3.3.2019Lexus RX450h L review
The Lexus RX 450h L looks to take the well-established SUV, and add a third row of seats to make it a little more practical. There are a number of seven-seat large SUVs available, and now Lexus has its own entrant in the market, available as a hybrid only. NGC tests the lengthened version of Lexus’ flagship to see how the RX 450h L performs.
Review by Chris Lilly
Lexus has retained its 450h powertrain for the L model, which sees a 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine that produces 259bhp and 335 Nm of torque combine with twin electric motors. One placed on the front axle produces 123 kW, and one on the rear 50 kW. Power is able to go to all four wheels via an e-CVT transmission. Performance statistics include an 8.0 second 0-62mph time, and a top speed of 124mph. This is 0.3 seconds slower to 62mph from zero, predominantly down to the added 100kg or so the RX L carries over the non-lengthened version. The difference in performance between the five- and seven-seat models isn’t noticeable, and effectively feels the same - which doesn’t feel as fast as the time suggests. The RX L specialises in relaxed performance, with a heavy right foot able to see the Lexus quickly gather pace, but also a large amount of CVT whine. It’s a very efficient system, but not the most pleasing on the ears.
The RX is something of a land-yacht in terms of handling, and the RX L is no different. It’s a big, wafty barge of an SUV from Lexus, and in a world of taught, sporty SUVs, it’s both different and welcome. Push on in the RX L and you will find plenty of grip, but also plenty of body lean, and although it will cope with being hustled down a twisty country road, it responds far better to a more relaxed attitude behind the wheel. The Lexus is one of the most comfortable cars in its class, and the way it covers miles without causing stress or discomfort to driver and occupants is remarkable. The ride is excellent at brushing aside road imperfections, and although the suspension will pitch and roll a bit through corners, everything remains in control for the driver. Put-holes and speed bumps are disregarded with disdain by the springs, and motorways are covered with ease. Town driving shows up how large the RX L is as a car, but it's manoeuvrable enough, and the steering is light at slow speeds to make parking easy. It heightens up at higher speeds, but always keeps feedback to a minimum, despite being pretty precise in its action. As a performance model, the Lexus is dreadful, but to treat it as a sporty SUV is completely missing the point of the RX L. Stick to the car’s brief, and the ride and refinement is excellent.
In terms of aesthetics, the RX L - along with much of the Lexus range - is going to split opinion. It is primarily the company’s large grille that dominates the discussion, but the angular surfacing details and sharp lights also mean that the Lexus design language is not universally adored. I like it, and see nothing wrong with the bold details that Lexus has added to its designs in recent years. It’s a distinct style, but each manufacturer needs that to make their cars stand out from the crowd. To compare against the conventional RX, the RX L is a little longer - by 110mm to be precise - and those with a keen eye will notice the extended roofline to incorporate the extra space. The job of hiding the extra bulk has been done well by the designers, but it doesn’t look quite as sharp or stylish as the RX - it’s still obviously from the same model family though. Inside, the space available for those up front is bordering on the luxurious, and the seats are exceptionally comfortable. The trend continues into the rear with the conventional middle row bench also offering excellent levels of head, leg, and shoulder room, and similarly comfy pews. The rear most set of seats cannot keep up with the previous theme, and are definitely occasional use/designed for children. You could only stick the smallest of your adult passengers in the rear-most set of seats, and even then they aren’t going to be too happy about the prospect. Rival offerings from the likes of Volvo offer a more usable third set if looking to cart seven adults regularly, but if you’re looking at mainly transporting children in the rear of the Lexus, it will be up to the task. Boot space available varies between pretty good to rather poor, depending on whether the third row of seats is folded away or up respectively. Because of the need to fit hybrid powertrain parts the boot floor is high. In some ways, this is practical, and makes for a very usable load area. However, the RX L can’t compete with its large SUV rivals in terms of outright load space. Again, like the third row of seats, it depends on what you need the RX L to do as to whether it will suit, but it’s a practical model nonetheless.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Comfort is a high priority for the Lexus RX L, and it excels at its task. Seats all-round are very good, both supportive and squashy enough to feel more like an arm-chair than a car seat. The dashboard is similar to the exterior, in that it’s a good design, but not going to please everyone. It’s less edgy than the exterior, but it certainly looks different to the standard European opposition. The dash is dominated by a large, widescreen infotainment system, which is able to be divided up and looks good. It’s let down by the mouse-pad controller though, which takes a while to get used to, and can’t match up to a more conventional rotary dial control even when you get the hang of things. The sooner Lexus moves on with this infotainment control the better, as it’s the one weak point in the controls. There are a fair few buttons dotted about, but the design all works well, and the inlays on centre tunnel help lift the interior. The driver gets a couple of ‘analogue’ dials, though these can vary in display depending on the driving mode. The rest of the competition has gone for a digital instrument binnacle, but Lexus’ system works well, even if it’s not quite as high-tech. The materials used all feel of high quality and the attention to detail feels excellent. It’s a good interior; not the best around, but still a lovely place in which to cover some serious mileage.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Lexus only offers the RX L in hybrid form, which uses the company’s 450h badge. It’s been refined to offer diesel-like levels of fuel economy, even in a large SUV. The official WLTP figure is 35.9 MPG, and to say this is achievable is saying something. I covered more than 420 miles during my time with the RX 450h L, and the trip computer displayed an average of 33.4 MPG, despite no economical driving styles being deployed. A lower average speed would easily make up the 1.5 MPG between my real-world and the official stats, and I don’t doubt that with familiarity to the hybrid system’s characteristics, a figure closer to or beyond 40 MPG would be possible. To tax, the RX 450h L costs £195 for the first year - included in a car’s OTR - and then £440 a year after that for five years. This is because the RX L costs more than the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold, but since it’s a hybrid, it qualifies for the £10 Alternative Fuel Discount.
Lexus and parent company Toyota have forged ahead with hybrids, well in advance of any other manufacturer. As such, it’s latest generation hybrid powertrains are as efficient as comparable diesel engines, but with far fewer pollutants. The battery allows for very brief spells of pure-electric driving, and there’s an EV mode button to force it into driving on the electric motors for as long as possible. There’s also an Eco setting in the drive mode select, which lessens throttle response, and improves the efficiency of the auxiliary systems. The car will cut the engine as it slows down and start moving on electric power again whenever possible, and brake energy recuperation tops up the battery when decelerating or travelling down hill. The infotainment system can display a myriad different options in terms of eco-driving data, with graphs, power supply, fuel efficiency, and coaching all available. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 53.
The RX L range is offered in two trim levels, which keeps things nice and simple. Both come highly equipped, with the entry level trim including features such as the Lexus Safety System+, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic high beam, and traffic sign recognition. Four-mode drive mode select is also fitted, as are an 8-inch media display with nine-speaker Pioneer stereo including USB and Bluetooth connectivity, triple-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rear view mirror, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear selector, leather seats, heated and vented front seats with electric adjustment and memory function, power folding rear seats, rear privacy glass, LED headlights, and 18-inch alloys. My test car included items such as a wooden steering wheel, sunroof, an excellent Mark Levinson stereo, 12.3-inch navigation system, powered tailgate, and wireless mobile phone charging.
As a seven-seater, there are more practical options in the SUV marketplace. However, there are few more comfortable options, and the Lexus provides style, a good degree of practicality, and hybrid efficiency for buyers. It’s not perfect, but it has a distinct character that makes it all the more appealing.
Model tested: Lexus RX 450h L Premium
Engine / CO2: 3.5 litre petrol hybrid / 138 g/km
Trim grades: RX L, Premium, Takumi
On-road price: From £54,100. Price as tested: £55,095
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars