The plus-sized Lexus RX L is the marque’s second-biggest-selling model line, even if it trails behind the usual German suspects for wider acceptance with luxury SUV buyers.
Given this particular generation of RX seen service on local shores since 2015, it certainly looks like it’s found a place until a replacement arrives, due to surface globally sometime in 2022.
Maturity isn’t a necessarily bad thing. In the case of RX, it was treated to a facelift in 2019 that, although rudimentary from the outside, included a slew of detailed changes intent on polishing what was already a compelling package.
Then there’s our test subject, with premium V6 hybrid power (450h), the long-wheelbase seven-seat interior (L) and the promise of Luxury in its name, a high-grade bundle that doesn’t quite scale flagship heights and, thus, is priced competitively against the Euros it hopes to conquer.
If prestige in equates to getting lots of kit for your money, as Lexus believes, the 2022 Lexus RX450hL Luxury is a prime representative of its breed.
The big question surrounding our tester’s worth is whether it packs enough goodness to overshadow any shortcomings brought about by its age – and how it stacks up on individual merit as a fresh enough proposition right now.
With 14 variants on offer in the recently-updated 2021 range, there’s no shortage of choice in the RX fold.
The RX450hL Luxury, for its part, sits nine steps up the ladder at $95,888 plus on-road costs, in a range that kicks off at $73,136 for the entry four-cylinder front-drive RX300 Luxury and tops out at $113,088 for the RX450hL Sports Luxury flagship.
In short, out tester’s basic configuration combines the highest-spec powertrain and extended accommodation with the most modest equipment fit-out. Using the Lexus website configurator, drive-away pricing is around $104,000.
There’s a palette of ten available colours, standard Onyx grey and nine other cost-optional hues ($1750) and two available interior schemes, Ivory or Black, at no extra cost, though interior and exterior combinations are offered in select pairings.
An Enhancement Package, including a glass sunroof roof, head-up display, and smart entry key card, adds $3500.
For a friskier spin, the RX350 F Sport five-seater, with dedicated V6 petrol power and a more athletic vibe, lists for a similar $95,636 plus on-roads. On that, you can save $3500 in opting for a short-length five-seat version of the RX450h Luxury, which lists for $92,388.
Rivals? If badge cache is your motivator, Germans include the Audi Q7 45 TDI ($103,672), BMW X5 xDrive25d ($104,400) and Mercedes-Benz GLE300d ($111,871), which are all diesels and are measurably pricier.
As for petrol-powered alternatives for similar money, there’s the Genesis GV80 2.5T AWD ($95,476) and the Volvo XC90 B6 Inscription ($96,990) for similar outlay if without hybrid motivation. If you’re really wedded to petrol-electric power and seven-seats but not the premium badge indulgence, the Toyota Kluger Hybrid in all-you-can-eat Grande spec is a far more affordable $75,400.
Outside, the RX450hL Luxury features 20-inch wheels, bi-LED headlights and DRLs, auto high-beam, keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, a reversing camera, heated and power-folding mirrors and rear privacy glass. Cruise control is adaptive too.
Inside, the big Lexus gets leather-accented electric front seats, front seat heating and cooling, comfort access, dual-zone climate, electric steering wheel adjustment, a self-dimming rear-view mirror, push-button start, and inductive phone charging. Infotainment is a 12.3-inch touchscreen with 12-speaker sound, sat-nav, and DAB+, along with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In short, a smattering of niceties but you really have to stump up for the Sport Luxury version to start adding prestige features the RX package.
All versions of the RX range were included in ANCAP’s five-star rating from 2015 off the back of Euro NCAP testing.
The range received an adult occupant protection score of 83 per cent (despite a 0.0 from 3 result for AEB City), 82 per cent for child occupant protection, 79 per cent for pedestrian protection and 74 per cent for safety assist (with 0.0 out of 3 for speed assistance system).
Standard assistance equipment includes:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Forward collision warning
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear-cross traffic assist (reverse AEB)
- Lane-keep assist
- Traffic sign detection
There’s also a nifty Drive Start Control that reduces power if you grab the wrong between transmission drive modes (for example, Drive to Reverse). The Luxury trim tested here misses out on adaptive high-beam assist fitted to the higher-grade Sport Luxury.
The 10-airbag suite encompasses dual front, driver’s knee, front passenger cushion, dual side and curtain coverage.
The cabin is, in a word – retro.
The design in the RX is typical Lexus in look, colourisation – particularly the titanium-like trim – and variety of material choice, minted in a genuine sense of solidity the marque is renown for. It’s just dated.
When Lexus adopted this styling years back, it felt quite contemporary and stacked up well against the finest from Europe with its Japanese spin (even though Lexus classically had the US in its historical crosshairs). It will still delight some buyers with more traditional tastes, particularly that analogue clock and the CD/DVD player.
But if you’re wooed by the prospect of razor-sharp, high-def digital eye candy and a forward-thinking approach to appearance and usability, you’ve come to the wrong large SUV.
The RX’s almost overindulgent approach to materials still pleases, especially the soft-touch finishes and leather usage. The build quality and general tactility is excellent, but so much of the look and shape of the cabin space seems a little passé.
The change up from the old 8.0-inch infotainment screen to the new (old) 12.3-inch screen is a bit of a band-aid and the system itself is really not on par with other makers’ designs. Graphics, speed, content friendliness and basic user interface – especially that confounding touchpad – are all way behind the times.
The recently-introduced Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring really are just keeping up with expectations, but even then I couldn’t get my iPhone connected as promised on the tin.
The front seats are excellent, with leisurely contours and impressive support. The 10-way electric seat adjustment for both front occupants is a great inclusion, as is the electric steering tilt and reach steering adjustment.
Cabin space through the three rows is acceptable if middling and the RX’s accommodation is increasingly feeling more compact for no other reason than rivals have offered roomier and more smartly-packaged alternatives since this fourth-gen RX first lobbed back in 2015.
Row two is more comfortable than it is spacious, with lovely seating. Where it does suffer a little is in width, and it’s a bit of a tight squeeze for three adults shoulder to literal shoulder. The extra 110mm of length in the L version doesn’t really translate to noticeably more second-row legroom given an extra row of seating has been shoehorned into the RX equation.
Row three is, unsurprisingly, cramped and really only for kids. Rearmost access is okay – row two stows in a 40:60 arrangement – the third-row seatbacks are split 50:50 so that, in a pinch, you can still load large-ish objects as a serviceable six-seater.
Luggage capacity suffers with all seven seats in place, but 176L is decent enough for groceries and smaller objects. Stowing row three liberates a quite handy 652L with a nice, flat floor area.
If you only need a five-seat SUV, the shorter RX body style brings 453L and 924L load volumes in five- and two-seat configurations.
It would be fair to presume the 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6 in the 450h is identical to the dedicated petrol-powered 350 unit with some electric motor assistance. Not so.
While essentially the same 60-degree ‘2GR’ unit with identical capacity (3456cc), the hybrid version adopts Atkinson cycle ignition/valve timing trickery which, in a nutshell, improves efficiency while sacrificing low-end power.
So while RX350 models produce 216kW and 358Nm, the 450h’s petrol engine component has 193kW and 335Nm.
When you have electric assistance offering low-speed torque, there’s not much real-world downside to the Atkinson cycle petrol-electric format Toyota adopts in terms of drivability. But you do get a marked improvement in claimed fuel consumption and emissions.
Where the petrol-only RX L returns a claimed 10.2L/100km and 234g/km of CO2, the figures for the RX450hL are a considerably rosier 6.0L/100km and 137g/km. The shorter/lighter five-seat 450h returns 5.7L/100km.
On test, with genuinely mixed driving, the big hybrid sat mostly bang on 8.0L/100km litres, which is decent if not quite as impressive as its claim.
The drivelines are quite different, too. In hybrid form, the RX adopts a CVT transmission with six-step programming rather than the petrol’s eight-speed conventional auto, and the so-called ‘e-Four’ all-wheel drive is essentially a by-wire on-demand design with no mechanical linkage between the axles.
The battery pack is a nickel-metal-hydride type for the ‘closed’ self-charging hybrid system that doesn’t require any plugging in to recharge. At 65L, the hybrid fuel tank is also smaller than that of the petrol version (72L).
Minimum fuel grade is 95 RON.
Having literally just climbed out of the new Toyota Kluger Hybrid, the Lexus RX 450hL fundamentally feels as if you’ve stepped back in time.
That’s because you do. The big Lexus sits on the archaic Toyota K platform that dates back to late ’90s, where the Kluger is built on newer TNGA underpinnings that the future next-generation RX is due to adopt.
The point? The RX450hL has a hefty feel on road and much of that is down to core DNA. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for some buyers – in fact, a sense of size and mass bring a certain dignity with it in luxury realms.
What you don’t get is the sense of connection, lightness and driver cooperation offered by, well, the new and much improved Kluger.
Still, Lexus has put considerable effort into smoothing out edges and polishing in a fine level of refinement, including myriad details injected in its subtle mid-life facelift – and it’s paid dividends.
The noise isolation, for one thing, is superb to the point of tranquility, with a real sense of separation between the cabin and the environment beyond the glass, including tyre rumble.
The suspension is quite softly set but not to the point where it’s undisciplined and overly wallowy. Nor does the ride suffer much in the way of sharpness across sharp road acne despite sitting on fairly large 20-inch rolling stock.
Finding a positive balance between pliant primary and supportive secondary ride seems (strangely) to be a bane of the modern luxury SUV at any price and it’s one area where the RX is one of the more impressive and resolved offerings out there.
The trade-off is that the big Lexus is dynamically a bit, well, distant. It’s planted, it grips up well enough and settles nicely out on the open road, but show it corners with too much enthusiasm and the sheer inertia of the thing likes to take control of the situation.
No, you’re not buying a sports car, but it does present a level of control as a sense of safety that mightn’t inspire a huge degree of confidence in poor conditions.
How the V6 hybrid powertrain blends engine and motor propulsion is quite natural and reasonably polite, though it’s not quite as seamless in passing the torque baton around as some other applications in the Toyota family fold.
Driven sedately it’s peachy but even a modest squeeze of the loud pedal does make the V6 seem somewhat strained, even if it’s little more than faint sonic murmur in the overall scheme.
As seems increasingly the case in motoring, the electric drive character is more premium and upmarket than when using internal combustion. So often the e-motor feels ample, the petrol is left wanting.
Not helping matters is that the transmission, despite its faux ratio change trickery, still likes to sit in an uncomfortably strained rev band, making your large luxury crossover seem, at times, as overstretched as a modestly-powered city car.
However, it’s not exactly lethargic. In fact, the hybrid system can drum up an amount of muscle that satisfying even if the amount of outright thrust is hardly what you’d call herculean.
Outward visibility is decent rather than exemplary and reverse parking does demand a little care, if mainly because the resolution of the system isn’t much chop. The rear cross-traffic system, with incredibly handy reversing AEB, does become as much of a guidance system as it is a fundamental safety net.
On that, the rest of the safety and assistance systems are quite sound when they do trigger, which is quite rare because they’re well-calibrated for real-world driving.
In short, the Lexus RX450hL irons out the roughness of the on-road experience with aplomb and shines brightly in the stakes of comfort and refinement where you want it to the most.
The RX is covered by a four-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing intervals are a typical 12 months and 15,000km, whichever comes first. Lexus’s servicing is capped at $595 per visit.
You also get access to the Lexus Encore ownership program, which gives owners access to Caltex fuel discounts, invitations to luxury dinners and events, as well as luxury hotel partnership benefits.
Should you shortlist the Lexus RX? Yes, if you like the cut of the Lexus jib – and many do – and put more credence on quiet and comfy on-road running.
But as a smartly-packaged, contemporary-feeling, tech-laden SUV, it’s very much an also-ran.
Should you opt for the hybrid? Debatable.
On balance, the benefits the petrol-electric format brings in efficiency outshine any detriment in sheer performance, but you do need to stump up around $10k more to save what amounts to a couple of litres of fuel per 100km. That’s a lot of kilometres clocked to break even.
Should you opt for the L seven-seater? Only if you really need it. Aussies are big on contingencies and our market is wedded to the seven-seater, but for the balance of packaging passengers and luggage space the five-seater actually makes a little more sense.
In short, the RX450hL really is a particular combination for a particular buyer. The flip side is that, for the money, there are few true alternatives available that bring together seven-seat functionality with petrol-electric hybrid motivation and premium badge cache.
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