A look at the first premium-badged car-based SUV through photos
During the 1990s, SUVs were mainly built on body-on-frame platforms shared with trucks. That meant sacrificing ride quality, handling, and a number of other desirable traits found in cars. Toward the end of the decade, however, Lexus proved with the first-generation Lexus RX that you can have a vehicle that combines qualities of a conventional car with a high seating position, greater ground clearance, and the utility of a rear liftgate. That original RX unibody crossover was luxuriously appointed, comfortable, practical, and reliable. In fact, its ability to blend the qualities of cars and utility vehicles into a single package helped it win the inaugural MotorTrend SUV of the Year award.
Since its arrival, the Lexus RX has been a very popular model in the brand’s lineup. The crossover was so well-liked that Lexus manufactured it in two plants for its second generation, one in Japan and another in North America, to satisfy demand. It created a whole new class of vehicle and eventually led competitors from Europe and North America to join the fray and take on Lexus. The Lexus RX was also one of the first luxury crossovers to offer a hybrid variant ahead of everyone else, giving customers excellent fuel economy without sacrificing power and all-weather traction. Lexus even added a spicier-looking F Sport model and, recently, a three-row variant to expand the RX’s appeal to a broader audience.
Now halfway through its fourth generation, the Lexus RX has evolved once again, sporting a futuristic look while maintaining its key selling points and adding new features. Explosive growth and consumer demand for crossovers, however, means competition is plenty; there are many strong entries, including the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, and Volvo XC90. The refreshed 2020 Lexus RX brings much-needed improvements to the brand’s best-seller in order to keep it a compelling option in an increasingly crowded segment. Check out the gallery below to see how the Lexus RX has evolved since its introduction in the 1999 model year.