From £38,8597
First UK drive of latest RX reveals it's strong on performance, outstandingly refined with improved on usability – but still not our cup of tea to drive

Our Verdict

Lexus RX 2009-2015
The RX model has been around for just over half Lexus's life

The Lexus RX has headline-grabbing emissions, but do they stand up to scrutiny?

  • First Drive

    2016 Lexus RX200t review

    The Lexus RX receives a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as a cheaper alternative to the hybrid variants. We try it in the UK
  • First Drive

    2016 Lexus RX450h Premier review

    First UK drive of latest RX reveals it's strong on performance, outstandingly refined with improved on usability – but still not our cup of tea to drive

What is it?

More fresh fodder for the heavy-of-wallet luxury SUV buyer, should the lustre already be wearing off the six-month-old Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 or Mercedes-Benz GLE on the driveway. We drove the new, fourth-generation Lexus RX in Europe, in left-hand-drive form, only last month. Now’s our chance to see how it copes with British roads, in otherwise identical, top-of-the-range Premier trim.

The all-new car is no softly-softly rehash. Built on a stiffened and extended all-steel platform, it is a sizeable 120mm longer than the outgoing RX, with half of that extra length added within the wheelbase in order to address one of the car’s long-standing shortcomings: a deficit of cabin space.

An aerodynamic body design is alleged to deliver telling improvements on cruising efficiency and refinement, while slightly softened suspension springs and stiffened bushings, steering mounts and anti-roll bars have been adopted in order to supersede the excitable ride of the outgoing RX, with the accepted dynamic compromise of the car becoming more of a luxury family cruiser. Over all of that, Lexus has wrapped a body styled more adventurously than that of its predecessor, to which fans of the brand’s alternative aesthetic should quickly warm.

There are only two powertrain options in the RX range: a 235bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, badged RX200t, and our 308bhp RX450h, which combines a 259bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor mounted on each axle.

With CO2 emissions from 120g/km, the 450h offers a generous equipment level as well as the prospect of a £100-a-month company car tax saving to those who might otherwise buy a six-cylinder diesel alternative. 

What's it like?

At once a significantly better high-class soft-roader - and probably a better Lexus - than ever the RX has been before, doing everything that Lexus’s established customer base will expect of it, and some things much better than the outgoing car did. And while it's no more diverting as a driver’s car, and still not a particularly economical example of the big SUV breed, the RX’s new-found dynamic maturity suits it well.

Inside, readily apparent material quality and excellent fit and finish distinguish the cabin. As we’ve already written, the car’s fixtures and switches look and feel very substantial. High-end examples such as our test car even get polished, laser-etched wood trim on the centre console, made by the same people responsible for the panelling on Yamaha's grand pianos. Annoyingly, there is no ‘piano black’ option (oh, the irony).

Passenger space is now more than adequate, although still a bit tight in both rows of seats on outright headroom for larger adults. Boot space isn’t generous enough to write home about but it’s fairly plentiful - and expandable via back seats that slide, tilt and fold.

On the move, the RX450h is outstandingly refined even under combustive power. The V6 petrol engine’s noise and vibration are well suppressed, and both wind and road noise are kept at an impressive low. The car’s ride is compliant, quiet and relaxed but can be tripped up over more severe intrusions, which the continuously variable dampers of our test car seemed to struggle to smooth out. 

Body control is very respectable and steering response is decent, with good weight and pace in the wheel although little perceptible road feel. Grip levels were only moderately good on the 18in wheels of our test car, with understeer presenting in the car’s handling mix quite early on – but the car’s traction and stability controls keep a stern check on your line when inevitably called upon.

The car’s hybrid powertrain feels like a marginally cleverer, stronger take on what went before: more muscular on a part throttle and a bit faster and smoother in blending power sources. It is, however, still frustrating in manual mode, and likewise in general when you want to feel a close mechanical connection with the car. Typical daily driving produced 30-35mpg from it, according to the trip computer. Acceptable economy, but no selling point in itself. 

Should I buy one?

Not if you like to feel engaged by, occasionally amused by, or even vaguely connected to your luxury 4x4. While it commands respect for all sorts of reasons, the RX450h feels as soulless now as the original RX400h did a decade ago and, although relaxing, it’s never likely to serve the interested driver well.

But I’d understand why those convinced by the petrol-electric SUV concept would play it safe with this car rather than take a risk on one of the many lower-CO2 plug-in hybrid alternatives now emerging onto the market - and plenty will. Although monotone, the RX450h’s driving experience has a reassuring sheen to it, and there’s now a broader completeness about the car that’s easy to approve of.

Lexus RX450h Premier

Location Surrey, UK; On sale now; Price £57,995; Engine V6, 3456cc, petrol, plus 2 AC synchronous electric motors Power 308bhp; Torque 349lb ft; Gearbox CVT; Kerb weight 2210kg; 0-62mph 7.7sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 51.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 127g/km, 20%

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Comments
9

6 January 2016

...someone would buy one of these, perhaps apart from the fact they are more reliable and better built than the competition, and have the best after purchase care in the business. But who cares about all that when it frustrates when put in 'manual' mode. Now where did I leave my LR Disco, oh that's right, it's at the dealer for the umpteenth time...

6 January 2016
Ryan Bane wrote:

...someone would buy one of these, perhaps apart from the fact they are more reliable and better built than the competition, and have the best after purchase care in the business. But who cares about all that when it frustrates when put in 'manual' mode. Now where did I leave my LR Disco, oh that's right, it's at the dealer for the umpteenth time...

Surely to spend £57k on a car it must have some sort of desirability to the prospective purchaser. After all there are many cars to choose form that are cheaper that would do the same job.
I cannot see anything in any Lexus to stir the soul or induce envy in another driver hence the popularity of the Range Rover Sport diesel.

6 January 2016

This lags behind the XC90 T8 figures wise and the XC90 has another row of seats!

6 January 2016

I know of two owners of the previous version - none put it in manual mode - that is not what this car is about!

I am glad every car isn't "sporty" if you want that go for the bmw, if you want a well built car to waft along the motorway, and to not have a grumbly diesel engine then this car is for you.

I would say 30 - 35 mpg for a car this size isn't bad - I know of tourag owner who gets 27 mpg - like all these things its how the car is driven, what roads etc.

6 January 2016

Manual mode apart, which isn't what this car is about, you could have a Macan S or non-grumbly Cayenne diesel for thousands less and still waft along in luxury, have similar reliability, residuals, economy and better performance. Only devoted Lexusites and those desperate to lower their BIK rating will be heading for the showrooms here I'm afraid.

6 January 2016

Wow, this article is the very definition of the phrase damning with faint praise, 'Passenger space is now more than adequate', so it's quite good then and describing a 4x4 as 'Soulless' is a particularly desperate criticism, I wouldn't expect or even want it to be soulful, my sports car yes, but not my 4x4. What I would want is for it to be comfortable, refined, have sufficient space for people and their luggage, be reliable and be able to cope with winter conditions as and when they occur. All of this it would seem to do very well. I also like the exterior and interior styling, but I accept that it wouldn't be to everyone's liking. I also like that it isn't the obvious choice. I'll have a black one please.

6 January 2016

I think I would have a Mercedes GLE Coupe instead. Somehow is cool whereas an BMW X6 is crass. The RX doesn't quite match the appeal of the NX for me.

6 January 2016

The central infotainment screen has been lifted straight out of the Mercedes C-class and the BMW 3 Series.

The analogue clock and the vents are carbon copies of those on the Mercedes E-class.

The central control stack is a rip-off of the 3 Series.

The dashboard fascia moulding is a straight copy of the Audi A4, even down to the aluminium inserts around the side vent.

Even the steering wheel has been lifted straight out of the A4 and the 3 Series.

I'll admit that there has been less flagrant copying with their external styling, but unfortunately the result is one of remarkable ugliness.

And they have the cheek to charge £58,000 for this?

The japanese must think there are still a lot of mugs in this country to fleece.

8 January 2016

I think if the heads (that didnt roll already) were to be honest they would admit that the previous model was far and away the worst car they ever produced.
New one sounds and looks much better but I also question the comment
quote
Boot space isn’t generous enough to write home about but it’s fairly plentiful - and expandable via back seats that slide, tilt and fold.
Unquote
No mention that this function manages a FLAT situation or not?? Personally I wouldnt consider buying it if it didnt. Simple fact - half the point of owning one is because you use the bloody thing and having a flat floors space is essential

what's life without imagination

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