2015 Lexus RX 450h

2015 Lexus RX 450h Review

Lexus hybridizes its midsize crossover.

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: September 5th, 2014

Sales of hybrids have mostly stagnated over the past few years, and yet every automaker is rushing to hybridize every one of their vehicles. That may seem confusing until you realize that the car companies are under pressure from the federal government to raise the fuel efficiency of their entire fleet.

Thus, the Lexus RX450h, a hybridized version of Lexus' popular RX350. It's a vehicle probably not too many people have been clamoring for, although that doesn't necessarily mean it's not a good one.

  • Exterior

    The RX is a handsome, but unexceptional crossover, which isn't really a strike against Lexus, since all crossovers seem to be cast in the same utilitarian mold.

    Lexus' latest generation has the right blend of plush fanciness and sleek sportiness, and the RX has a cheerful grille and headlights that look determined but not aggressive. It's exactly the right note for Lexus buyers, who are bound to be somewhat style conscious, based on their choice of brand.

  • Interior

    Like the exterior, the RX's interior tries to balance a young, modern, angluar look with a traditional, plush, luxury interior.

    Our RX450h came with optional wood-trimmed steering wheel, as well as some woodsy touches in the center column, on the shifter knob, and on the door handles. Wood is a tricky thing in car interiors. It can be used to beautiful effect, but when it's surrounded by vast fields of cheap plastic, the effect is mostly unpleasant. Fortunately, Lexus offers a generous array of interior color and material choices.

    The seats are comfortable, and the RX450h can be ordered with leather, although that's a weird option to offer with a hybrid, which is presumably being bought by people who are concerned about climate change, something the cattle industry does more harm to than all the car exhaust in the world combined.

    Although Lexus does have one of the more dependable infotainment systems on the road today, the RX's swoopy nav/infotainment screen enclosure looks seriously out of place. Lexus isn't the only automaker struggling to figure out how to seamlessly integrate screens into their vehicles, but the odd dollop of silver plastic in the RX that mimics the shape of a side view mirror is especially puzzling.

  • On the Road

    For such a relatively young brand, Lexus does a remarkable job of making its cars seem old. Perhaps it's the luxury car traditions themselves that are old (wood, leather, pillowy-soft driving dynamics, etc.), and maybe the fact that the RX450h is not only a crossover, but a hybrid crossover, has quite a bit to do with it, but either way, this is a car built for nothing but comfort.

    The 450h drives like a Lexus, which is to say that you are aware of the road only because you are looking at it. Regardless of which driving mode you choose, you'll never be jostled or bounced too severely.

    And speaking of driving modes, it's not exactly clear why there needs to be an Eco mode in a hybrid, since it should always be in permanent Eco mode, but there is one, and there's also a Sport mode, although what it does other than turn the ambient lights around the speedo red is anyone's guess.

    No one is taking an RX to the track of course, and as a family transport, the RX is comfortable and capable. It just isn't very much fun. But that isn't really the point, is it?

  • Conclusion

    The RX350 is a perfectly fine crossover, and so, too is the 450h. But the superior fuel efficiency of the 450h (30 city, compared to the 350's 18) will never offset the extra $7,000 tacked on to the MSRP (although most of that money may come back at tax time), so opting for an RX350 still seems like the better deal to us, but clearly Lexus feels there is a market for this hybrid.

    We have no problem with that, or with the RX. We just wish it came standard with just a little bit of fun.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine:3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V-6 plus 116 kW electric engine

    Transmission:Electronically controlled, continuously variable

    Drivetrain Layout:Front engine, part-time all-wheel drive

    Power Output:295hp

    Fuel Economy (mpg):30 city / 28 highway

    Price (base):$48,845

    Price (as tested):$58,089 (includes $925 destination charge)

    AvailableFeatures: Navigation System with Additional Options package: Navigation system with 8.0-inch display, Bluetooth, power tilt-and-slide moonroof , power driver's seat, outside mirrors, and steering wheel with memory settings, rear-armrest storage compartment, auto-dimming mirrors, blind spot monitor system, perforated leather-trimmed interior, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing intermittent wipers, Lexus 12-speaker premium sound system, wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, HID headlamps with dynamic auto leveling, intuitive parking assist.

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