Lexus RX 450hL Premier 2018 review


With those third-row seats in use, the RX 450hL isn’t quite as spacious as you might hope. Obviously, they’re only really suitable for small children, but the problem is that if you plan on using them, the second row seats need to be moved forward in order to create enough legroom in the back.

This has the unfortunate effect of compromising the usability of the second row – adults will likely find there just isn’t enough knee- or legroom to sit truly comfortably when the third row is in use. Again, they’re best left for children.

At least the cabin is largely a nice place to sit, though. The seats are plush – though could do with more support – and cheaper materials are for the most part hidden from sight.

Traditional analogue dials in the instrument binnacle are easy enough to read, but do look old-fashioned compared with the digital ones increasingly offered by rival manufacturers. The infotainment system also leaves a fair amount to be desired.

While its 12.3in dashtop mounted screen is easy enough to read, it’s operated by a joystick-type controller that is overly sensitive and challenging to use on the move – more so if you’re naturally right-handed.

Out on the road, though, the Lexus does a largely convincing job of living up to its luxury brief. The electric- and fossil-fuel-powered motors allow for smooth, quiet progress to be made, with the transition between the two only discernible by a refined purr from the V6 as it sparks into life. Tread incredibly lightly on the throttle, and you’ll be propelled on electric power alone.

However, herein lies a bit of a bugbear with the Lexus’ hybrid drivetrain. Despite the presence of both an Eco driving mode as well as a dedicated EV mode, it would seem that the RX 450hL’s scope for electric-only motoring is rather narrow – limited either by the small amount of charge you can retain within the Lexus’ battery pack, or by how delicate you can be with your right foot.

Use more than what felt like 25% of the throttle pedal’s travel, and the petrol motor will automatically fire into life – regardless of whether you’re in EV mode or not.

Those after a genuinely useable electric driving mode, then, will likely find a plug-in hybrid along the lines of the Volvo XC90 T8 a more appealing prospect. That said, the cheapest XC90 T8 starts at £62,570, which is £575 more expensive than our top-of-the-line Premier-spec RX 450hL.

And what happens when you throw caution to the wind and really put your foot down? Well, the V6 transforms from a relatively demure and reserved power plant into something approaching coarse.

This is largely down to the presence of a continuously variable transmission, which causes the revs to flare to around 4600rpm (where the engine’s 247lb ft peak torque is developed) the moment you even think about accelerating with any urgency. While you will pick up pace at a perfectly respectable rate, the trade-off is that the previously calm and relaxing cabin environment is shattered by the overly vocal nature of the petrol engine.

Still, once you’re up to speed, things settle right back down. The cabin returns to a hushed state, which is disturbed only by the slightest amount of wind buffeting around the wing mirrors. Even our Premier-spec test car’s 20in alloys didn’t produce a massively noticeable amount of road roar, although this was likely a byproduct of the incredibly smooth roads that made up our Swiss test route.

Dynamically, the RX 450hL isn’t what you’d call particularly athletic – a shame when you consider the fact that Lexus sees the SUV as a competitor for the likes of the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. It feels every bit its size through faster bends, which bring on a noticeable amount of lateral roll – even with the adaptive suspension in its firmest setting.

The steering rack itself isn’t particularly communicative, either. That said, a more urgent style of driving isn’t really what suits this car’s character. Drive it in a calm, easy going fashion and it’s impressively refined, comfortable and cosseting.

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