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Long-term review

Lexus RX 450h - long-term review

£67,100 / £81,600 as tested / £524pcm
Published: 12 Jan 2024
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    Lexus RX 450h Takumi

  • ENGINE

    2487cc

  • BHP

    304.4bhp

  • 0-62

    6.5s

Life with a Lexus RX450h+: has it squandered its lead in the posh hybrid SUV race?

Inside my head: Lexus is the luxury outlier that’s perma-skirting the arena occupied by the big players – Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land/Range Rover. In reality: the first generation RX dates back to 1999, thus pre-empting the Noughties SUV boom. A pioneer. It was certainly the first to introduce hybrid tech to the sector, upscaling parent company Toyota’s far-sighted eco adventures with the original Prius. I remember testing it when it was new, and as with all Japanese machinery of a certain vintage, I can get a bit dewy-eyed on the rare occasions I spot one now. Mind you, I’ve actively had to stop myself shelling out for an early LS 400 saloon – I found one for £1395, a mere 275,000 miles showing – so maybe I’m just weird.

Flagship of a now heavily expanded range, the RX is into its fifth regeneration, not quite the Doctor Who of SUVs but not far off. Aside from the LFA I was lucky enough to hammer round the Nürburgring back in 2009 – trying to keep pace with the late, great Toyota test driver, Hiromu Naruse – and the under-rated IS-F V8 saloon, Lexus has rarely fanned the flames of driving desire. But having recently just scored my first speeding conviction in 18 years, taking custody of TG’s RX 450h feels timely. This is what mindfulness on wheels looks like. What’s the rush?

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So what else do we have here? The RX uses Toyota’s GA-K platform, and while it’s the same length as the outgoing car, the wheelbase is longer and it has a wider track. Still defiantly Japanese by design, this latest version calms down the over-wrought spindle grille and there’s less origami than elsewhere in the range, although it’s a complex looking car. The accelerating C-pillar is an inspired touch, as is the Terrane Khaki paint.

Ours is the 450h+ PHEV, the middle model in a range that’s bookended by 350h and a 500h. It’s powered by the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder plug-in hybrid system that you’ll find in the less salubrious Toyota RAV4, but hey, that’s down-sizing for you, and what used to be called prestige now comes at us from different angles. The ICE is bolstered by an 18.1kWh battery pack and there’s an electric motor on each axle. That adds up to a total system power output of 304bhp, four-wheel drive, and a range on e-power of a claimed 40 miles. Should this mean anything to you, the RX450h+ can hit 62mph in 6.5 seconds, quick enough in isolation but noticeably slower than the BMW X5 xDrive50 e, Mercedes GLE 400 e, or Range Rover Sport P440e.

But this is to miss the point spectacularly, not least because the presence of a continuously variable transmission is even more of a deterrent to spirited driving than the prospect of another three points on the driving licence. Droney under load, you’re blissfully unaware of it the rest of the time, particularly when cruising. High performance SUVs have always seemed singularly pointless to me, even the ones that handle well. So I for one appreciate the RX’s soothing demeanour and the hybrid’s efforts to deploy e-power as efficiently as possible, and as often as it can. There’s much to learn here.

As there is inside, too. Ours is a high-spec Takumi grade car, which adds adaptive suspension, fancy seats, and magnificent 21-speaker Mark Levinson audio. It’s also beautifully finished with Lexus’s signature attention to detail. That and a strong emphasis on technology are what distinguishes this car – for good and bad, as we’ll discover over the next few months.

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