From £81,6008
Fifth generation of Lexus's luxury SUV arrives in plug-in hybrid form

Quite a few manufacturers are going all-in on ever more far-fetched tech features to make their cars more appealing. After all, who doesn’t want integrated TikTok, a selfie camera and AI-operated windows in their car?

A fair few people, actually, reckons Lexus. So while the new Lexus RX has all the standard stuff, including a 14in touchscreen, a basic voice assistant and a phone app, the real draw should be the beautifully crafted and minimally distracting interior.

It’s an appealing idea, but first let's look at the new RX as a whole. It’s a rival for the BMW X5Mercedes-Benz GLE and Range Rover Sport, although European buyers have never taken to Lexus’s alternative way of doing things in the way that Americans have. It didn’t help that the RX has never been available with diesel engines, which has always been the standard choice in this segment.

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As the tide is turning against diesel, perhaps this is the RX’s time to shine. Whereas the previous model offered only a V6 hybrid towards the end of its run, this "95% new" generation comes with three different four-cylinder hybrid powertrains. We will cover the hybrid RX 350h and the "performance hybrid" RX 500h in future reviews, but our first taste of the new RX in the UK comes courtesy of the plug-in hybrid RX 450h+.

This PHEV version is projected to be the volume seller in the UK. That’s thanks in large part to being rated for 42 miles of electric-only range, which puts it in the coveted 8% company-car tax band.

The RX 450h+ effectively uses the same engine-motor combination of the RX 350h. An atmospheric 182bhp 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 180bhp electric motor up front drive through the usual e-CVT, while a smaller, 54bhp electric motor drives the rear axle directly. The main difference is the bigger, 18.1kWh battery under the cabin floor, which allows the motors to deliver more power for more of the time.

With just a few hours in the car, we couldn’t do a full range test, but we started the day with a full battery and 35 miles of indicated range, and when we road-tested the Toyota RAV4 PHEV, which has a very similar drivetrain, it matched its claimed range in the real world. That sort of EV range is down a little on rivals such as the BMW X5 xDrive45e, Range Rover Sport P440e and Volvo XC90 T8 but should still enable many people to commute without rousing the engine.

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A combined electric power output of 233bhp gives the RX 450h+ good EV drivability, and as long as there’s a sufficient charge in the battery, it's equally easy-going in hybrid mode. Yes, there’s some CVT-typical mooing if you put your foot down hard, but it’s pretty muted and the motors can take the strain most of the time.

Even so, the four-pot can’t compete with the more dulcet tones of the straight sixes in the X5 and Range Rover Sport PHEVs. That becomes more obvious when the battery runs out and the RX 450h+ effectively reverts to being a RX 350h that’s carrying about 200kg of dead weight. The engine therefore has to work harder and moos a bit more, which gnaws a bit at the luxury experience.

The RX does claw back plenty of points with its comfort. Lexus has done an excellent job at isolating you from the outside world. Motorway cruising is very serene indeed, and the kind of rough roads that can cause rivals to stumble aren't a problem for the RX, despite our test car riding on 21in wheels. So far, we’ve only driven a range-topping Takumi car, which comes with adaptive dampers; lower-spec cars may behave differently.

The suspension also has a Sport mode, but that’s best avoided, because it doesn’t cope with bumpy roads very well. And anyway, the RX handles tidily enough in Normal mode without ever serving up any real excitement.

And so to that interior. To an extent, it does deliver a calmer experience than some, with simple but elegant shapes, outstanding materials and some physical climate controls. However, there's still plenty of tech on board, such as driver-assistance features, selectable driving modes and efficiency and charging readouts. All of that is controlled through the touchscreen, whose settings menus aren’t the most intuitive. Switching between Apple CarPlay and the native interface is quite cumbersome too, and the configurable steering wheel buttons have some confusing quirks.

In the back of the RX, even tall adults will be perfectly comfortable, especially with the backrest reclined, and while the boot is fairly small by the class average, at 461 litres, it’s a square shape with a flat floor.

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Prices for the RX 450h+ start at £64,950 for the Premium Pack and rise to £79,450 for the Takumi. That’s clearly a lot of money, but it’s considerably less than a comparable X5, GLE or Range Rover Sport, and it even undercuts the Volvo XC90 T8.

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Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

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Cobnapint 24 February 2023
Lexi are just 'weird'.
xxxx 24 February 2023

Way to many creases, folds and chrome trim in my book. So it loses in looks and then going by Toyota's own figurers of 2 miles per KW, well like all phev's well not exactly efficient is it. Average attempt but no class leader.  Oh and why compare to the 7 seater xc90, nearer to XC60. 

jason_recliner 24 February 2023
The best just keeps getting better.