Lexus RX450h AWD: If something big, fancy, expensive and comparatively fuel efficient fits the bill. …
Price: $58,490 as tested. Blind-spot monitor with panoramic view and rear cross-traffic braking, $1,865; cold-weather package, $315; 20-inch wheels, $1,130; moonroof, $1,850; more noted below.
Conventional wisdom: Motor Trend says that it’s “the best RX you can buy” and that “it’s a little more expensive than the non-hybrid, but the driving experience and fuel economy are more than worth it.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Experience amazing.”
Reality: … the Rx450h does all that — and tows 3,500 pounds.
What’s new: The large two-row SUV from Lexus gets a new Premium Package and Android Auto and Google Assistant for the 2020 model year.
The company also makes the RX450H L, which is a three-row version of the same vehicle.
Outside of that, you’re looking at pretty much the same angry-scowling, Norelco Microscreen-looking SUV that’s been out there since the 2016 model year. And, no, it’s not getting prettier for 2021; sorry, but at least the hybrid saves you gas money (though you would have already spent it on the hybrid drive option).
Up to speed: The 3.5-liter V-6 creates 308 horsepower and is twinned with Lexus hybrid drive. Acceleration is hopping; Toyota reports a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds ― not a rocket, but not bad for a largish SUV.
Three motors power the all-wheel-drive model, while just two are there in the front-wheel drive — one for each drive axle and one for accessories.
Shiftless: The continuously variable transmission works seamlessly in either normal mode or shift.
Paddle shifters allow drivers to choose “gears,” but the RX isn’t helping too much with the downshifting. Shifting the lever also changes gears, but it feels slushy and unresponsive.
On the road: Sport mode takes the RX450h to a better level of handling. It’s not exactly fun, but it is competent and easy for drivers to know what to expect.
Driver’s Seat — and Passenger Seat: On a first trip, the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat was enthusiastic about the comfort and beautiful feel of the NuLuxe-trimmed seats (heated and ventilated for $640). “I should have known this was a Lexus,” she replied when I told her who made the vehicle.
The wood dashboard ornamentation (part of the $800 Premium Package, which also adds memory seat and memory folding mirrors) added to the luxurious feel, as well.
Friends and stuff: The rear seat offers terrific legroom and headroom. Foot room doesn’t include much under-seat wiggling, but the legroom is generous so this should not be too big a problem. The middle-seat occupant won’t be delighted but won’t suffer too much, either.
Cargo space with the rear seat folded is reported as 924 liters, which is singularly unhelpful, thanks, Lexus. Here in the States, where we use cubic feet, it translates to 32 cubic feet. That would be smaller than a Corolla hatchback, and the RX cargo bay is not that, so something else has been lost in translation, as well.
Play some tunes: I’ve griped about Lexii touchpad enough. This time, the 12.3-inch display is a touchscreen, although the pad also sat on the console arm — mocking me. Buttons for source and dials for volume and tuning show that the company is coming back around to stuff that works without Hulk smashing it. And dashboard buttons control source while touchpad buttons take you to map or home screen, so it’s almost a bit of a jumble now. Still, choices.
The Mark Levinson 15-speaker Premium Audio system ($3,365) offers excellent sound, an A.
Keeping warm and cool: Up-down buttons control the temperature for each side of the vehicle, and other buttons handle the rest of the functions.
Night shift: Headlights work well and are pointed in the direction they belong. Interior lights are not too bright to see by while driving.
Fuel economy: I averaged about 26 mpg in the very unusual Mr. Driver’s Seat round of testing, without going too far from home.
Where it’s built: Cambridge, Ontario
How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the Lexus RX a predicted reliability of 4 out of 5. No separate listing is available for the hybrid model.
In the end: The RX450h definitely makes driving a comfortable and luxurious experience.