This is the new Lexus RX450h L, a seven-seat take on the regular Lexus RX to extend the appeal of the big hybrid SUV to compete with cars like the Volvo XC90.
It might seem a bit odd that the market for premium SUVs with seven seats seems to be growing in an era where families with more than three children is a bit of a rarity. But the market is there, and it’s being exploited very well by cars like the Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery.
That’s clearly a part of the market Lexus can’t ignore if its RX SUV is to keep up with market wants, so the RX L went on sale in the UK in April, and we’ve got it in for review in its most expensive guise – the Lexus RX450h L Premier.
It’s a sensible pitch from Lexus to tap in to another part of the market for the RX, and the fact it is also the only hybrid seven-seat SUV on the market gives it added appeal for some buyers.
To make room for the extra row of seats, Lexus has bolted an extra 110mm on to the back of the RX, and made the rear screen more upright for a bit more headroom, to deliver a third row.
But is it all a bit of a compromise to try and cash-in, or is the new RX L the sensible buy. Let’s find out.
RX 450h L Premier Inside and Out
Clearly, in delivering a seven-seat RX, Lexus has had to give the RX some extra bodywork to make room for the seats, but they’ve managed to do so without messing with what we still think is a pretty good looking car.
There’s an extra 110mm (4.33 inches in old money) bolted on to the back of the RX, which really isn’t very much and hasn’t changed the looks much at all.
Yes, the back end hangs past the back wheels a bit more, the rear screen is more upright to give a bit of extra headroom in the ‘Gods’ seats, and even the rear windscreen wiper has been moved from the top of the screen to the bottom to help.
That all achieves enough room for an extra pair of seats in the boot, seats which are easily raised with the touch of a button and which are useful enough for little ‘uns.
The downside is that the middle row seats really do need to be slid forward to give any legroom in the back row, but we’re pretty sure that most buyers will only use all the seats occasionally, and with the back row down there’s a big old boot and lots of leg room in the regular back seats too.
Elsewhere it’s all Lexus RX good, which means a traditional, but very high quality, and appealing, cabin with scratchy stuff well hidden and a high quality feel and look to the surfaces you come in to contact with.
The one caveat is the we’ve never managed to master the Lexus infotainment in the RX with its left-handed ‘mouse’ to control what you want, and it’s no different in the RX L. It’s really about the only fault we can find. Which isn’t bad
Not when you have a cabin which is beautifully built, seats which are comfy, room in the boot (from adequate to exceptional depending on how many seats you have in play), a flat floor in the back so three adults are happy, and plenty of toys too.
This is the range-topping Premier version of the RX, so equipment levels are high with quality leather, Mark Levinson Sound, 360 View Monitor, Climate, heated seats front and back, auto lights and wipers, adaptive suspension, Lexus Safety System + and much, much more. In fact the only extra Lexus could find to add to this car was the paint job (okay, there are a handful of options to be had including a Style Pack, Protection pack and Rear Entertainment too).
If you love the regular RX interior, and we do, then this seven-seat RX L is just more of the same.
RX 450h L Performance on the Road
We’ve said it before, but no one buys a Lexus RX for its dynamic handling or stellar performance. And you won’t be getting that from this seven-seat RX L either.
In fact, despite the extra length of the RX L, what’s under the extended body is exactly the same as a regular RX, so the driving experience – and the passenger experience on the drive – is exactly the same.
That means the Lexus 3.5 litre petrol V6 mated to a pair of electric motors to deliver what is, still, a remarkable feat of smooth running, with changes from engine to electric motors seamless (well, both work pretty much all the time, but the dominant propulsion changes seamlessly).
Yes, if you want to rush down a slip road or blat past slow running traffic, the RX does rev more than you feel is normal thanks to its CVT ‘box. But the car is well insulated and, apart from the fact your ears tell you a different story to the one the rest of your senses expect, progress is brisk and painless.
But the fact that the RX is a ‘self charging’ hybrid, not a plug-in, means, despite an EV mode, electric running is never really possible for more than a mile or so – and then only at modest speeds – so you really don’t need to play with the modes (really, don’t play with the modes. Leave it in normal. Not Eco. Not Sport. Not Sport plus. Normal). At least not unless you need to glide silently back on the drive after a night out when you’re much later than you said you’d be.
But the combination of electric and petrol delivers decent performance, the RX feels sublime when trickling along in serene silence in stop-start traffic, and even on motorways – unless you’re properly baulked – the serenity continues as you waft along. And yes, it works just as well with seven up as it did with five up (we tried).
If you want to take the RX L for a back road blast it won’t fall over either, although it’s no Porsche Cayenne, and despite its ‘Sport’ setting on the mode select (again, just leave it alone), all you really do is sharpen responses a bit. You can hustle, but you need to hustle like you would in a big old saloon; maintain momentum and keep the mass in a line. You’ll make decent progress without frightening your passengers.
But that’s to miss the point of the RX L; it’s a simply delightful place to be on motorways or around town. Which is where we all spend the majority of our time.
2018 Lexus RX L Verdict
It’s hard to come to any other verdict on the RX L than the same one we did when we reviewed the regular RX last year: it really is an exceptionally good ‘Premium’ SUV.
It’s good looking, has an interior which manages to be very high quality and original (we’ll ignore our pet-hate of the Infotainment), is very well equipped (especially in this Premier trim), is a delight to drive and cossets and soothes the most fevered of brows.
You might take issue with the ‘Delight to Drive’ bit if what you want is an SUV with sports car pretensions, but in the real world, where comfort and quality are far more important, the RX L delivers.
It also now delivers that sublime quality and comfort in a package with the added convenience of seven seats, and whilst the back row is really only useful for small people for any distance, an unexpected couple of adult passengers after a night out is no problem at all.
At around £62k, this RX L Premier isn’t cheap, but it’s pretty much on a par with anything you could consider comparable (a Volvo XC90 D5 Inscription Pro will cost you £60k, for example), and at only around £2.5k more than the five-seat RX it’s a bit of a bargain.
In fact, if you’re going to spend £60k on a Lexus RX, we’re struggling to find any reason you wouldn’t pay the little bit extra and have the convenience of the seven-seat RX L. There really are no downsides to it.
Just like the Lexus RX L as a whole (okay, apart from its infotainment).
Lexus RX 450h L Premier Review Photo Gallery
Lexus RX 450h L Premier Specs
- Engine: 3456cc Hybrid Electric 308bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 8.0 seconds / Top Speed 112mph
- Economy: 47.1mpg – Official / 32.3mpg – Test
- Emissions: 138g/km
- Price: £61,995/ Price as tested £62,640
- Test car supplied by Lexus UK
Lexus RX 450h L Premier Review Options
Sonic Titanium Paint £645