales of the RX series down 22.5% through October in the U.S., with deliveries of the RX 400h off 3.5% from like-2007. Lexus’ total U.S. sales were down 18.3% from year-ago to 220,502 units.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com