Lexus RX 450h review
The Lexus RX SUV uses proven Toyota hybrid technology to provide a smooth, luxurious drive
- Well equipped
- Great reputation for reliability
- Cheaper BiK tax than diesel alternatives
- Not fun to drive
- Still relatively thirsty
- PHEV alternatives have lower BiK
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Lexus and the RX SUV have been in the hybrid game for a long time, but the latest generation RX received a facelift and a raft of other improvements, particularly when it comes to the infotainment system. Despite all that, many of the car's weak points remain, and now after 16 years of the RX using the hybrid technology first developed for the Toyota Prius, it faces stiff competition from plug-in hybrid (PHEV) SUVs like the Volvo XC60, Mercedes GLC, Range Rover Velar and Jaguar F-Pace.
Lexus is owned by Toyota, so naturally there's some sharing of technology. The key difference between the RX and the Prius, which has a petrol engine and electric motor working together to power the front wheels, is that the RX has a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine driving the front wheels only through a CVT gearbox. One electric motor helps the engine drive the fronts and another on the rear axle drives the rears – so the car is effectively four-wheel drive. The battery is stored under the boot floor and is charged by a combination of the engine and regenerative braking.
Relying exclusively on engine and brake charging for its battery means the RX can’t store nearly as much power as those rivals, so it can’t offer electric-only commuting or the bigger company-car tax savings associated with zero-emissions driving. Yet for higher-mileage users, the fact you don’t need to charge the RX from a plug is a major benefit, and the combination of 3.5-litre V6 engine plus electric-motor assistance means performance is punchy when you need it.
All versions of the RX 450h come with five doors and share the eye-catching ‘floating roof’ and wide spindle-shaped grille that help the car to stand out from the crowd. There are two body lengths: the standard 450h is a five-seater, while the RX 450h L accommodates seven thanks to a longer boot with more upright tailgate, which allows an extra row of seating in the rear.
Both the RX and RX L ranges kick off with an entry-level model that gets a 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen, six USB ports around the cabin and smartphone integration using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the Lexus Safety System+ active safety package, a powered tailgate, a wireless smartphone charger, heated front seats (RX only), Tahara synthetic leather upholstery and eight-way power-adjustable front seats with two-way lumbar adjustment on the driver’s seat.
The standard specification can be upgraded with a 'Premium Pack', which adds smooth leather upholstery, front-seat ventilation, hands-free tailgate operation with a kick sensor, a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming and reverse-tilting functions for the door mirrors and an auto-retracting seat and steering wheel (with memory function).
For the RX L, the package also includes integrated front seat heaters. The F Sport is offered in five-seat RX guise only and has an F Sport spindle grille, aluminium pedals, F Sport seats and steering wheel and adaptive suspension.
At the top of the range, the RX and RX L Takumi get power-folding heated rear seats, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, a colour head-up display, 360-degree camera, semi-aniline leather upholstery, 10-way powered front seat adjustment, memory settings for the front seats, steering wheel and door mirrors. The RX L Takumi can also be ordered in a six-seat layout, with two individual 'captain's chairs' in place of the regular three-seat second-row bench.
On the road, the RX majors on comfort and refinement, which will appeal to anyone unimpressed by the stiff and sporty characteristics of some of its rivals. Audi, BMW and Range Rover SUVs all offer sharper, more responsive handling, and – despite suspension tweaks on the facelifted car – the Lexus still leans more in corners.
The ride is smooth and comfortable, though, and the plush and beautifully finished interior – loaded with ‘extras’ even in entry-level trim – means driver and passengers alike will feel cosseted. Wind and road noise is nicely suppressed, but the engine revs will soar noisily for all but the subtlest of throttle inputs.
The big Lexus is as roomy as you’d expect, too, apart from in the rear, where boot space is more constrained than most SUV rivals due to the batteries under the floor. It wins points back as the electric-motor-driven rear axle means there’s no transmission tunnel encroaching in the rear footwells. There’s a comprehensive array of safety features, including 10 airbags, and the RX 450h performs well in Euro NCAP crash tests. Lexus reliability is the stuff of legend, too.
In short, the RX is an attractive proposition for buyers who like its eye-catching looks, luxury and refinement, and want a car that’s more environmentally sound than a traditional diesel SUV. For more detailed look at the Lexus RX, read on for the rest of our in-depth review...
In This Review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Lexus RX SUV uses proven Toyota hybrid technology to provide a smooth, luxurious drive
- 2MPG & CO2 emissionsThe Lexus RX 450h is reasonably economical for a large SUV, but it's far from a class leader
- 3Running costsThe Lexus RX 450h makes the most sense as a company car, although plug-in hybrids offer lower costs
- 4Engines, drive & performanceThe Lexus RX 450h is a luxurious and relaxing cruiser, but rival SUVs are more fun to drive
- 5Interior & comfortConservative styling doesn’t detract from the high-quality and well equipped Lexus RX 450h interior
- 6Practicality & boot spaceSheer size can make the RX 450h a handful on the road, but there’s loads of interior space
- 7Reliability & safetyThe Lexus RX 450h offers legendary reliability and a comprehensive safety package