The 2018 Lexus RX has always been a big seller for Lexus, and the new version is the best one yet.
All variants of the mid-size luxury SUV use a 3.5 liter V-6, but the 450h (hybrid) model adds a small battery and three electric motors. There is also a new long version that has been stretched a little over four inches to accommodate 3rd row seating.
Like all Lexus vehicles, the RX 450h has high quality interior materials, a quiet ride and smooth braking and steering. Does the hybrid RX really deliver luxury-car feel and econo-car mileage?
The V-6 powers only the front wheels. One electric motor assists the front wheels, one drives the rear wheels and a third is used to generate electricity from the gas engine. While the power ratings aren’t up much from RX350, the electric motors and CVT do make the acceleration feel strong no matter what speed you’re at. Power delivery is smooth and the transition between electric and gas is barely noticeable. Total combined output is 308 HP with EPA-estimated 31 city mpg and 28 mpg highway. We averaged 29 mpg from our mixed city and highway driving.
The battery pack is small, and when driving in full electric mode, will only get you a few miles of driving. The hybrid system is very well integrated, regenerative braking is smooth and the transition to the normal brake system is imperceptible. This is one of the best integrated hybrid systems we’ve ever tested.
The interior is very well appointed with soft touch materials and leather everywhere. It has a very open feel with large windows and a double pane sunroof. Everything looks and feels like high-quality and the buttons and knobs provide solid feedback.
Lexus Enform is still a little more difficult to use with its mouse-like controller than many other infotainment systems. The sound quality is excellent and beats many of the more expensive competitors.
The screen is not a touch screen, which takes some getting used to. It is short and wide with the option of splitting the view into two sections. It is easy to see the information on it and is customizable enough to personalize it.
The HUD does an excellent job of showing what the hybrid system is doing, or the tachometer if in sport mode, lane departure system, vehicle speed and navigational compass. The only downside we could find with the HUD was that the radio station only shows up when adjusting it. It should display the radio station full-time and replace the station with the volume level when adjusting the volume.
Where the tachometer would normally be, there is a gauge showing how much energy is being generated or how much battery is being used. This can be useful for trying to save fuel or energy and does a good job of letting the driver know when the regenerative braking system is being used. When placed into sport mode, this gauge changes to be a traditional tachometer.
The center console provides for a comfortable place to rest an arm while driving, and has additional USB, 12 volt and headphone ports. Just in front of that there is another storage spot large enough for most phones that includes a passthrough into the main storage area. This is great for charging a phone while driving.
The front seats were very comfortable and accommodating for people of all shapes and sizes. There is enough adjustability between the seat, steering wheel and pedals to customize your comfort. The steering wheel controls are clear and easy to use, as are the cruise control buttons and levers. A beautiful analog clock in the center of the dash ties everything together while adding an extra touch of luxury.
The rear seats are also a comfortable place to be for the passengers. The center armrest has quite a bit of storage in it and is at a useful height for an adult. There is no separate climate control zone for the rear, but there are adjustable vents to help with air flow. There is only one 12-volt outlet for the rear passengers to use, limiting tablet and phone time for back seat passengers.
The rear seats are split 40/20/40 and any individual section can be folded down, so even with two rear seat passengers, the center section can be folded down to accommodate long items that wouldn’t normally fit in the back. All three rear seats also feature child seat connection points, but the vehicle isn’t wide enough to easily accommodate three car seats side by side.
The rear cargo area is easy to access with the powered hatch. There is a decent amount of space back there for a vehicle of this size. Our test model came with a vinyl pullout cargo cover and a cargo net to keep things organized and out of sight of ill doers. There is one 12-volt outlet in the cargo area and a couple of hooks to hang grocery bags on. Under the rear storage area are the spare tire and equipment needed to change a flat. The 12-volt battery is also located under the cargo area.
Under the hood, there isn’t much more room for anything. The gas engine and hybrid components take up a significant amount of space, but all the regularly maintained items are still easily accessible. Like many modern cars, this isn’t one that we would want to work on ourselves.
On the outside, the RX looks modern with its smooth shape accented by sharp lines. The projector headlamps light up the road very well for night-time driving. The rims are stylish and appropriately sized. The tires are designed for efficiency, which becomes clear when performing emergency maneuvers, but for daily driving they are smooth and quiet. Like most new Lexus vehicles, the RX has the polarizing predator grill. In this application, the grill still looks large for the size of the vehicle, but we like it more on the RX than on other Lexus models.
Overall, the RX 450h accomplishes being a luxury cruiser that is both comfortable for short trips around town and for long cruises on the highway. Its power is adequate, and efficiency is great. The hybrid implementation is one of the best on the market today. With the starting price for the RX 450h of $45,995, it’s a bargain in its segment.
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Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.