2017 Lexus RX 450h Sport Luxury – $108,610
(3 / 5)
It’s Lexus’ biggest SUV and one of the most angular cars on our roads. But will its looks win it fans or count against it?
The large luxury SUV market has some very solid contenders.
So when Lexus threw its hat into the ring with the RX, it needed to bring its A-game.
It needed something that was stylish, luxurious and reliable. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Perhaps that’s a little harsh – styling is certainly subjective.
Is the styling really that bad?
To look at, you’d guess that the Lexus RX was designed by someone who was handed a 30-centimetre ruler, a pencil, a piece of paper and that’s it.
And have a look at the size of that grille. But there’s something everyone can agree on – it’s distinctive.
Of course, there has to be some substance under the skin.
Let’s talk about that powertrain
Lexus never has and never will make a diesel SUV.
So when it builds a behemoth like the RX, it needs some decent grunt to get it up and going.
And thanks to Lexus/Toyota’s know-how with hybrid powertrains, it seems a no-brainer to couple petrol with electricity for such a large machine.
So, what has Lexus managed to achieve with the RX 450h?
The combination of the two power methods creates a total of 230kW and 335Nm. Not exactly huge figures.
So, perhaps the emphasis is on fuel saving? Well, at 5.7L/100km, the focus is obvious.
Okay, so you’re not going to get those figures in real-world use, but we did see an average of 7.7L/100km for our week of driving, which was mostly in city conditions.
The CVT gearbox isn’t anything to write home about and it doesn’t stay in electric vehicle (EV) mode for long enough.
Transitioning from electric to petrol power can also be a bit shuddery, which doesn’t fit with the expensive feel of the RX.
It is well equipped, though
There’s heated and cooled front seats, satellite navigation, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, a 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, Mark Levinson stereo with Bluetooth streaming, powered tailgate and a sunroof.
The massive 12.3-inch screen which sits atop the dash is bright, clear and high-res.
It’s able to be split into two screens for quick reference between radio and sat-nav, for example.
But while the infotainment screen is good, we still scratch our heads wondering why Lexus persists with that infernal mouse-style controller.
It uses haptic feedback and a magnetic-snap to lock onto “click” points and its operation is far too cumbersome to befit an SUV costing over $100K.
Trying to enter a destination is an exercise in patience, to put it mildly.
Lexus, please take a leaf out of BMW or Audi’s book and try something different – the quicker the palm-rest and mouse are consigned to the history books, the better.
Oh yes, then there’s that wood-and-leather steering wheel.
It’s a love it or loathe it kind of thing and if you have dry hands it can be a bit slippery.
But in the light coloured wood of our test car, it looks a bit old-fashioned.
The steering itself is light; very light, indeed. But that does make it very easy to park.
And with the surround view camera system, you can wheel it into fairly tight parking spots simply.
What about the rest of the interior?
Because it’s a large SUV, space is excellent and fitting a car seat is quite simple with easy access to the anchor points.
The seat comfort is also very good, with excellent padding and beautifully soft leather.
In fact, the quality overall is excellent. Lexus absolutely knows how to build a machine.
The doors close with a solid thunk, the materials are all first class and there are no unsightly gaps or cutlines in the plastics.
Even things like the volume knob have a satisfying heft – if only the steering was as well weighted.
Are people going to buy this with the NX around?
Well, the NX is gaining all the attention and it’s the right size, but the RX’s days aren’t numbered.
There’s a long wheelbase version coming soon, which will find a new suite of buyers.
But buyers who opt for this version will find a well-built, quality machine that is quite frugal but that will probably last until all the dino-juice runs out.
It is a Lexus after all. Oh yes, you also have to be a fan of the styling.
Can you take the Lexus RX off road?
In a word, no. This is a city slicker’s car – stick to the blacktop.