Lexus RX 450h review road test

Lexus cars have always enamoured me. Perhaps because of the logo and the fact that my first name both have the letter “L”. Jokes aside, Lexus makes some of the most aspirational cars. I remember looking up for Lexus car images in 2012. That’s when the news had trickled in that Toyota’s luxury arm is looking to set shop in India. Things fizzled out pretty quick and was rekindled in 2014, again to die a slow death. It was only in 2017 that Lexus finally made it to the Indian shores and introduced a line-up full of hybrids. We’ve already reviewed the pure petrol/diesel Lexus LX 450d and now it is the time of the second in command, RX 450h. So scroll down to know about the good and bad bits of the Lexus RX 450h.

Lexus RX 450h design

The Lexus RX 450h has a more swoopy design compared to the brick-like structure that the LX was. However, the latter was a hardcore off-road vehicle while the RX will be seeing more of the tarmac. The spindle grille though is common between both the cars. Flanking it are the full LED headlights. However, like the LX, one needs to switch to high beam if you are driving fast in the night. The headlights come with their own washers and these can be activated only when the lights are on and you pull the wiper-washer stalk. The fog lights are enclosed in a weird enclosure.

Lexus RX 450h

Lexus RX 450h

From the side, the radical design theme is even more amplified. However, that staid design of the alloy wheels can definitely be changed, Wonder how they lost interest while selecting the alloys. At the back, there is no less drama. In fact, I haven’t seen any car get such attention at standstill. While the LX impresses with its sheer width and length, the RX brings forth the design elements that Lexus uses in its cars.

Lexus RX 450h interior

A high quality cabin this indeed is. Our test car came with red leather upholstery. The front seats can either be warmed or cooled. The beauty of the car is the moment you unlock the door, the driver’s seat goes further back to enable easy ingress and egress. Once seated, it goes back to the previous position. One can also electrically adjust the driver’s seat as well as have memory function at your disposal should there be multiple drivers. The steering wheel is a compact unit and has your usual Bluetooth, trip as well as music menu functions. Lexus offers a head-up display with the F Sport trim that we had on test. While a German sense of quality is missing, you cannot really place the cabin at a fault when it comes to finish.

Lexus RX 450h

A 12-inch screen takes the centre stage. I was aghast on knowing that it isn’t a touch display unit at launch. It is controlled by a joystick, which one has to take their eyes off the road to operate. The system though is hi-res but doesn’t boast of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay capability. Right behind the joystick is a knob controller that has Eco, Sport and Sport+ modes dialled in. There is also a customisable mode as well. The engine response changes according to the mode selected. Special mention must be made of the EV-only mode as well that allows the battery pack to drive the car for some distance. Not only this, the meter dials too change colour and configuration according to the mode selected.

Lexus RX 450h

Dual zone climate control is on offers as well while the rear seats have an electrically reclining function as well. This Lexus will seat five in reasonable comfort. There is also a panoramic sunroof on offer as well as rear AC vents as well. The party trick with the huge boot is that with the key fob in your pocket, one just has to nudge the Lexus logo at the back. This being said, it does need precision and a certain angle to open the boot with this method. During the test, I failed to open it with my elbow and had to resort to using the regular sensor method.

Lexus RX 450h engine and transmission

This is a hybrid and if the decals on the side haven’t made themselves clear, the starter button will. Press the button and all you hear is a beep. The meter console says ready. Slot the car in to D and press the accelerator. Without any fuss or drama, the near two tonne vehicle propels ahead. At start-up, this hybrid ensures that the electric motor is called to do the work. If you want to make an enthusiastic getaway, the petrol motor joins the party. The transition from hybrid to petrol is smooth and glitch free. There is also a small colour diagram on the dashboard that will tell you whether the ICE or battery pack is propelling the car. During coasting, you can see the wheels storing energy in the battery.

Lexus RX 450h

Lexus RX 450h

All being said, the main engine is a 3.5-litre V6 unit that along with the twin electric motors makes for 313PS of power and 350Nm of torque. An e-CVT sends power to the front wheels. One of the electric motors is placed closer to the rear wheels. Should there be a requirement, this motor sends power to the rear wheels, essentially making this Lexus an on-demand all wheel drive vehicle. In our test which included using the EV mode as well as Sport and Sport+, the Lexus RX 450h returned an overall efficiency of 15.3kmpl. Thats just brilliant considering that this is a big-engined petrol vehicle after all.

Lexus RX 450h ride and handling

The Lexus RX 450h gets adaptive dampers. I quite like the way this vehicle is set up. It literally absorbs everything and be it in whichever mode. Initially I did tip toe over road irregularities. However, once I realised that this one can take a bit of abuse, there was no stopping. Speaking of which, the all wheel disc brakes do their job well. However, as is the case with regenerative braking-equipped brakes, the pedal feel was a tad spongy. Additionally, this Lexus does feel heavy as well. The steering though is feather light when in EV mode but weighs up a bit in other modes.

Lexus RX 450h

Lexus RX 450h

This vehicle is fun to drive but not exceptionally so. It makes you realise that the car is a heavy weight and cannot be simply pushed around corners. To amplify the exhaust note,  the F-Sport brings in a sound generator  in the cabin, when you are doing pedal to metal. Hush-hush is the keyword here because the Lexus RX 450h brings in an unparalleled level of cabin refinement.

Lexus RX 450h

In terms of safety, the RX 450h gets 10 airbags, ABS with EBD, Auto Hold, Hill Ascent and Descent. It gets a full five stars by Euro NCAP too.

Lexus RX 450h verdict

Lexus RX 450h

All being said, the Lexus RX 450h F Sport is priced at Rs 1.32 crore, ex-showroom. It brings in some cool hybrid tech, bragging rights, handsome looks and a plush cabin. It’s main competition will be the Porsche Cayenne but as is the case with Porsches, most of the stuff you get is optional. Plus, there is no beating Japanese reliability, eh! 

Things we like about the Lexus RX 450h

Refined engine, frugality, road presence

Things we didn’t like about the Lexus RX 450h

Price tag, could have been much more fun to drive, non-touchscreen infotainment system

Trivia

The Lexus RX 450h first began life as the RX 400h in 2006, the company’s first hybrid.

Images by Donald Dsouza

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