The new Lexus RX is a big deal for Lexus – after all the RX model range is the company’s biggest seller globally, so the company has pulled out all the stops to ensure this new model is a success.
While there was nothing visually wrong with the previous model, the car’s styling was clearly starting to look a little dated compared to the rest of the Lexus range, and as Lexus has been trying to change its image over the last few years, it was clearly time the ever popular RX received some attention.
At first glance, the car’s new much more aggressive styling looks great. It’s clear that inspiration has been taken from the car’s smaller sibling – the NX, and that’s not a bad thing. The sharp lines and creases give the car a very unique, even slightly futuristic look that’s sure to stand out in a school car park full of drab diesel SUVs.
The car’s LED headlights and tail lights finish off the look nicely with L shaped pulsing front and rear indicators that look really smart – a nice touch.
Step inside the car and the premium feel continues. The car feels like a genuine leap in quality from the previous model and even other models in the Lexus range. Everywhere you look there are swathes of beautifully stitched leather and high end materials. Everything has a nice solid feel to it and the cabin simply oozes class.
The analogue clock is distinctly Lexus, while the centre piece of the cabin has to be the incredibly large navigation /multimedia display in the centre of the dashboard. It’s incredibly bright, clear and a pleasure to use, and you’ll struggle to find a car with a larger multimedia screen this side of a Tesla Model S. At least the display on the RX won’t suffer with fingerprint smudges like the Tesla either as it’s not a touch screen, with control being tasked to the now familiar if slightly fiddly to operate Lexus mouse. On the subject of the Lexus mouse, it appears Lexus have not yet made their minds up as to the best way to control their navigation systems, with both the mouse and a touch pad still featuring across different models, not to forget the rotary controller on lesser navigation units – make your mind up Lexus!
The seats in this car are worth a mention too. The last generation RX450h was heaped in praise for its wonderfully comfortable seats and existing owners will be pleased to hear the new model doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of support and the supple, soft leather seat facings feel like a lovely place to be on a long journey. Getting your seating position is easy too thanks to the electrically adjustable seats that offer even the fussiest driver a plenty of choice.
Rear legroom and boot space is easily on par with others in the class, if not class leading. It’s a big car and it will take 5 adults and plenty of luggage with ease. Rear legroom is good and the boot has a nice flat and wide load area that offer 453 litres with the rear seats in place and 924 litres with the seats down – ample for all but the largest loads.
The new Lexus RX450h range starts at £46,995 for the SE model, but our range topping Premier model came in at a staggering £58,640 as tested, but as you would expect – it includes an obscenely long list of kit.
The car covers all the basics and more. The neat Qi wireless phone charger first seen in the Lexus NX returns here but this time sits under the dash at the front of centre console, rather than the tray inside the armrest like the NX. This means it can even accommodate larger devices such as my laughably large Nexus 6 so top marks here.
The Lexus RX450h Premier’s climate control also now even incorporates the heated and air cooled seats. This means that you no longer need to touch the controls for these and can simply leave them in an auto setting. Thee climate control system can then automatically detect seat temperature and heat up/cool down the seat as necessary in line with cabin temperature – pretty cool stuff. There’s also a heated steering wheel as standard in the Premier version although I was surprised not to see heated rear seats in a Lexus at this price – I’m sure I saw them in the pre production version but never mind – the kids will have to go cold. First world problems hey?! Still, at least they can enjoy the factory fitted rear screens and wireless headphones in this top of the range Premier model – that should keep them quiet for a bit.
The radar cruise control is fantastic as ever, and even slows the vehicle to a complete stop in traffic. It actually worked really well in crawling traffic, allowing you to simply steer without having to worry about the peddles. A quick flick of the “resume” function on the cruise control stalk will also see the car pull away again after stopping which is handy. Tesla Autopilot it most certainly is not, but mighty useful in traffic/motorway driving all the same.
Another favourite gadget of mine on the car is the head up display – it’s really nice and just as useful as you’d imagine. While other manufacturers offer a head up display as an option, I’ve always found the ones fitted to the latest Lexus vehicles to be the best in the business. For example, I recently drove the latest Jaguar XF with head up display, and while the display functioned just fine, it used a rather dated looking orange/green colour scheme reminiscent of something from the 80s like the digital dash the Knight Rider car “Kitt”. The Lexus head up display on the other hand has a far more modern look and displays much more useful information around the sat nav and radar cruise control among other things. Clever stuff.
Ride & Handling
As you might expect, the RX450h’s hybrid drive train provides an incredibly refined driving experience. Just like other hybrid models in the Lexus range, the ability to start the car up in complete silence and (gently) progress in electric only mode for the first few miles is great, and surprisingly still startles a few pedestrians in car parks even in 2016.
It’s a big car and it’s clearly set up for comfort rather than a particularly sport drive, but that seems a good thing for most potential owners of this car. That’s not to say the big Lexus can’t handle itself – the steering is nice and precise for example but as you may expect the car does have a tenancy to feel a little soft if you decide to feed it through a twisty bit of road.
Despite the size of the car, its dimensions never really make the car feel cumbersome whilst out on the road, and parking is of course taken care of by the fantastic selection of parking aids which make parking the big Lexus surprisingly easy. As well as the now fairly common reverse camera and sensors, there are also other cameras around the car and a rather useful top down view that make parallel parking a breeze.
The new Lexus RX450h features a 3.5 litre V6 engine as before, this time producing a maximum combined output of 308 bhp. The engine produces 335 NM of torque, with a further 335 NM of torque available from the front electric motor, and 139 NM of torque from the rear electric motor. The clever system is able to haul the Lexus from 0 – 60 mph in just 7.7 seconds too – not bad for a vehicle that weight more than 2.7 tonnes, and even at speed, the car always feels like it has plenty in reserve.
Some people have criticised hybrids in the past for the CVT gearbox causing the engine to sound strained under load but I’m pleased to report that this is not the case here. The 3.5 V6 petrol engine is clearly a big enough brute to manage quite nicely on its own, and I’d go as far as saying that the engine actually has quite a nice tone when you put your foot down, should you feel the need.
To be honest, the car never really makes you feel like you need hurry it along though, it definitely feels at home just wafting you and your passengers along in comfort, which is surely one of the main objectives when purchasing a car such as this.
Lexus claims a combined fuel economy rating of 54.3 MPG which on paper sounds fantastic for an 2.7 tonne all wheel drive SUV packing a 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine. In reality, I didn’t find the car delivered anywhere near that kind of fuel economy, returning a mere 31.4 MPG across the mixed roads of our test, which combined motorway, town and rural driving. Of course, I wasn’t expecting to equal the official claims, but was hoping the car might manage high 30’s or even 40 mpg. I’m sure there’s a good chance that once the car loosens up a bit, and with deliberately more frugal driving that this figure will rise a little. In theory it will likely end up delivering similar MPG to diesel engined rivals, which you could argue is good enough to encourage buyers of those models into a hybrid. Personally, the hybrid’s relaxed and refined driving style would be a big selling point to me and if it could deliver the same MPG as an equivalent diesel then why would you bother with a diesel at all?
CO2 emissions see the RX450h Premier currently taxed at £100 per year until the March 2017 rates change. It also has a 20 percent benefit in kind charge for company car drivers – significantly less than that of some diesel powered rivals. The new Lexus RX450h can in fact emit as little as 120 g/km in base trim with smaller wheels, meaning that it currently creeps into the £20 a year VED category and 19 percent benefit in kind charge – truly outstanding for a powerful SUV of this size. This is surely an area that could see Lexus stealing sales from the competition.
While the RX450h Premier does come with a huge amount of kit, it does come with a sizeable price tage of £57,995 which does seem quite pricey especially when compared to some rivals. The range as a whole does start from £46,995 though so it really depends if you want all that kit, and let’s face it – you probably do.
The new Lexus RX450h ticks a lot of boxes. It’s a comfortable, gadget laden family vehicle that will waft you and your passengers around in a beautifully put together luxury environment. It has seemingly endless amounts of kit, particularly on the higher specification models and competitive if not class leading economy for a vehicle of this size. If you’re a Lexus or hybrid fan in the first place then there’s no doubt that this is the SUV for you.
A special thanks to the lovely people at Snows Lexus Hedge End for the loan of our RX450h Premier featured in this review.