Is 2021 your year to make the step to a hybrid? The Lexus RX450h Luxury makes it a comfortable and easy journey, albeit a rather unexciting one.
Is a hybrid on your ‘maybe’ list for your next new car?
If you’re anything like me, and probably most other Australians, I’m going to suggest it is. But the market is maybe just a little narrow and perhaps a bit confusing for you to be able to know for sure, right?
To want to make the step, but to also not want to make the step is a pretty common place to be in the decision-making process, which is why a car like the 2021 Lexus LX450h Luxury makes it easy.
Lexus (and by association, Toyota) have a long history of hybrid drivetrain options in Australia, with the RX itself leading the charge for the Lexus brand, back in 2006 with the RX400h.
That’s a solid fifteen years of hybrid family-hauling credentials, that in a quiet, Lexusy way, have been refined and tuned to make life even easier for you.
The current RX range was launched in 2015 and received a decent update last year.
Currently offered in a choice of three models, Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury, the range starts with our Luxury-spec car at $92,388 before options and on-road costs, climbing past the $104,888 F Sport to the $111,088 RX450h Sports Luxury range-topper.
It’s well into premium territory, no question, and while the entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLE300d is only about $13k away, it isn’t a hybrid and nor will it have the same expanse of equipment as the Lexus.
If you want to live the pseudo-electric life, a BMW X5 45e is a more significant $41,500 away, and while well equipped, is basically 50 per cent more expensive than our car as tested, which is why the Lexus makes a pretty compelling statement, despite the raft of Toyota-sourced switchgear around the cabin.
|2021 Lexus RX450h Luxury|
|Engine configuration||Petrol V6 with 650V battery pack and twin electric motors (front and rear — 123kW max, 50kW rear only)|
|Displacement||3.5 litre (3456cc)|
|Power||193kW @ 6000rpm (230kW combined with electric drive)|
|Torque||335Nm @ 4600rpm|
|Drive typeAll||All-wheel drive|
|Power to weight ratio||106kW/t|
|Fuel claim (combined)||5.7L/100km|
|Fuel use (combined)||7.8L/100km|
|Main competitors||Mercedes-Benz GLE | BMW X5|
Always a handsome car, the RX has matured well over time, and in this trim features 20-inch alloy wheels and bi-LED headlamps, but not the extra cool triple-stack LED ones of the F Sport and Sports Luxury grades. It doesn’t get the ‘sportier’ body kit either, so while smart, is still quite conservative.
The profile works better in this five-seat version (you can read Rob’s review of the seven-seat RX450hL here), with the RX’s proportions and angles blending together nicely, from the spindle grille up front to the irregularly shaped rear quarter window down the back.
For mine, I like the RX. It’s undeniably modern and unique, but still manages to sit on the safe side of the ‘challenging’ design window. Looking at you LX…
In typical Lexus fashion, the ‘450-Luxe is very well equipped, even when you consider it is the lowest rung on the 450h-ladder.
Power front seats with ten-way adjustment, as well as heating and ventilation, make the cabin a welcoming place from the get-go. Plus there are three memory settings, which is not something I felt I needed, until now. Hello regular and relaxed presets!
While the top-deck combo of tan over brown (actually its more brown and burgundy, so let us call it ‘browngundy’) was not to all tastes, especially under the Deep Blue Premium paint ($1500). I quite liked it, as it gave the already roomy cabin of the RX the sense of being brighter and more airy.
This was further helped by the fact our car features the $4500 Luxury Enhancement Pack which includes the large panoramic sunroof and head-up display. To be clear, it’s the roof that helps, not the HUD.
Rear passengers have a stack of room and the seatbacks recline for extra comfort. The centre arm-rest folds for cup holders and storage, and it’s altogether a very comfortable place to spend time.
The 453-litre boot has a powered tailgate and the rear seats are split 40:20:40, with each one fitted with a top-tether child-seat anchor point. The outside placements both feature ISOFIX mounting.
Fold everything down and there is a 924-litre load space, which has a bit of a lip where the seats don’t fold fully-flat and intrusions from the wheel arches which limit the usable size. Height is also limited by the sloping rear hatch, but you do get a space-saver spare wheel under the floor.
|2021 Lexus RX450h Luxury|
|Wheels/tyres||235/55 R20 – Dunlop|
Back upfront and there’s a 12.3-inch widescreen touch-interface infotainment system with support for Bluetooth phone and audio, AM, FM and DAB radio, and even CDs. Playback is via a 12-speaker sound system, and it now supports device projection through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
We’ve said this a lot about Lexus, but it does need to be said again… the infotainment system from the touch-pad interface to basic graphical representation is pretty ordinary. I find the touchpad hard to use on the move, but can now (thankfully) use the touchscreen to tap on menu items.
Searching for and changing radio stations is a challenge (they seem to be listed in random order and reshuffle on the go), and the way the menus are laid out is much more confusing than it really needs to be. I understand that as an owner, you’ll tend to set your station and leave it alone (which I what I ended up doing), but it shouldn’t be this hard to work with.
That said, the wide-set full-screen implementation of Apple CarPlay is very good and suits the system well. I found I tended to use that for navigation and phone use, while keeping the radio on. The car was always quick to recognise my phone when plugged in, which can be done with either USB port at the front of the console (in total there are 6x USB ports in the car).
Plus, the energy use screen – which shows when the car is using the engine, or battery, or both – is part of the native system, and always fascinating to watch.
You get good storage, including the neato multi-height cup holders, phone charge pad and ‘that’ phone holder.
Expected luxury additions like dual-zone climate, keyless entry and start are present, and of course, the Lexus Safety System+ is along for the ride too.
This includes pre-collision braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and road-sign detection and assist (so as to match posted limits through the cruise control system).
There is a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, ten-airbags, parking sensors and the world’s most frustratingly low-quality rear-view camera.
Grainy? Blurry? Crappy in the wet and worse in the dark? It’s all here!
Why, on a car that is so well equipped and so advanced and priced around $100,000 do you have to put up with such a mediocre camera? It’s not as if Lexus make them, it’s a supplied part. Apparently, the relentless pursuit of perfection only counts when you aren’t parking.
The head-up display too is pretty uninspiring in terms of information and presentation, especially when you see BMW and Mercedes projecting more and more information onto the screen, for a similar price point.
And while we are here, the 4.2-inch LCD display in the instrument cluster is a direct carry-over from the Toyota Kluger and about as inspiring as that would suggest.
Long story short, a bit of a consumer-tech update and usability refresh wouldn’t go astray.
|2021 Lexus RX450h Luxury|
|Colour||Deep Blue (Metallic)|
|Options as tested||$6,000|
|Servicing 3yr||$595 per year for 3-years|
|ANCAP safety rating||5-star (2015)|
|Warranty||4 years / unlimited km|
Fire it up, and the Lexus will greet you with silence. The 650-volt battery system and twin electric motors provide full powered drive at carpark speeds.
Merge into traffic, and the 450h continues to feel effortlessly smooth. It pulls cleanly and swiftly, with the transition from electric to hybrid or petrol only-drive punctuated by a thrum of vibration from the engine.
I say vibration, as you can barely hear it. Quiet and refined tootling about is what you expect from a Lexus and it is what you get with the RX.
The combination of 193kW/335Nm 3.5-litre V6 and two permanent magnetic electric motors (123kW maximum) provide a combined output of 230kW. The E-Four AWD-system drives the front wheels as standard and uses the second electric-motor to turn the rears when needed.
Traction and drive calculations are done using the Lexus Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system, but I can assure you that we are already too far down the technical hole for most Lexus buyers so, ah let’s summarise by saying that in terms of driveline, it does what it needs when it needs to.
All of this is sent to the road via a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which gives the RX the feeling that under all but foot-to-the-plush-browngundy-carpet acceleration, the car’s forward urge seems to stop at around 4000rpm.
Not because it can’t rev higher, just because you shouldn’t need it to.
Don’t get me wrong, the RX feels punchy and strong, but it just tapers off in terms of delivery, reverting to its smooth and mostly efficient self as soon as it can.
Lexus claims the combo of thirsty 3.5-litre V6 and batteries should yield a combined fuel consumption of around 5.7L/100km. We sat around 7.8L/100km, and were trying to be efficient. Perhaps more carpark speeds using the electric drive were needed.
Bottom line, while it is more efficient than a petrol-only V6, and it is a hybrid, it’s not the utopian break from the pump at BP that you might be hoping for. To put it in context though, if you’re coming from a Kluger, you’ll be filling up about half as often.
Vision out isn’t brilliant either, the steeply raked windscreen has you set back from the firewall, with the long, sloping bonnet falling out of view very quickly. I’m tall and like to sit low, but still found myself unable to see the front left-hand corner of the car which made carparks and tighter access points mildly concerning at times.
The same goes for the tiny porthole C-pillar windows which do nothing to aid with blindspot vision. What is it with Toyotas and poor rear quarter vision?
But a Lexus is more about floating forward than it is about head-checking the lane next to you, and as a cruiser, the RX absolutely shines.
The ride adheres to the worry-free refinement rule, with the RX feeling plush and compliant over all but the most severe bumps. Heavily chopped surfaces will cause the car to fidget around, but you are on uniform-width 20-inch wheels and 55-profile tyres, so it is not unexpected.
It is a very comfortable car, but perhaps the key thing about the RX450h is simply the invisible way the car just gets things done.
Changing drive from electric to petrol and back again is not your concern, as the car just does it. There’s no thought needed to what gear you are in or need due to the CVT, or what surface you are on thanks to the VDIM all-wheel-drive and traction management.
To put it simply, the 2021 Lexus RX450h Luxury is a very nice car. It’s an effortless car. It is effortless to buy, drive and own.
It allows you to cross over into hybrid ownership without even thinking about it. You don’t need a plug or a charger, you don’t even need to worry about range.
The RX serves this up with comfort, convenience and technology, and only asks that you don’t expect it too much of it in return.
I don’t think the RX450h will set your passionate heart fires burning, but as a luxurious mode of transport, it’s a perfectly good option to settle on.
Sure, some of the convenience and infotainment technology is well off the pace of traditional six-figure competitors, but equally, the hybrid drive train could be argued as being well ahead of the same cross-shop set.
If 2021 is to be your first step towards a hybrid, then the Lexus makes the transition a painless, comfortable and if you like ‘browngundy’, a pretty stylish one too.
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