The Lexus RX has long been one of our go-to recommendations when it comes to a luxurious, roomy mid-size SUV that fits 5 people quite comfortably. Add to that its hallmark Lexus-smooth ride and brand reliability along with its resale value and it’s no wonder Lexus has had a hit on its hands since the RX launched in 1998.
Two decades later, I bring you the current hybrid version of the RX, the 450h F Sport. It is part of the RX’s current generation, that like the Mazda CX-9 I recently reviewed, has been around since 2016. It’s possible a mid-cycle refresh could come with the 2020 model year.
What separates my RX450h from the RX350 is its hybrid powertrain accompanied by standard all-wheel drive, and the improved fuel economy that comes with it.
The 450h sports a 3.5-liter V6 paired to two high-torque electric motors in front with a separate motor in the back the all-wheel drive. While the powertrain delivers 308-horsepower, acceleration is a bit on the sluggish side, after all, the 450h is about 400 pounds heavier than the gas-only AWD version due to the battery pack. But still it performs well in traffic thanks to the 247 lb-ft of torque provided from the electric motors. The hybrid RX has five drive modes, EV, Normal, Eco, Sport and Sport S, plus the F Sport-exclusive Sport+ mode makes six.
Fuel economy is a plus of course with the RX450h’s hybrid engine. It delivers 30 combined vs 22 combined for the gas-only RX AWD.
Ride and Drive
The Lexus RX rides like a Lexus, and that means smooth, almost cruise-ship like. It’s also a very quiet ride in the cabin. The F Sport has specially tuned sports suspension with front and rear dampers that adjusts the damping force according to road surface conditions. It’s without a doubt a comfortable ride. It’s an SUV that handles well, too. And, unlike the new UX, I had no issues with the RX450h’s brakes that were more seamless without any jerkiness.
While the RX350 isn’t exactly what I’d call an exciting-looking SUV, perhaps because they are so commonplace on the road, the 450h manages to be what I’d call a looker. It looks sharp in Nebula Gray Pearl and the F Sport adds an exclusive blackout mesh grille, lower spoiler and satin-finish chrome plater lower protector. Black side mirrors match the grille. Up front it sports Bi-LED headlamps, integrated fog, and clearance lamps. The F Sport gives you illuminated door handles, power folding heated side mirrors and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels. My test model adds Triple Beam LED auto level headlamps with washers for $1,615.
Lexus never disappoints on interiors. They are well-built with attention to detail and quality materials. While the RX, last updated in 2016, could use a refresh in my opinion, my model’s F Sport packages adds a jolt of red for some cabin excitement thanks to Rioja Red leather-trimmed front sport, heated and ventilated heavily bolstered front seats. Unfortunately, while they undoubtedly look inviting with quality leather and stitching, they don’t fit my admittedly problematic back even with all the power adjustments available. Lexus calls them “highly supportive” - and I’d say that description is true but sadly I found the seats too hard for my comfort. In the cabin, the F Sport also gives you a aluminum pedals, a heated perforated three-spoke leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, along with a perforated leather-wrapped shift knob. The center stack and console are user-friendly and Lexus’ easy to read tachometer with its 8-inch LCD cluster lights up when you press push button start. Steering wheel controls to scroll through driver information are a given.
Roominess is something the RX has going for it as well. The RX is quite roomy in the front and second rows. (It offers dual zone climate with rear vents.) The back seats are comfortable (I’d happily ride back there) and they recline manually. The floor board is flat across the back is flat, no hump in the middle, which is great for leg room in the middle seat. You get 18-inches of cargo space with the seats up, 55.9 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded down. (They are 40/20/40 split rear seats.) My test model comes with a $200 touch-free rear power trunk and a $1,850 Panoramic moonroof.
The 450h comes standard with a 8-inch infotainment screen, but Lexus splurged on my test model with the $3,225 12.3-inch navigation system screen, coupled with an upgraded 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. The 12.3-screen is hands-down my favorite thing about Lexus vehicles. It sports some serious high-resolution graphics and vibrant colors plus the maps look great. But that’s where my praise ends. This is probably the worst experience I’ve ever had with a Lexus infotainment system ever. Not only was the Remote Touch interface challenging, the menu itself was complicated and I had a heck of a time tuning radio stations The whole thing is distracting and frustrating. (The RX450 does not feature Lexus’ latest updated touchpad interface like in the UX which I find much to be much easier to navigate. ) The plus side was that voice navigation worked great and its prompts were easy to follow, so I used it instead. In terms of connectivity, you get Alexa integration, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet.
The RX lineup features standard Lexus Safety System+. That gives you a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent high beams, road sign assist, lane departure alert with steering assist and lane keep assist. My 450h test model has some advanced driver assist options: $1,865 Blind Spot Monitoring with Parking Assist with Auto Braking, along with an Auto Dim Power Fold Mirror and Panoramic View Monitor and a $600 color heads up display
If you’re looking for an SUV hybrid the RX450h remains a solid choice that provides a comfortable, smooth and quiet ride for its occupants backed up by Lexus’ safety offerings, overall reliability and resale value. Just make sure you try the infotainment system out during your test drive.
2019 Lexus 450h F Sport AWD
- What I liked most: Its exterior looks and 12.3-inch touchscreen.
- What I would change: Update it with Lexus’ current version of Remote Touch, a touchpad, which is far easier to use that the current system.
- MSRP: Base price $51,355; as equipped $61,735 including destination.
- Fuel Economy: 31 city/28 highway/30 combined.
- Official Color: Nebula Gray Pearl
- Odometer reading when tested:
- Weight: 4,740 lbs.
- Spare Tire: Compact.
- Length-Width-Height: 192.5” long/ 74.6” wide/ 67.7” high.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.2 gallons with the filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs.
- 2019 Lexus 450h F Sport in a few words: A compelling Lexus package and can’t-go-wrong choice for luxury hybrid SUV shoppers.
- Warranty: 4-year/50,000 Basic Warranty; 6-years/70,000 miles powertrain warranty; 8-years/100,000 hybrid warranty; 72-month corrosion warranty.
- Final Assembly Location: Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
- Manufacturer’s website: www.Lexus.com