Lexus basically defined the luxury SUV hybrid category with its RX 450h, which debuted as a 2010 model. A variant of the gasoline-engine RX 350, the RX 450h is made for people who seek comfort and power, as well as fuel economy closer to that of a midsize sedan than an SUV.
Carrying on the Lexus tradition of refined transportation, it's a nearly-silent, well-appointed midsize crossover vehicle for five passengers. In addition, the RX 450h is one of few all-wheel drive hybrids on the market. Redesigning for 2016 gave the RX 450h and its RX 350 partner a dramatic new look, centering on a massive grille.
What's New for 2017
An F Sport front-drive model is available, but the regular RX 450h now comes only with all-wheel drive. The Lexus Safety System+ is now standard, including a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure alert with steering assist. Lexus Display Audio has added a Scout GPS link. A heated leather-wrapped steering wheel has become standard.
Choosing Your Lexus RX 450h
In the hybrid system, a 3.5-liter 259-horsepower V6 gasoline engine is mated to an electric motor and sends power to the front wheels. Another electric motor serves as a starter-generator. Each motor is coupled to a 37-kW nickel metal hydride battery pack. Combined system (gasoline/electric) output totals 308 horsepower.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the F Sport, but no longer available for the base model. All-wheel drive, offered with each version, uses an additional electric motor for the rear wheels. Each RX 450h uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which functions like an automatic but has no actual gears. Fuel economy with all-wheel drive is estimated at 31 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway (30 mpg combined). For urban driving, at least, that’s quite a boost from the 19/26 mpg (city/highway) for the gas-engine RX 350.
As before, the RX 450h comes in a well-equipped base trim level, but also in F Sport form.
There’s no escaping the fact that the price gap between a conventional-engine RX 350 and the hybrid-powertrain RX 450h is substantial. With the latter, you get quite an improvement in fuel economy for city driving, but not so much for highway use. An all-wheel drive RX 450h compares most favorably to other luxury SUVs, for buyers who wish to take advantage of a hybrid system's benefits while savoring all the other Lexus RX merits.