20.9.2018Lexus RX 450h review
The Lexus RX is well established as a large SUV, and one that offers a hybrid powertrain for potential buyers to choose. The Japanese firm has given the RX a bit of a refresh, so NGC has given the RX450h a drive to see how it does.
Review by Chris Lilly
Underpinning the RX450h is a 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine, supported by two electric motors - one on each axle. Combined, these produce 313 hp for the four-wheel drive system to deal with, all put through an e-CVT gearbox. The performance figures come in at 7.7 seconds for the 0-62mph time, before a top speed of 124 mph is possible. It's not lightning quick then, but there should be more than enough performance for most drivers. The instant torque from the electric motors means pick up is surprisingly quick for such a large car, though the CVT transmission does create a fair old racket when pushing on hard. It's the only fly in the ointment for what is a relatively quick yet very refined car, as the RX450h is excellent at wafting around on almost any road type. The hybrid system has been developed extensively over the years and is now a very good one, allowing the electric motors to take much of the strain in normal driving conditions. It's been well balanced between performance and economy too, so the RX doesn't feel sluggish, yet at the same time, you feel efficiency hasn't been compromised.
The RX is a very comfortable car, and one that's curiously characterful in terms of driving experience. It will pitch and roll a bit if cornering with enthusiasm, but this means that speed bumps, motorways, car parks, and the like are all tackled with ease. It's surprisingly engaging too, with precise steering and suspension that doesn't remind one of land yachting. It's still no performance SUV, matching the powertrain in this regard, but it's all the better for it. As a comfortable and relaxing way to get from A-B, there are few to match it in its class, and whether it takes on cruising along at motorway speeds, or attacking the urban jungle, the RX450h performs strongly. The ride was no doubt helped by the Adaptive Variable Suspension, standard on the test model, which allows for different characteristics depending on the circumstances. Rough surfaces will see the suspension switch to a softer setting for example, while faster driving sees the damping firmed up for increased body control.
This latest version of the RX has had a few styling tweaks, bringing an added sharpness to the design. The large grille and 'triple-L' headlights are the dominant features at the front, while the back has received new LED lights clusters, and the rear pillars have been blacked out to give the impression of a floating roof. Nothing dramatic has been done to the design, but the changes all work well, and keep the RX looking sharp. It's one of the better-looking large SUVs in my book, with only the Volvo XC90 topping it in the style stakes. The creases and cuts in the bodywork don't inhibit interior space either, as the cabin is large and spacious. The boot isn't as large as some rivals' efforts, but it will be plenty big enough for most, and can cope with a family holiday away with no problems. There's space in the rear for three adults - though the central passenger sits higher than the outside two - and those seats can be slid forwards or backwards, and the seat backs reclined. Those up front get acres of space to stretch out into, and the Lexus seats are extremely comfortable, even over long distances.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The interior looks a class act, with an analogue clock a neat touch but an unusual one these days. There is a large infotainment screen sitting (somehow) both on top of and recessed into the dashboard, and the number of buttons has been kept fairly low too. The design of the dash helps accentuate the car's width thanks to plenty of horizontal lines, while the trim used to top the transmission tunnel adds length and a beautiful finish to an area regularly used. The steering wheel could be accused of being a little over decorated with controls, but it's about par these days, and the new digital dial is easy to read, with a large digital display for other bits of information. Everything feels well built and with top quality materials, and the cabin is a great place in which to drive long distances. The infotainment system is controlled by a slightly fiddly mouse-pad, which takes time to get used to, but other than that, the controls fall intuitively to hand. There are a few shortcut buttons at least, and the drive mode select is a good one to use.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The 20-inch F Sport alloys fitted to the test model mean that the official fuel economy is quoted at 47.9 MPG and CO2 emissions at 134 g/km. Smaller wheels will see those switch to 48.7 MPG and 132 g/km CO2. Essentially, the figures promise diesel levels of fuel economy but with fewer of the pollutants and air quality issues associated with derv units. After racking up a large number of miles in the RX450h, I averaged 40.5 MPG, and that's with a variety of driving styles and environments experienced. It's a good figure for a car this size, and one that will tempt a number of buyers to hybrid from diesel alternatives. Tax is rated at £440 for years 2-6 thanks to the OTR coming in over the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold. The First Year Rate is £195 but included in the OTR, and both rates include the £10 Alternative Fuel Discount.
The hybrid system used on the RX450h is one of the latest to be developed by Lexus, and uses an engine with enhanced features to improve efficiency. The two electric motors provide drive with no support a fair amount of the time, and the Lexus - like most electrified models - car recharge the battery under braking. There are both EV and Eco modes for the driver to select which will hold the RX450h in electric mode for as long as there's charge in the former, and reduce throttle response in the latter. According to our calculations, the Lexus RX450h tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 51.
Prices for the RX are pretty high, but there is a sense of value for money thanks to high levels of equipment. Entry level S models get features such as four-mode drive select, 8-inch infotainment screen with USB, Bluetooth, and DAB, 18-inch alloys, climate control, electric and heated front seats, leather upholstery, multi-function leather steering wheel, auto-dimming rear view mirror, parking sensors front and rear, automatic wipers and lights, and speed sensitive power steering. F Sport trim tested includes the Lexus Premium Navigation system with larger screen, five-mode drive select, the (excellent) F Sport styling pack, perforated leather upholstery, wireless phone charging, and memory function seats. The model tested was also fitted with the colour head-up display - which has a wide display. All models come with the comprehensive Lexus Safety System+ too.
In the competitive large SUV market, the Lexus RX450h goes about matters in a different way - and that's no bad thing. The hybrid powertrain works well ans provides good levels of both performance and efficiency. The Lexus is comfortable and refined, well equipped, and it looks great - especially in F Sport trim. It's a good choice, particularly for those wary of buying diesel; which is a great number of customers these days.
Model tested: Lexus RX450h F Sport
Body-style: Premium SUV
Engine / CO2: 3.5 litre V6 petrol and electric motors / 134 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Luxury, F-Sport, Premier
On-road price: From £48,690. Price as tested £54,190
Warranty: Three years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars