This week I am reviewing the fourth generation of the extremely popular Lexus RX SUV. We saw the first RX model back in 1998, and since then it has been one of the most popular luxury SUVs in America.
Now comes the 2016 model, which has been completely redesigned from top to bottom, especially the exterior.
For the first time ever, you can call the RX looks aggressive due to its sleeker design with its sloping roofline that appears to float above the body. It is the large triangular grill that has everyone talking and offends some of the died-in-the-wool RX traditionalists.
Also new for 2016, the RX has a longer wheelbase and overall longer length, a new suspension system for a smoother ride, and they revamped the interior, which was always fantastic.
My review vehicle is the RX 450h, which is the hybrid version of the RX 350. It is powered by a 308-horse 3.5-liter V6 and a pair of electric generators that allow you to run on battery power. All RX models come in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The hybrid version comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the all-gas version has an 8-speed.
Going to the inside, you notice an extremely luxurious interior. Rich leather and stitching abounds and as you sit down behind the steering wheel, you notice a very well laid-out dashboard and large center console that is soft to the touch.
A large tachometer and speedometer face you with a driver information center between them, and you won’t miss the massive 12.3” color screen that is fixed on top of the dash.
You control everything on the big screen from a joystick, or if you prefer, a mouse that operates the sound system, the navigation, Bluetooth, Lexus apps, climate controls and more.
The joystick is a point of contention for some. While it is intuitive and locks in on the different functions, it is a bit distracting. To be fair, I suspect after you have driven the RX for a few weeks, it probably gets easier.
On the center console, you have two large cup holders. You can change the vehicle dynamics from a round switch that changes from Eco, normal, and sport. The wood and leather heated steering wheel contains controls for just about everything. I found the front seats to be incredibly comfortable.
The added length gave both front and rear seat passengers more room, and the RX would be comfortable for five adults. The extra legroom cut down some of the rear cargo area, but the rear seat folds down and back up with a push of a button. Beware of the fact that the back seats do not fold down flat, in case that is important to you. There is no third row seat option, but the rumors are it is possible for the 2017.
The RX 450h comes well equipped with free features such as blind-spot monitoring, collision warning, backup camera, heated and air conditioned front seats, power tilt wheel, moon roof, power tailgate, and 10 airbags.
Options on this one includes the Luxury package, which gives you heated rear seats, touch-free power tailgate, 20” alloy wheels, rear door sunshades, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. The touch-free tailgate is pretty cool, instead of waving your foot under the bumper like most; you just hold your hand near the Lexus logo with the key fob near you and it will open.
This one also has the Lexus Safety system which has hi-tech safety features like the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and intelligent high-beam headlamps.
Driving impressions on the RX 450h are terrific, the ride is smooth, it is incredibly quiet inside, and you cannot feel anything as the powertrain switches from gas to battery. Acceleration is very good, which was a bit of a surprise, you don’t expect that in a large, 4200-pound hybrid SUV.
Let’s talk fuel economy for a moment, since that is why most people buy a hybrid. The EPA rates it 31 in town and 30 on the highway. However, I set out on a 60-mile long drive on an uncrowded highway. I reset the fuel calculator, set the adaptive cruise control to 75-miles per hour and when I got off the freeway, the fuel economy was an incredible 39 miles per gallon. As I say on the air all the time, nobody does hybrids better than Toyota.
MSRP on this luxury hybrid SUV is $61,900 and I have no issue with that price at all considering the equipment level and fuel economy. By the way, if you normally lease, the residual values are sky high on the RX and that means an unusually low payment.