Sharp angular styling makes the once curvy and inoffensive 1998 Lexus RX look aggressive and purposeful.
The luxury arm of Toyota has thrown down the gauntlet to its premium German rivals and now heads genuinely turn when this chunky Lexus rolls by. Behind the wheel, the five seat SUV remains as easy to drive as ever. The cabin of our F Sport test car is a very nice place to be and is stuffed with premium touches like perforated heated and cooled soft leather seats. The 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system is epic too – so in the RX the miles simply float by.
Under the bonnet of the fourth generation RX there’s a creamy petrol V6 3.5 litre engine that has been refined from the older version. The V6 is coupled to an electric motor, well two motors actually, to make it a hybrid. When the electricity kicks in the RX becomes a four-wheel drive and the traction is pretty impressive. Engine and motors combined, RX450h has an output of 313hp and 335nm. The car sorts out the charging of the battery pack through regenerative braking and engine charging etc. The battery technology uses tried and tested nickel-hydride cells. 0-100kph takes just 7.7 seconds and that is very quick when you’re driving a sitting room – albeit one with a head-up display on the windscreen. Remarkably CO2 is a lowly 120g/CO2 (down from 145g) thanks to clever hybrid technology. Lexus says 5.5l/100km is possible but we believe this low fuel consumption figure is very unlikely in day to day use as the best we managed was in the low 8s. Top speed is 200kph.
The automatic gearbox helps the hybrid RX make whisper quiet progress. Sadly a CVT gearbox whine is present when you floor the throttle. Thankfully the RX450h makes good progress when provoked so you can forgive it a bit for that. Steering mounted paddle gear shifters add a touch of sportiness but as engine braking is quite weak we seldom used them. A number of drive modes allow you feel a little bit involved in the whole driving experience but as we have said countless times before – drivers of luxury cars want to feel taken care of and prefer not to have to be too involved in making the car go! If you do want to hustle there is adaptive variable suspension and stabiliser on our car that Lexus has ‘sports tuned’. In truth RX450h is not a machine you want to chuck about the place despite its ability. Over a few days I clocked about a 1,000km and enjoyed pretty much every leisurely moment. So what is missing from the RX450h that rivals have? There is no plug in hybrid version and no seven-seat version either.
There is a lot to love about the RX450h but one or two niggles need to be sorted. The interface with the large 12.3 inch centre screen is not premium in function. Trying to enter an address in the navigation is painful. If I may use schoolboy shorthand ‘the system is thick’. You can input using voice commands or the haptic feedback mouse to click in an addresses or POI should you wish. During the test the unit was poor and I resorted to using the Tom Tom sat nav app I’ve had on my iPhone for years. Auto full beam headlights are fitted but the tiny button to switch the function on or off is on the dash to the right hand side of the steering wheel – nowhere near the lights! Okay I know these are first world problems.
The Lexus RX450h is stuffed with safety equipment and driving aids as you’d expect and the car with a five star Euro NCAP rating. F Sport is a more aggressive trim line that adds meat to the bones. The big 20-inch alloys and aggressive grille mean that you can rock up beside an X5 with M Sport trim and hold your head high. The RX450h is an impressive chunky machine that looks very imposing but is a pussycat to use.
Price start at €69,650 for the Executive, Luxury costs €76,450, F Sport €83,950 and Premium tops the range at €86,250.