The Lexus RX you see in showrooms today has remained largely unchanged for some six years. It’s still a terrific mid-sized luxury SUV (sport-utility vehicle).
And, yes, over the years, Lexus has upgraded the ride quality, sporting responses and the infotainment system. Indeed, the cabin looks fresh and daring. Of particular note, the sizeable horizontal screen atop the centre dashboard in my very fancy RX450h hybrid tester — operated by touch or through the touchpad which lies at the driver’s right-hand fingertips — is a happy eyeful, and in a good way: Its crystal-clear display shows all sorts of useful information and the interface is simple and intuitive.
Overall, the RX is a reliable ride, and also safe, comfortable and quite pleasant to drive. The craftsmanship, epitomized by the hand-stitched leather dash, is evident everywhere you look and touch.
The base version, the all-wheel-drive RX 350, starts at $57,500. Add in taxes, fees and such and you’re looking at a drive-way cost of nearly $70,000.
My tester, the admirably fuel-efficient and quite spritely RX 450h, starts at $60,250. But I’d wholeheartedly recommend jumping up to the hybrid. That choice brings the cost to north of $70,000, fees and what not all in, but the extra spending gives you about a 50% improvement in fuel economy and slashes CO2 emissions by about 40%.
At least as important, the hybrid RX 450h is much quicker and more powerful (308 net horsepower versus 295 hp) thanks to the torquey electric motors paired with a six-speed continuously variable transmission and a V-6 gasoline engine. True, this is a hybrid, not a pure EV (electric vehicle), but it will almost certainly prove to be a 12-15-year purchase, one that sips premium fuel on a smallish scale, leaps from a standing start and boasts a striking design, inside and out.
The RX was the first of what is now a flood of luxury SUVs and remains a top-seller in the class and has long been the most popular Lexus on the market. Since the early days of the RX, Lexus has expanded what was once exclusively a five-seat SUV, to add not just hybrid versions, but also a third row of seats for short passengers in both the gas and hybrid versions – RX 350L and RX 450H L.
The exterior design? I’m not a huge fan of the grille, though it fits into the Lexus signature design language, and it’s flanked by LED headlights. The body is marked by a tremendous assortment of curves and edges and corners. Some might call this overdone. Others could see this mish-mash as daring and modern.
The cabin, though, is delicious. Seats? First-rate support. Spaciousness and comfort? There is plenty of room for big adults, head to foot. The array of safety and high-tech features is more than competitive. If you choose a comparably equipped gasoline-powered Acura MDX or Cadillac XT6, expect to pay several thousand more for the pleasure. Of course, this rig is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
The RX 450h hybrid could get lost in the parade of new and rival hybrid and pure electric SUVs in the luxury marketplace. It shouldn’t. The value is there, the durability is proven.
There might be sexier, newer choices, but do not let the shiny objects of the “new” distract you from the basic goodness of this established RX. The biggest challenge you might face with this RX is this: after a decade of driving it, with few if any problems, you may grow tired of it all, bored. At that point, you will struggle to part with the RX because it’s still doing its work so very effectively.
What is it? A midsize luxury SUV available in all sorts of packages, with the RX 450h hybrid the best choice.
How much? $ RX 350, starts at $57,500. The admirably fuel-efficient and quite spritely RX 450h, starts at $60,250
What’s good? Durability track record, quality of materials and how they are crafted, fuel efficiency and CO2 numbers, and cabin design.
What’s not so good? The exterior design is a dizzying array of curves and corners.