For people who trade in their Lexus every couple of years, big jumps in styling or technology aren’t necessarily expected. These customers are more likely to appreciate a model sticking to its core competencies and getting subtly better over the years. The RX is the poster child for that kind of iteration. It’s become the archetypical Lexus.
The RX 450h gets its motivation from a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated hybrid V6 engine that produces 308 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque, which is mated to an electronically controlled CVT transmission with some fairly pointless paddle shifters. I say pointless because, being a CVT, the shifts are simulated and the paddles do nothing to make the RX feel sporty. All-wheel drive is standard on the F Sport hybrid, which is the version I’m testing here.
The 450h’s performance is totally adequate. It’s not what you’d call athletic, but the RX hybrid doesn’t struggle to hit freeway speeds in reasonable time and the drivetrain as a whole is very smooth. Being a Lexus hybrid, the RX 450h is also pretty efficient. During my testing, I’ve easily matched the EPA’s 30 mpg combined rating.
Adding to the generally non-sporting goodness is a soft, compliant suspension and direct but not overly communicative steering. The RX 450h drives like a midsize luxury SUV with no real sporting pretense and I appreciate that, despite the F Sport getup. The RX’s suspension soaks up imperfections with zero drama but doesn’t feel wallowy. The brakes are strong and inspire confidence while also being easy to modulate. The RX is the hallmark of a good Lexus, focused on being comfortable and relaxing, which is something many other luxury brands seem to ignore in favor of “dynamism.”
The RX’s real party piece is its interior. This is old-school Lexus done to the max. Sure, the infotainment system feels a little behind the times, and the array of buttons isn’t aesthetically pleasing. Still, they work without fuss and are easy to get used to, and in a world where some brands are burying basic functions inside touchscreen menus, I appreciate Lexus’ approach.
The material quality is also typical Lexus, which is to say, top-notch. Everything feels very well put together and nice to touch. There are no squeaks or rattles. Nothing feels out of place, and everything feels like it’s built to last. Lexus doesn’t typically mess around with this kind of stuff and it’s served the company well thus far.
The interior is the best thing about the RX 450h.
With 44.1 inches of headroom and 44.1 inches of legroom in the front row, the RX is plenty comfortable for drivers of all sizes. I’m 6 feet, 4 inches tall and have no issues with bumping my head on the headliner, which is something I often struggle with, even in larger vehicles. The second row has a very reasonable 38 inches of headroom and 38 inches of legroom, making the RX a champ at hauling people. Cargo room maxes out at 32.7 cubic feet with the second row of seats folded, or 16 cubic feet with the back seats in use, which falls a little behind the likes of Acura’s smaller RDX, which offers 29.5 cubic feet.
When it comes to Lexus’ infotainment system, things here are better than ever due to the addition of a touchscreen back in 2020. Gone is the miserable touchpad and control knob. The standard screen measures only 8 inches, but the upgraded 12.3-inch screen in my test vehicle is actually pretty good. As I’ve come to expect from Lexus, the system doesn’t provide the last word in responsiveness, but with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, that doesn’t really matter to me too much.
My test vehicle is equipped with an excellent Mark Levinson audio system, which in this instance packs 15 speakers and 835 watts of power. Even if you’re not super into high-quality audio, this should be considered a mandatory upgrade on pretty much everything with a Lexus badge. In the RX, this stereo is as warm, clear and listenable as any other Levinson-branded system.
Even though a new model is on the horizon for 2023, the current RX 450h remains a solid buy.
The RX’s list of safety equipment is robust thanks to the addition of the company’s Safety System 2.0-Plus suite. Fitted as standard, it comes with all the greatest hits like adaptive cruise control, blindspot monitoring, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, road sign detection and lane-keep assist. All of the systems work well.
How does the RX stand up to its competition? Well, as one of the originators of the class, this Lexus still holds its own fairly well. It offers comparable tech and amenities, excellent overall quality and, in hybrid form, really good fuel economy. The RX 450h isn’t exciting, but it’s quiet, comfy and a solid daily driver.
My test 2022 Lexus RX 450h F Sport tester comes in at $60,980 with a whole bunch of options, and while that’s not exactly chump change, it’s a fair price for this sort of SUV. It’s the kind of pricing that will keep those repeat buyers coming back. Here’s hoping the just-announced 2023 RX doesn’t drastically shake up that formula.