2017 Lexus RX 450h Review

This is about as smooth and comfortable as a crossover can get


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Ultra-smooth ride, excellent seats in front and rear, strong powertrain, good fuel economy numbers
Negatives: Design looks awkward without F Sport trim, awful infotainment control knob, spongy handling
Bottom Line: Lexus's best-selling vehicle went through a major makeover for 2016, and got all dramatic on us in terms of styling. We love the levels of comfort and the ride quality but have a hard time getting past the looks of the base RX hybrid without the added F Sport bits that complement the car's edgy design. That being said, it's one of the best luxury crossovers out there.
Lexus sure took some risks by making their bread-and-butter vehicle about as crazy as it could get from a design perspective. Cuts and angles everywhere, along with a massive maw of a grille and a peculiar "floating roof" seem anathema to what we imagine for Lexus customers. They tend to be a conservative bunch. But Lexus also did enough to bring back the loyalists by increasing the length and wheelbase to provide for more room and by making the interior more upscale. We drove the base hybrid RX for a week to see if it was much different from the F Sport version we drove last year. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

6.8

 

Without the F Sport trim, the hybrid crossover is noticeably softer in handling and ride quality, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Most customers will flock to the RX for its reliability, space and comfort rather than its driving dynamics.

Ride Quality: The long wheelbase, the cushy suspension setup and the tall tire sidewalls contribute to a smooth and comfortable ride.

Acceleration: We love the fact that the electric motor is paired with a healthy V6 instead of the usual wimpy 2.0-liter turbo versions we usually find under the hood of most other hybrid crossovers. The RX offers plent of grunt when you need it. The CVT can be a bit droning at times, but there's enough power on tap to work with it.

Braking: Decent brakes with good progression provide good stopping power. No grabbiness here.

Steering: Steering is numb, but it returns to center without a problem. It's a good mate with the ride quality, leaning more towards comfort and softness than firmness and precision.

Handling: Body roll was manageable, but the soft tires and chassis don't instill overwhelming confidence to take turns hard.

Technology

7.5

 

Lexus makes a decent infotainment system, but it's still a bit dated and vague with the controls. Lexus needs a tech upgrade soon in terms of visuals and user-friendliness, but most customers will be satisfied with its look and operation.

Infotainment System:The Enform system looks fine on the hi-res screen, but it's far from being attractive. Menus are intuitive, and everything is pretty easy to find.

Controls: Great button locations for climate, audio and navigation. This is good news because the RTI knob is pretty annoying to use, as we typically overshot the menu item we wanted because the actuation is too vague.

Bluetooth Pairing: Quick pairing and zero issues throughout our week-long drive.

Voice Call Quality: Crisp and clear voice call quality with no transmission issues.

Styling

6

 

As much as we enjoyed the look of the F Sport version of the RX 450h, we're not as keen on the amalgam of tall tire sidewalls, aggressive angles and a less dramatic grille and wheels. The F Sport looks far more consistent with the new RX design.

Front: We're just not big fans of the non-F Sport grille with its horizontal bars. The RX actually needs more drama here to go with the rest of the very angular and sliced-up sheetmetal on the body.

Rear: The protruding taillights are a bit much for us, but it's consistent with the angularity of the rest of the car.

Profile: There's a lot going on with the body. Multiple cut-lines, myriad angles and a floating roof are betrayed by the smaller and less aggressive wheels. Without the F Sport's black side mirrors and F Sport wheels, the profile looks odd.

Cabin: It's the RX's strong suit. The colors and materials give it a rich, contemporary look.

Comfort

8.8

 

It's one of our favorite crossovers this year in terms of comfort levels for driver and passenger. The seats are just about perfect, and we can only cite Volvo seats as a better place to plant your tukus. Pretty much every surface exudes high levels of quality and communicates luxury at every opportunity. Lexus seems to have paid extra attention to the interior of the RX and rightfully so given the huges sales numbers nailed by previous versions.

Front Seats: The RX has some of the best seats we've sat in recently. Great cushioning and good bolstering for long commutes and road trips are some of the RX's strong suits.

Rear Seats: Very comfortable with ample head and legroom. It's noticeably larger than the last vehicle, and no one will feel cramped.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Very quiet even at high speeds. Build quality is in line with what we've come to expect from Lexus. No rattles or vibrations that we noticed. It keeps you refreshed on long drives.

Visibility: A great seating position with a low dash and thin A-pillars give excellent forward visibility. The design of the floating roof impedes some rearward visibility with the thick pillars.

Climate: The climate control system worked very well, providing excellent cold air on hot, sunny days.

Safety

9

 

There's not much the RX 450h doesn't have in terms of safety features. It comes chock full of driver aids, including blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. The backup camera comes standard on this model, and there's also an available 360-degree camera, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control that does a beautiful job providing a measure of steering assist that helps on long drives.

IIHS Rating: All RX models earn a Top Safety Pick+ due to good crashworthiness across the board and superior crash avoidance technology. It's about as good as it gets, and families will have peace of mind, as a result.

Standard Tech: ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, blind spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring, brakeforce distribution and brake assist. It also comes standard with Lexus Enform Safety Connect that has automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location emergency location button, and roadside assistance.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with Lexus Safety System+ that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and adaptive front lighting system headlamps.

Storage/Cargo

8.3

 

The RX 450h does a commanding job of providing multiple and ample storage options for your daily gear. Aside from a somewhat awkward space beneath the center stack and in front of the shifter, everything else is well-placed and well thought-out. The cargo space has plenty of room, making it easy to do a road trip or long haul drive on the weekend.

Storage Space: Great expanding door pockets for easy access, deep front cupholders, large center console armrest and a cubby for smaller items just beneath the center stack.

Cargo Room: The rear cargo section is ample with 55.9 cubic feet of space.

Fuel Economy

6.5

 

Here's where some shoppers remorse could occur. In AWD format, our car was supposed to get 31/28 mpg under normal driving conditions. We tend to drive our cars fairly hard, but we were still a bit disappointed by the less than stellar mileage, notably affected by the V6 engine. Also, keep in mind that the hybrid drinks premium fuel, while the gas version takes regular.

Observed: 20.2 mpg

Miles Driven: 238 miles

Driving Factors: We drove on highways and local roads and mostly in Sport mode. More conservative driving habits will likely show mpg gains for most drivers.

Audio

9

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the upgraded 15-speaker premium audio system in the RX 450h. The sound was rich and loud with clear notes at all volumes. It's an excellent system that's well-chosen for the RX.



Final Thoughts

Lexus knows how to build quality vehicles, and they consistently get excellent marks when it comes to reliability, too. The RX is no different, and you can tell attention to detail has been paid by Lexus. The RX 450h in base trim is far more about comfort, amenities, and safety than it is about looks. It's quite remarkable how much F Sport trim enhances the look of the RX 450h, but it's like night and day. The base trim makes the vehicle look a bit clumsy, but we can get past it because the RX 450h is truly great when it comes to providing a great place for occupants. Shoppers who are looking for a premium crossover will be hard pressed to find a vehicle that's more accommodating and well-made.
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