THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Build quality is first-rate as is fuel economy.
- What’s Worst: Infotainment controller is finicky to use.
- What’s Interesting: Lexus has added an extended three-row seating version of the 450h for 2018.
Over the years, Lexus and Toyota have carved out sales success with their gasoline-electric hybrid models.
It all started with the Toyota Prius nearly two decades ago but; nowadays both Toyota and Lexus have hybrids up and down their model lineups.
Case in point is the Lexus RX mid-size crossover SUV, which offers a hybrid variant in the form of the RX 450h.
This vehicle features the latest edition of the Lexus Hybrid Drive, built around the 3.5-litre Atkinson cycle V6 gasoline engine and a high-torque electric motor.
Combined with a powerful storage battery, a continuously variable transmission and a sophisticated power management system, the RX 450h offers 308 net hp while at the same time delivering impressive fuel consumption figures of 7.5/8.4/7.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
That compares with the entry-level RX 350 and its 295 hp 3.5-litre V6 that posts significantly higher fuel consumption numbers of 12.2/9.0/10.7 L/100 km.
The RX helped create the luxury SUV segment and now 20 years later it is Canada’s most popular Lexus model and it’s easy to see why.
It has eye-catching styling, excellent build-quality inside and out and the comfort features one expects in an upscale crossover.
This Lexus line starts with RX 350, priced from $56,750. The high-content hybrid version starts at $70,900 and our tester had the popular F Sport Series 3 package, a $5,900 option. All in, our test vehicle priced out at $78,971.
That’s a stiff price to pay, but anyone shopping the luxury SUV market will find the RX 450h has a lot of offer, particularly in terms of fuel efficiency.
Traditionally, the RX line has had seating for five, but new for 2018 are the RX 350L and RX 450hL models, both stretched versions of the original that offer three-row seating for seven. The L versions are 109 mm (4.3 in) longer, yet they sit on the same wheelbase.
When you consider the price bump of the RX 450h over the entry-level RX 350, buyers will have to decide if the hybrid variant is worth the extra money.
We think so, but if price is an issue, buyers will decide with their pocketbooks.
All-wheel-drive is standard across all trim lines as is Drive Mode Select, offering Sport, Eco and Normal modes. The F Sport package adds a Sport S+ model to the mix.
Other mechanical features include electric power steering, independent suspension front and rear, stability control, traction control and hill-start assist.
The RX 450h comes with standard 20-inch wheels, but our optional package added snazzier F Sport alloy wheels.
Among other items in the F Sport package are adoptive variable suspension, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio system, natural leather F Sport seats that are heated front and rear and cooled up front.
Power folding rear seats with power recline feature, touch free rear hatch, panoramic glass sunroof, heads-up display and assorted unique F Sport trim pieces are other features of the package.
As with all styling exercises, the exterior look of the RX 450h will be a subjective matter.
Some love the design; others not so much with the in-your-face front end and its huge grille that has a mesh look in F Sport trim.
Whatever your take, there’s no doubt the RX 450h is bold and elegant with a character line running from front to rear to create an arrow-like profile.
The current generation RX came out in 2016 so the 2018 model has a modern, up-to-date look with L-shaped LED headlamps and fog lamps that frame the front grille.
In the rear are L-shaped wrap-around LED brake lamps to give it a distinctive look.
Inside, the cabin is nicely finished particularly in F Sport trim with such features as a heated three-spoke steering wheel, aluminum sport pedals, and F sport shift knob and scuff plates.
The seats are comfortable with eight-way power adjustment up front and the cabin has bright, airy, spacious feel to it.
The split folding rear seats have a recline feature and a remote release in the cargo area stows the seats to more than double the cargo area to 1,579 litres from 695 litres.
A huge infotainment screen sits atop the dash with vivid colour and graphics.
However, I found the mouse-like controller on the centre console to be finicky to use.
As with all Lexus products, safety gets top priority in the RX 450h. All models get the Lexus Safety System + that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control and lane departure alert with lane keeping assist.
The system also has blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, back-up camera and monitor and 10 airbags along with assorted other features.
Towing capacity is 1,585 kg (3,494 lb).
On the road, the RX 450h is quiet and smooth with decent acceleration and fairly nimble in tight parking lots.
The RX has been a perennial leader in the mid-size luxury crossover segment and this hybrid version adds even more to the mix with a combination of luxury, fuel efficiency and comfort.
2018 Lexus RX 450h
BODY STYLE: Four-door, five-passenger mid-size luxury crossover SUV.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 3.5-litre Atkinson cycle V6 with an electric motor and the Lexus Hybrid Drive system combined with a continuously variable transmission.
FUEL ECONOMY: 7.5/8.4/7.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
TOW RATING: 1,585 kg (3,494 lb).
CARGO CAPACITY: 695 litres behind second row, 1,579 with second row folded.
PRICE: $70,900, as tested $79,971 including $2,045 freight and PDI.
WEB SITE: Lexus.ca
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