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Lexus RX 2019 review: 450h

Lexus has built its reputation on quality, refinement and top-shelf after-sales service.
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Lexus has built its reputation on quality, refinement and top-shelf after-sales service. But does the hybrid version of its RX SUV bring anything new to the table?

This is a review with a difference. For three days, I had a Lexus RX450h and thought it was pretty terrible to drive. Every time I turned the steering wheel, the tyres would squeal as though they weren't inflated with air but instead with tiny, fluffy kittens.

I was bitterly disappointed. How could a car get out the door of the Lexus engineering division with such an aversion to corners. I mean, I know it's not meant to be a corner-carving monster, but normal cornering should have been okay.

After those three days, I'd had enough. The low tyre pressure warning light came on and the penny dropped. I hadn't even thought to check the pressures. They were very, very low. Like only at two-thirds of recommended. So after visiting three separate establishments to find a working pump, I had a whole different car.

Lexus RX 2019: RX450h Luxury Hybrid
Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$90,160

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The RX450h F Sport lightens your bank account of $102,460 before on-road costs, the only hybrid SUV within cooee of this price.

That nets you 20-inch alloys, a 15-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled electric front seats, reversing camera, that ever rare CD player, keyless entry and start, a solid safety package, reversing sensors, active cruise control, sat nav, a massive sunroof, auto LED headlights, head-up display, partial leather interior, power tailgate, auto wipers and a space-saver spare.

The Lexus media system is run from the gigantic dash-mounted screen that is shamed only by those massive Tesla units.

  • Auto LED headlights come standard with the RX450h F Sport. Auto LED headlights come standard with the RX450h F Sport.
  • 20-inch alloys also come standard. 20-inch alloys also come standard.
  • As well as a space-saver spare in the boot. As well as a space-saver spare in the boot.
  • The Lexus media system is run from the gigantic dash-mounted screen that is shamed only by those massive Tesla units. The Lexus media system is run from the gigantic dash-mounted screen that is shamed only by those massive Tesla units.

Sadly, the joystick-style control remains as does the very confusing software system that is less than delightful to use. It's such a shame that a tech-laden machine is let down by the world's most baffling entertainment system.

Once you get it working and understand it, it's okay, I guess, but several years into this job I still can't easily fathom how it works. And that naff analogue clock...

F Sport cars also pick up adaptive suspension and a several driving modes to liven things up.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

There's a lot of RX and there's a lot going on in that creased, folded and teased sheetmetal. It's a unique design, with a huge 'spindle grille', big lights and the fast glass both front and rear.

It positively screeches Lexus DNA and was a polarising force on our driveway for the week. Most weren't sure, but knew for certain it was a Lexus.

Aggressively flared wheelarches like this aren't common on SUVs (although the squared-off ones are). It's right up on stilts, but the 20s you find it rolling on help to reduce its visual bulk.

That wacky rear quarter glass reminds me of the BMW i3's but it's a Lexus SUV signature. It's quite striking. Do I like it? Not really, but that's completely subjective. You can tell, though, it's built tight as a drum.

  • Aggressively flared wheelarches like this aren't common on SUVs. Aggressively flared wheelarches like this aren't common on SUVs.
  • That wacky rear quarter glass reminds me of the BMW i3's but it's a Lexus SUV signature. That wacky rear quarter glass reminds me of the BMW i3's but it's a Lexus SUV signature.

Inside is a bit calmer, beautifully laid-out and built to last. The materials are almost all top notch, with lovely switchgear and the real leather is really nice.

There is absolutely nothing avant-garde in there (apart from maybe the pinstripe effect on the centre console), it's all terribly comfortable and easy on the eye. But not exciting, though not all Lexuses are.

This particular car is very US-centric and, if I may, a particularly sunny and humid part, so it can't be too wacky.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

There is plenty of room inside this big unit, which is very welcome. Front seat passengers have lots of storage, such as a deep central bin under the armrest, dual cupholders and big door pockets with bottle holders.

Step into the rear and there is a ton of leg and headroom although the transmission tunnel intrudes slightly for the middle passenger. Chuck them out, drop the armrest and you have two more cupholders and each door has pockets and bottle holders.

  • There is plenty of room inside this big unit, which is very welcome. There is plenty of room inside this big unit, which is very welcome.
  • The boot is pretty big considering the angle of the rear glass. The boot is pretty big considering the angle of the rear glass.
  • You start with 453 litres, which rises to 924 litres with the split-fold seats down. You start with 453 litres, which rises to 924 litres with the split-fold seats down.

The boot is pretty big considering the angle of the rear glass. You start with 453 litres (but an expanse of flat floor), which rises to 924 litres with the split-fold seats down. That seems conservative given just how much space you appear to have.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

You can choose three different powertrains in the RX - a 3.5-litre V6, a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, or this one, the 3.5-litre V6 with hybrid.

As a series hybrid it can run for short distances on electric only before firing up the V6 to supply charging and motivation.

The 3.5 produces 193kW/335Nm along with the electric motor. That torque figure seems low and it probably is, but that's a function of the weird way of measuring torque from a hybrid unit. The combined power figure, however, is 230kW.

The hybrid system is hooked up to Lexus' CVT auto and sends power to all four wheels. Lexus says the 450h will complete the sprint from 0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds, which isn't bad for a 2210kg SUV.

The 3.5 produces 193kW/335Nm along with the electric motor. The 3.5 produces 193kW/335Nm along with the electric motor.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The official combined cycle figure is listed as 5.7L/100km. And, uh, yeah, we didn't get that. I did manage 8.9L/100km over the week, which included a long motorway run from Sydney up to the Blue Mountains (a roughly 160km round trip).

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The RX ships with eight airbags (including knee airbags for both front seats), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot sensor, reversing camera, forward collision warning, forward AEB and reverse cross traffic alert.

There are three top tether restraints and two ISOFIX points

The RX scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in January 2016.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

4 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Lexus offers a fence-sitting four year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist thrown into the bargain for the same period. 

Service intervals arrive at 12 month/15,000km and there is, sadly, no capped-price servicing.

Lexus will, however, promise you a car for the day or come and get your car from you and drop it back when the service is done. And it will be washed and vacuumed. The website makes a big deal about that.

Lexus does not offer capped-price servicing. Lexus does not offer capped-price servicing.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Right. So this is a salutary lesson about tyre pressures. The first few days the tyres were only pumped up to 200kpa (29psi). That's an easy 100kpa (14psi) short of the required 300 (43psi).

Every time I, or my wife, went around a corner, the big Dunlop Sport Maxx SPs would squeal and squirm and it was most unsatisfactory.

So check your tyres, because the extra 100kpa makes all the difference. Also, the number of service stations it took to find a working pump was unacceptable. Pull your socks up, Sydney.

Anyway.

It would be nice if the drive select dial made a genuine difference to the throttle and transmission's response. It would be nice if the drive select dial made a genuine difference to the throttle and transmission's response.

Correct tyre pressures enacted, the big Lexus turned into a comfortable, competent cruiser. Its motorway performance is super-impressive, purring along the M4 and it's ridiculously poor surface like it was born to it. Which it sort of was.

The hybrid drivetrain allied to the CVT is mostly whisper quiet. It's not the most responsive combination, the initial step-off of the electric motor's torque soon giving way to the rubber band effect of the transmission.

It doesn't feel as swift as the claimed 7.7 seconds and it would be nice if the drive select dial made a genuine difference to the throttle and transmission's response.

In the city, it's a proper wafter, moving about the broken down city streets of Sydney without fuss and a plush ride that's a bit of a surprise given the huge wheels and substantial weight of RX.

It's all very easy and pleasant but the wild looks do not match the experience. Which is not a criticism, just an observation.

Verdict

The RX is a little frustrating - it's going after Mercedes and BMW and Audi in a hotly-contested space and falls over in a couple of key areas. The media/sat nav system is hopelessly outdated and the drivetrain fails to deliver a significant performance or fuel benefit (although, given its 2.2 tonnes, perhaps it delivers a miracle).

It does come with a rock-solid, scandal-free reputation, a reputation for spectacular customer service, it has a lovely cabin and it's certainly an individual looker. For plenty of people, that's quite enough.

Is the RX a contender in the big luxury SUV space or just a bit-player? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$95,016
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$80,692
Highest Price
$109,340

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Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
RX350 CRAFTED EDITION 3.5L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $88,150 2019 Lexus RX 2019 RX350 CRAFTED EDITION Pricing and Specs
RX450h CRAFTED EDITION HYBRID 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $97,260 2019 Lexus RX 2019 RX450h CRAFTED EDITION HYBRID Pricing and Specs
RX450h F Sport Hybrid 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $102,460 2019 Lexus RX 2019 RX450h F Sport Hybrid Pricing and Specs
RX350 F-Sport 3.5L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $92,992 2019 Lexus RX 2019 RX350 F-Sport Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Safety7
Ownership7
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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