Toyota knows how to make a hybrid. So it makes perfect sense that the RX 450h made by Toyota’s upscale brand, Lexus, is a contender among luxury hybrid SUVs.
The RX 450h got a makeover for 2016 and gets several updates for 2020 including an aggressive new look that sure steps outside the more conservative Lexus realm. The 450h also gets a new infotainment system with a touchscreen, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay finally become standard.
Three trims are available: RX 450h, RX 450hL and RX 450h F Sport. Starting prices range from $48,600 to $56,510. The RX 450hL has a longer wheelbase and accommodates six passengers in three rows of seating. The other two trims have room for five passengers in two rows. All-wheel-drive is standard on all models.
All trims have the same powertrain: a 3.5-liter V6 and three electric motors that make a total of 308 horsepower and 247-pound-feet of torque, paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
The 450h is all about a comfort and less about athletic handling. Yes, there’s enough power for just about any driving situation but acceleration is a bit slower than many rivals and you’ll notice body lean when cornering with some speed. If zippy performance is important to you, this will not be your first choice. My tester, the RX Hybrid F Sport has slightly better performance with its sport-tuned suspension, but the handling is still not what you’d call sporty. Visibility is limited to the rear due to the sloping roofline and thick rear pillars.
What the RX Hybrid does well is deliver a cushy ride. The transition between electric and gas power happens smoothly and you’ll barely notice rough roads and potholes. The cabin is library-quiet, with road and engine noise barely noticeable. This is a great rig for a road trip.
When properly equipped the RX hybrid can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Fuel efficiency is good for a luxury midsize SUV, as you’d expect from a hybrid. EPA ratings for my tester are 31 mpg city and 28 mpg highway with a combined rating of 30. I got 28 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is upscale as you’d expect in a Lexus. Most materials are soft-touch, synthetic leather or real leather with excellent fit and finish—every stitch is in place. My tester has snazzy black and red upholstery. Seats are comfortable and roomy. Even taller adults will be comfortable in both rows.
There’s a long list of standard features including rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, reclining rear seats, infotainment system with an eight-inch touch screen, a nine-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, HD Radio, eight USB ports, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Standard driver assistance features include lane keep assist, lane trace assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and traffic sign recognition.
Available features include real leather upholstery, front sport seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, upgraded infotainment system with a 12.3-inch touch screen, navigation, 12-speaker audio system, Mark Levinson audio system, in-dash DVD player, and panoramic moonroof.
Available active safety features include a head-up display, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic braking, surround-view parking camera system, and park assist.
The infotainment system is now easier to use. A new touchscreen and touchpad replace the clumsy mouse-like Remote Touch controller located between the two front seats. However, there’s no home button on the touchscreen so you do have to use the touchpad for that. Let’s hope Lexus fixes that glitch in future models. Otherwise, the system looks great with its crisp graphics and responds quickly to touch and voice commands.
Cargo space is below average for the class. There are 18 cubic feet with both rows of seating in place and 55.9 cubes with both rows folded. A power liftgate is standard. The second row split-folds 40/20/40 so that provides some flexibility in hauling passengers and cargo. The cabin has lots of places to stash small items, including adjustable cup holders that can accommodate different size beverages.
Cushy, smooth ride
Excellent fuel economy
Upscale interior with top notch fit and finish
Updated infotainment system with touchscreen
Lots of standard and available tech and features
Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Not as athletic as some competitors
Less cargo space than rivals
Aggressive looks don’t match driving demeanor
My tester starts at $50,550. blind spot monitor with intuitive parking assist, panoramic view monitor and rear cross traffic braking are $1,865. Cold Weather Package is $200 and adds windshield wiper deicer, headlamp auto-leveling, and headlamp cleaners. Color head-up display is $600. Triple-beam LED headlamps, cornering lamps, front LED turn signals and fog lamps are $1,675. 12.3-inch navigation system with Mark Levinson 15-speaker premium audio system is $3,365. Touch-free power rear door with kick sensor is $150. Cargo mat, cargo net, wheel locks and key glove are $315. All-weather floor liners and cargo mat are $280. Delivery fee is $1,025 bringing the grand total to $60,025.
If you want a midsize luxury SUV with excellent fuel economy, a cushy ride and beautiful interior, the Lexus RX 450h delivers. With the upgrades it gets for 2020, it becomes an even stronger offering in the class. On the other hand, if athletic performance is tops on your list, this won’t be your first pick.