From £41,9407
New fourth-gen luxury hybrid SUV delivers impressive comfort and refinement, just as a Lexus should, as well as good value for money

Our Verdict

Lexus RX

The fourth generation Lexus RX is extremely refined with improved usability but is let down by the way it drives. Although the hybrid version remains a compelling option

  • First Drive

    2016 Lexus RX 450h 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
  • First Drive

    2015 Lexus RX 450h Premier review

    New fourth-gen luxury hybrid SUV delivers impressive comfort and refinement, just as a Lexus should, as well as good value for money

What is it?

This is the new fourth-generation version of the Lexus RX, a luxury SUV that rivals the likes of the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90.

Previous RXs have proven popular thanks to their myriad classic Lexus virtues, including steadfast reliability, a clean hybrid powertrain, quality and comfort.

There have always been gripes, however. The RX was never the most practical choice, with a comparatively small boot, nor was it particularly gratifying to drive. Many also found the hybrid version inefficient in the real world, delivering far from its claimed figures.

Most of the revisions for the fourth-generation RX focus on the aforementioned issues. It’s longer and wider to offer more interior space. Revamped aerodynamics and powertrain upgrades reputedly boost economy, while a 30% stiffer shell and revised suspension and steering aim to deliver keener handling.

You’ll find a whole host of upgrades inside, including a new dash, a large colour head-up display and more comfortable seats. The styling has also been brought into line with that of more modern Lexus offerings, such as the RC F.

What's it like?

Lexus hasn’t chased an unnecessary and compromise-inducing handling benchmark by fitting overly stiff suspension, wide tyres and sharp steering. The company’s chassis revisions have sharpened the RX up, though, and the steering feels weightier and more precise. 

This is still a 2210kg SUV, mind, with comparatively narrow 235-section tyres. On faster and more challenging roads the Lexus will squeal and roll, but it’ll remain controllable and safe.

Power comes from a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 that drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. It’s aided by an electric motor, which provides assistance to the engine and the ability to run on electric power alone. An electric-powered rear axle steps in primarily to offer four-wheel drive when needed.

In the Lexus heartland of gentle cruising, it’s a pleasant combination. The RX steps off the line briskly, dispatching the 0-62mph sprint in 7.7sec, and even feels pretty stout once you’re moving. Electric and piston power are smartly blended, and the pure EV mode gives the RX a tranquil nature at lower speeds.

Inclines and hard acceleration cause a stereotypical surge in RPM, but the V6 sounds decent and you soon learn to treat the throttle in a way that doesn’t cause the engine to just sit at 6000rpm as you accelerate hard. You can manually select ‘gears’, which offers some engine braking and extra engagement and control, if necessary. Stopping power is good and easily metered out, while traction isn't an issue.

The ride is supple and relaxed, with minimal suspension noise and jarring over harsher bumps, while wind and road noise – in part thanks to those narrow tyres – is negligible, even at speed. Make no mistake; this is a fine car in which to cover distance.

Inside, it’s as luxurious as you’d hope. The seats are some of the most comfortable offered in recent history, and the cabin feels spacious and airy. Everything is finished to a high standard, lending the RX a suitably upmarket feel. Grab the door handle, for example, and you’ll find no harsh plastic edges, only soft leather and plush fabric-lined wells. 

All of the switchgear operates in a slick, precise fashion, adding to the air of quality, as do practical touches like large, adjustable door bins that take A4 documents. Forwards and rearwards visibility is also good, although the B-pillar obscures your over-the-shoulder view somewhat.

Similarly, in the back, there’s decent room for passengers up to six feet tall. You can even seat three abreast with ease, but there’s less headroom for the middle passenger due to the slightly higher-set seat. There’s no transmission tunnel to straddle, though.

You won’t be at a loss for kit, either. In flagship Premier specification the RX features adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate, ventilated and heated electric front seats, DAB, a clear and informative HUD and a 360-degree camera system. There’s a battery of safety systems, including 10 airbags and lane-keeping assist.

A 12.3-in media and navigation system is also standard, as is a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, adding extra high-end sheen. The Lexus’s infotainment system isn’t the most intuitive to use initially, due to its mouse pointer-driven interface, but it otherwise works well and connects to phones quickly and easily. 

Boot space still isn’t remarkable, due to the rear-mounted battery pack and axle assembly. At 453 litres, it betters the 446 litres on offer before, but it's still some way shy of the 650 litres available in a BMW X5. It’s a shallow boot, too, which can be restrictive, but the rear seats can be dropped flat.

Our test route didn’t permit any meaningful assessment of the Lexus’s efficiency, but we’d be surprised if it averaged less than 30mpg. Not stellar, compared to modern diesel SUVs, but far cleaner. It packs a 14-gallon tank, so its range should prove tolerable, either way. 

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for a relaxing, cosseting and easy-to-drive SUV, then the Lexus RX is a fine choice. It has its flaws but it would likely prove an affable car to own, particularly when taking into account aspects like the excellent Lexus dealer network.

While its efficiency credentials are yet to be proven, it’s also worth bearing in mind that the RX represents good value for money compared to some alternatives. A similarly specified diesel BMW X5, for example, would set you back at least another £10,000. That’s ample compensation for its shortcomings elsewhere, most of which would likely be moot points for many potential buyers. 

That said, the four-star, seven-seat Volvo XC90 could be had with similar equipment for a lesser £56,380 - albeit in non-hybrid diesel form.

2015 Lexus RX 450h Premier

Location Lisbon, Portugal; On sale Now; Price £57,995; Engine 6cyls, 3456cc, naturally aspirated, petrol, front and rear electric motors; Power 308bhp (system output); Torque 247lb ft (system output); Kerb weight 2210kg; Gearbox CVT; 0-62mph 7.7sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 51.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 127g/km / 20%

Join the debate

Comments
14

2 December 2015
To me the way the article is worded suggested more than 3.5 stars. Looks quite a good car to me. It isn't trying to be sporty so i guess with autocar being more a drivers car mag it wouldn't be up there with a bmw x5 etc.

2 December 2015

Evening gazza5. Thanks for taking the time to comment. The X5 currently stands at 3.5 stars, while the likes of the new Audi Q7 and XC90 are at four stars. I'm looking forward to spending some time with the new RX in the UK, though, to really see what the economy's like.

2 December 2015
...never get more than 3.4 stars in Autocar? Well the only reason I can think off is its not German. This car offers so much more specification, high tech hybrid technology that's actually affordable rather than some plug-in version BMW customers have to pay another £10 k premium on, utter reliability and dependebility which is translated via various J D Power surveys. How that is not reflected in any of the reviews I truly don't understand. As a matter of fact this Lexus in the F-Sport specification does feature an adaptive suspension that firms it up around the corners and according to other reviews has improved the drive dynamics and driver enjoyment, but the reviewer once again ignores this fact. What I wonder is why is an SUV supposed to be handling around the track anyway, that's not its purpose, Lexus know what matters and surely once again will have private car buyers cuing for the RX at their dealerships! Amen

CROmagnon

2 December 2015

Evening CROmagnon. Appreciate the feedback! For reference, the BMW X5 only got 3.5 stars in its road test - so it's a pretty level playing field here. The generation of Q7 just gone only got three stars, too, so the Lexus is doing well in that respect. Worth pointing out that a 3.5-star rating is a good result, too - it's 75-80%.

You are correct in stating that the Premier and F Sport models gets adaptive suspension, but it doesn't make a huge deal of difference - at least not on our test routes. As mentioned in the review, however, it is a keener-handling car than before, and its softer nature does it no disservice.

What was noticeable was the sharper throttle response in the more aggressive S and S+ modes, though, which I preferred over the 'eco' setting. A bit too gentle in that mode, resulting in excessive pedal travel.

Ultimately, though, it's still less capable in corners and less rewarding to drive than its rivals, which leaves it lagging behind the field from an Autocar point of view.

As referenced at the end and elsewhere, the reliability, equipment and dealership network are appealing aspects. Its transmission could be better, though, it could do with a bigger boot and the benefits of the hybrid system are debatable. It makes it heavy, for one thing, and the real-world MPG may be disappointingly low. Future tests will aim to find that out.

Similarly, improvements to the infotainment system (a higher resolution screen, simpler interface) would also help push its star rating up. I wouldn't object to a less prominent front grille, either.

I'm keen to drive one over here, though, to see what it's like on our roads and how the economy stacks up over a longer distance.

Lexus expects to sell 3500 RXs in the UK next year and total 16,000 sales in total. BMW, in 2014, racked up some 205,000 UK sales.

2 December 2015
...I appreciate you replying to my comments very much.
Would you not agree though that "drive dynamics"are simply not that important when reviewing SUV's (after all a 2 tonne SUV is not a Caterham). I just feel that quite a lot of important elements such as ownership experience, reliability and overall quality are often less important in Autocar reviews than say performance and handling but in the real world those are the more important factors to car owners. The CVT-box you mentioned has also significantly improved over time and has less of the rubberband effect (unless you are caning it), in the USA the V6 RX 350 is equipped with a 8-speed automatic like current BMW's-sadly the RX200t only gets the 6 speed auto! As for the short service intervals, I rather have my car serviced every year if that translates into prolonged durability/reliability than have long intervals but reliability issues-BMW diesels are notoriously expensive to repair-Lexus' hybrids are proven and bullet proof.
Also the Lexus is significantly cheaper so that should outweigh the criticism over its short intervals.

I do feel that there is a bias towards VW/BMW/Audi/Mercedes and to some extend the JLR products whilst Japanese products are never good enough in Autocar though which is a real shame, I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking that way and your magazine should take into consideration the thousands of happy customers that are out there driving other brands than those favoured in your magazine. Cheers

CROmagnon

2 December 2015
I'm puzzled. Article reads like a dream for most buyers; where exactly does Lexus undeliver in Autocar's expectation of what a modern crossover should be?

2 December 2015

Evening soldi. That's a good rating in our books, and as mentioned above it puts it on a par with some key rivals (like the X5).

However, from an Autocar point of view, it could be better to drive - its CVT can't match a decent conventional automatic or dual-clutch transmission, particularly if you're pressing on, nor does it corner as well as some rivals. If it were more competitive in those areas, while retaining its capabilities elsewhere, then that would grant it a higher rating.

It would have been pleasing to see the electric performance pushed forwards more, too, either through an improved pure EV range or higher road speeds on electric power alone. Additionally, we will revisit the car when it arrives in the UK, however, and aim to see what it's really capable of on the economy front.

One other curiosity (which I unfortunately didn't have space to discuss) is that, despite the maintenance-cutting hybrid system, it only has 10,000-mile (or yearly) service intervals. A diesel X5 can potentially go 24 months or 36,000 miles without seeing a dealer (not that I would do that, mind). Not a huge issue but those with higher annual mileages may find it worthy of note.

Thanks for the feedback, as always - and if you've any more questions, do ask. Hope I've given you a little more information, though.

3 December 2015
ohh they are starting to evolve L Finesse again with this model, adding a rectilinear element. Can be seen where the spindle grille kinks at the base, the kink at the window / metal interface at the back of the rear door, the geometry of the L shape in the rear light cluster. Not sure that I like it. I really like the L finesse iteration on the current IS, RC-F and NX, LF-LC concept, its much purer.

3 December 2015
That's a lot of metal to haul around, even with dual electrified axles and 300+ hp. It would be interesting to see how far one can go in EV mode at low speed in the city. I still can't get over that huge weight number - crossovers and SUVs may sell by the boatload but they're ridiculously heavy.

3 December 2015
has been compromised for style, and its not that stylish, its got a face only a mother could love, and the view out of the rear must be terrible and you mention the B pillar being a problem, I also suspect the C/D pillar being a massive problem, even with the tiny porthole. It will not doubt be well built and ultra reliable, but a big petrol engine mated to a CVT gearbox, even if it is a hybrid will compromise sales, especially in Europe where diesel is still king for large SUV's. The interior looks over fussy with too many buttons, and the fact that all its competitors offer 7 seats will put off some buyers. If it was my money it would be the XC90 D5, or even a high spec Discovery..

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