Lexus sold nearly twice as many RX crossovers in 2017 as it did ES sedans, which is the brand’s best-selling car model, so it’s easy to see why the sedan is going the way of the dodo. The RX isn’t new though, Lexus introduced this mid size luxury crossover 20 years ago, which shares a platform with the ES sedan.
My 2019 Lexus RX 450h tester came with several coats of Nightfall Mica paint and AWD. First impressions are it’s definitely a Lexus, that grille is a dead giveaway and along with the sculptured body design, gives the RX a very distinctive look.
Our non F Sport came with the 18 inch wheels and they do get somewhat lost in the wheel arches, so I would opt for the F Sport’s 20 inch optional wheels. That said this car is meant for comfort, something that the bigger tires may suppress.
The hybrid power-train is interesting, power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 engine and three electric motors, two on the front axle and one at the rear. Combined horsepower is a decent 308 horsepower, 13 more than the V6 engine in the RX 350. Lexus doesn’t publish combined torque numbers but the engine alone puts out 247 lb-ft @ 4,800. A CVT provides the connection to the wheels and it’s is one of the better examples I have driven.
Smoothly does it
I have never been a fan of CVT transmissions, I find them lacking character and so far have not been impressed by any of them, that is, until I drove this one. I’m not fawning over it and I’ll take a standard auto or dual clutch any day, but this one works well in the hybrid application.
The CVT coupled with the RX’s excellent suspension set up makes for a supremely comfortable ride and San Diego’s numerous potholes are handled with aplomb. From a standstill in Normal mode the RX moves away using it’s electric motors, stomp on the go pedal and the gas engine kicks in seamlessly and you only notice the hum of the engine. It doesn’t provide much aural stimulation but that is to be expected, this is a luxury vehicle after all.
Mash the accelerator and we launched it from 0-60 in 7 seconds dead and once at a cruise feels quiet, extremely comfortable and if more speed is required for a passing maneuver, this Lexus will oblige. Wafting along though is most enjoyable and my commutes during the week I had it were serene.
The brakes provide regenerative braking which feeds power to the battery and are some of the best I have tried in a hybrid configuration, in fact they put most standard braking systems to shame. It’s also fun to watch the power flow meter in the infotainment display showing when electric assist is providing more shove and when it is being charged. Steering is precise, light at low-speeds but adding weight when speeds increase.
It’s built to under steer on the limit and that’s exactly what it does, drive a few fast turns and the Lexus holds it own, up to a point when it doesn’t and things get a little ragged. Hustle along a back road at 7 tenths and it behaves well, with some body roll and it does dive under harsh braking, but its a tall riding vehicle weighing in at 4,700+ lbs and not a sports car.
The RX gets some pretty good fuel economy numbers, our week average was 24 mpg but that included acceleration testing and and everything else. I took a trip up to Mount Laguna, 47 miles away and reset the trip to zero before returning. My mostly downhill fuel economy averaged 52 mpg thanks to the electric motors and the regen when coasting. I can see that the EPA numbers should be easily achievable.
Inside the RX 450h it exudes an air of luxury with soft touch high-quality materials and great build quality. The heated and ventilated front seats provide fantastic support and even the rear bench, normally a half-baked effort, are very nice to spend time in. Passenger space is generous front and rear, however, cargo space is somewhat limited due to the rear hatch design, which eats into the available height and offers only 18.0 cubic feet with all seats in place.
The 450h gets a larger 12.3-inch multimedia display with Navigation ($2,145) which displays the the additional power flow meter. My tester came with a massive $1,850 panoramic sunroof, Blind Spot Monitor, Park Assist with Auto Braking for $1,865. The Leather Chairs in the Premium package add $1,110 and the very good heads up display adds another $600.
It’s hard to find fault except for the fiddly and frustrating mouse-like controller. The system setup is slow to respond to inputs and it’s a real chore to navigate through the various displays. It’s the one thing that Lexus needs to fix on an otherwise great crossover.
2019 Lexus RX 450h Numbers
BASE PRICE: $45,995
PRICE AS TESTED: $57,195
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, AWD, 5-passenger, 4-door SUV
ENGINE: Gas/Electric, 3.5 liter v6 + 3 electric motors
POWER: 308 total hp
TORQUE: 247 lb-ft @ 4,800
TRANSMISSION: Continuously variable-speed automatic
0-60 MPH: 7.0 sec
CURB WEIGHT: 4,740 lbs
CARGO SPACE: 18.4 ft³ to 56.3 ft³ with seat area
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON: 30/31/28 mpg
OUR OBSERVED: 24 mpg
PROS: Super smooth ride, beautifully crafted cabin, economical
CONS: Fiddly infotainment system