The Lexus RX - aha!
Have you noticed that Lexus - 'the Japanese Mercedes' - is currently trying very hard to transform its brand image from gently ageing Alan Partridge jokes to super hip and trendy? You can see why…
To help with this, the Japanese marque roped in the assistance of close friend of T3 will.i.am when launching its latest NX compact SUV and had the internet ablaze when I exclusively attempted to ride its hover board concept - a move designed to get the youth of today buzzing about the brand. And probably calling it "well sick".
The bottom line is Lexus wants you to believe it is no longer the Japanese Mercedes and instead draw your eyes towards its refreshed line-up of stylish and forward thinking vehicles.
The 15-year-old RX is the latest model to receive the new design language, updated interior tech and improved engines.
So I boarded a plane to Portland, Oregon to test-drive an early pre-production model and decide whether north Norfolk's favourite early morning DJ really would disapprove.
Anyone investing in a premium SUV will be looking for an interior that's well equipped but the big Lexus really puts tech at the forefront. Literally: there's a massive 12.3-inch colour display that sits in the centre of the dash, controlled by the slightly odd mouse set-up familiar from other recent Lexi.
Rather than a track pad or a rotary dial, Lexus opts for a little rubber nubbin that moves a cursor around a screen. It takes a while to get used to and can prove quite fiddly when driving, but it does the job.
There's also a heads up display that's projected onto the windscreen in front of you for speed and navigational information, plus the system offers the usual Bluetooth and online connectivity when paired to a smartphone.
As this was a pre-production model, the menus were all in Japanese and some of the tech functionality was not up and running properly, so a more thorough test will have to be reserved for a later date, or once I've learned Japanese.
Brave new styling
New Lexi are noted for their massive, snarling grilles and the RX is no exception. In fact this is arguably one of the largest iterations of the marque's new spindle grille yet. Its gaping fascia makes up the majority of the front end and gives the car the appearance of a basking shark mid-feed, or perhaps a robot Mick Jagger.
The flanks and rear haven't escaped the designer's pen either, with sharp creases and indents featuring on almost every panel. Takayuki Katsuda, chief engineer of the RX, actually revealed that his team's original designs weren't mad enough - although he may not have put it quite like that - and the head honcho at Toyota told them to let their imagination run even wilder.
It's worked, because the RX doesn't look like anything else currently on sale in the premium SUV sector. I'll let you decide whether that is a good thing or not.
Rewind ten years and the Lexus RX400h was the first luxury SUV to receive hybrid technology. The latest model celebrates this legacy, with the range-topping RX 450h packing a 3.5-litre direct-injected V6 petrol engine and a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor.
This isn't a plug-in hybrid though. Instead, those giant battery packs are charged by kinetic regeneration under braking and deceleration. The result is a combined fuel economy of 54mpg and the ability to enjoy all-electric motoring around town, like a milk man.
The V6 is generally sweet and when combined with the electric motor it offers 309bhp and 335Nm of torque, making overtaking manoeuvres a doddle. It's not particularly refined though, and our test model sounded quite rough under hard acceleration, although this could be the actuator under the bonnet attempting to sound sporty.
Overall, the car seems more at home cruising the long motorway stretches rather than being booted around country lanes. It's also beautifully silent when pootling around town, thanks to that electric motor and battery power.
A smaller RX200t will also be available to us Brits, packing a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine when it arrives in January next year. It will also come in two or four-wheel drive versions.
It practically drives itself
Fully autonomous driving isn't quite with us yet but the Lexus RX provides a glimpse into the future thanks to a plethora of self-driving systems. Just crank up the dynamic radar cruise control, fire up the lane assist setting and sit back in those plush leather chairs as the RX wafts you to your destination with minimal fuss.
Handily, the vehicle will actually warn you to place your hands on the steering wheel if you accidentally start nodding off, which is not impossible, given the comfort levels of the RX's cruising.
My test route probably didn't help matters, as the 55mph freeways of Oregon only added to the car's sense of lethargy. While Porsche, Audi and BMW will sell you a posh SUV that can somehow attack a race circuit despite their gargantuan footprints, Lexus is still very much gunning for the comfort angle.
Still, while I suspect petrol-heads will find this a bit polite, I'm happy to admit that not all buyers want to drive like their trousers are on fire.
Lexus RX: verdict and spec
Lexus has made a huge improvement to the general fit and finish of its most recent vehicles and the RX's cabin is a truly sumptuous place to while away the hours.
However, it isn't the most exhilarating SUV on sale at the moment and the interior tech and menu graphics feel like they're lifted from a Manga comic compared to the sleek systems found in European rivals.
That said, it's perfectly comfortable and the hybrid system is great for those who often drive shorter journeys around town, thus benefiting from all-electric motoring.
Lexus is making a bold statement with this car and the performance backs it up. The fact that the styling does the talking rather than will.i.am is an added bonus.