We’ve had the Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUV in for review, the full-size Lexus SUV which offers a different take on a premium SUV from that of the German makers.
The Lexus RX has been around for getting on for two decades and, until recently, it was almost a green anachronism – a planet-saving SUV – a recipe no other premium maker seemed keen to emulate.
But the world has caught up with what Lexus has being doing with its big hybrid SUV, and there are now a number of green SUV alternatives from premium car makers, with a range of options from Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and even Land Rover.
But Lexus aren’t letting the new hybrid kids on the block swan in and take their market without a fight, so we got a new Lexus RX at the 2015 New York Motor Show, which arrived in the UK last year.
The new 2016 RX borrowed styling from its NX sibling and seems to offer more of the same successful recipe of green premium SUV motoring.
But is this, the 2017 Lexus RX 450h F Sport, up to the new competition?
RX 450h F Sport Inside and Out
The last Lexus RX was always a bit staid, and the arrival of the Lexus NX did make it look like a car past its sell-by date. But this new Lexus RX 450h is anything but.
Cleverly, Lexus has managed to give the RX a comprehensive new look with lots of angles, big spindle grille and a floating roof, which all conspire to make it look just like the NX’s big brother should, but still manages to make it look like it’s an evolution of the RX. Clever.
Remarkably, it looks more aggressive than it ever has – particularly in this F Sport trim – yet it doesn’t seem remotely incongruous that a big SUV that wears its green credentials so well can also look sporty and butch too. So the spindle grille at the front and the 20″ alloys just serve to make the edgy looks of the new RX even more appealing. How times have changed.
The RX F Sport may not be quite the pinnacle of the RX range (that’s the RX Premier) but there’s no doubting either the quality of the interior or the level of spec and detail on offer.
Lexus interiors really are very good, and although it is a bit of a button fest compared to cars like the Volvo XC90, everything is just so well bolted together, tactile and easy to use it’s hard to find fault. Well, apart from the not as good as you might expect infotainment screen and Lexus’s persistence with a joystick to control it.
But the sports seats are a delight, the leather-topped dash looks great, the buttons all have a real tactility, there’s decent storage and no scratchy plastics. It’s a class act.
The spec is equally as pleasing, with the electric, heated sports seats, wireless phone charging, perforated leather, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate, keyless, cruise, parking sensors and more all standard. In fact, so well equipped is the RX 450h that the only extra Lexus bothered fitting on this press car is F Sport White paint.
RX 450h F Sport Performance on the Road
The Lexus RX has been with us for long enough for buyers of premium SUVs to know the RX isn’t looking to take sales from the Porsche Cayenne. This is a very Lexus take on a premium SUV.
That means that although the combination of the 3.5 litre V6 engine and two electric motors delivers 308bhp, the RX isn’t dynamic and darting. That said, it’s an awful lot more appealing than it’s ever been before.
This F Sport RX gets some sporty updates which help without spoiling the calmness the RX purveys – such as revisions to steering a suspension – although the steering isn’t hugely communicative and it does still roll a bit if pushed too hard in the bends.
Always starting in EV mode, the RX does feel delightfully refined, and even when the petrol engine joins the party it does so seamlessly and without intrusion; this hybrid setup may be ageing, but it’s very good.
Even the CVT ‘box seems better than it ever has, although the hybrid and CVT combination can only hustle the RX to 62mph in 7.7 seconds, and in truth it feels slower as you wait for the engine revs to match the speed you want. Still, it’s all a lot more refined than it was.
But where the RX is almost peerless is delivering an isolated and accommodating way to plough through the urban sprawl of endless queues, and is equally at home on the motorway too.
Don’t buy an RX if you want a Nurburgring ride and seat of the pants dynamics. But for everything else it’s really very good.
RX 450h F Sport Verdict
There is no point complaining that the RX 450h isn’t as dynamic as a Porsche Cayenne, as commodious as an XC90 or as able off-road as a Range Rover. It’s just not. But that’s the point.
Strange though it may seem, Lexus is a very established player in the premium SUV market – the RX first arrived before the BMW X5, Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7 – and it knows the market very well.
That means the Lexus RX 450h is a car that really doesn’t need to compete with others, but needs to be the best it can be for the demographic it’s aimed at. And it is.
That’s a market of loyal, older customers who want comfort and ease of use, lots of toys, decent performance and a touch of ‘Green’ to make them feel better.
They get all that in spades with the RX 450h, but it would be unfair to suggest that this is a car Lexus simply want to stay appealing to a predominantly lucrative US market. Because it’s more than that.
For those who want a soft-roading premium SUV which is well-equipped, offers a hybrid powertrain and looks essentially classless, the RX is a very decent choice. The fact it dares to be a bit different also appeals.
It’s not overly dynamic – although it is competent – but the idea that you want to hustle an SUV round like you would a low sporty coupe is very much a recent notion; there are plenty of buyers who would buy the RX for its strengths and have something low and sexy for doing the blatting.
And that, just like the Lexus RX 450h, is a very sensible, grown up and appealing choice.
Lexus RX 450h F Sport Review Photos
Lexus RX 450h F Sport Specs
- Engine: 3456cc Hybrid Electric 308bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 7.7 seconds / Top Speed 124mph
- Economy: 51.4mpg – Official / 32.1mpg – Test
- Emissions: 127g/km
- Price: £53,995/ Price as tested £54,640
- Test car supplied by Lexus UK
Lexus RX 450h F Sport Review Options
F Sport white Paint £645