What is it?
Sporty 4x4s may be something of a contradiction, but that hasn’t stopped them selling in increasingly large numbers, to an increasingly image conscious customer base. Which is why Lexus has introduced the F Sport grade on its BMW X5-rivalling RX 450h, with the promise of sharper dynamic performance and sportier styling.
What's it like?
It is a success in part. Of most interest to enthusiast buyers will be the new lateral damper system. A single damper replaces the usual fixed bracing between the left and right suspension towers at the front, while another connects each side of the lower back panel at the rear. The net result is a system that should increase stability and better absorb small vibrations.
It works, to an extent. While the RX continues to show surprising, if not X5-challenging, composure down a country road, its ride remains on the firm side. This is particularly true at low speeds, with ruts and ridges making themselves more apparent than you’d expect.
It’s also a shame because low-speed ride should be a given on this type of car, which for all the sporty posturing will rarely be pushed hard. Success on this score would combine with the comfortable and reasonably spacious cabin ambience and mightily impressive refinement of the petrol engine and hybrid system to give comfort-orientated buyers a sound reason for choosing this vehicle.
Part of the reason for this shortcoming may be one of the style-led changes: F-Sport models come on 19-inch alloys, as opposed to the standard 18s. It is rare that larger wheels don’t bring large compromises.
Nor should you think that there is a pay-off for that ride in terms of improved driving engagement. Yes, the RX is composed, particularly so given its relatively low-grip eco tyres, but the steering is a long way from feelsome and the handling relatively mundane. Even in Sport mode, which sharpens throttle responses, performance from the 3.5-litre petrol engine feels good rather than great.
Other accoutrements are more about show: the new ‘spindle’ style grille is now resplendent on all RXs, while F Sport models get a deeper, more vertical front bumper, with a mesh treatment on the upper and lower grilles. Aluminium effect pedals and trim details add some lustre to the already fine interior. Whether these items, plus the extensive standard kit list, make this vehicle worth £52,605 is a moot point, but it does pitch the car at some seriously competitive rivals, not least the M Sport and S-line models from BMW and Audi.
Should I buy one?
No doubt the low CO2 rating and accompanying attractive company car tax rating will swing the deal for some buyers, particularly low-mileage drivers not put off by the real-world fuel economy (we managed 31mpg in mixed conditions) or the 10,000 mile servicing intervals. Nor will these buyers be disappointed, because the RX450 h is a good car. But it is not as good as some of its rivals.
Lexus RX 450h F Sport
Price £51,995; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 44.8mpg; CO2 145g/km; Kerb weight 2205kg; Engine V6, 3456cc, petrol, plus electric motor; Power 295bhp; Torque 247lb ft; Gearbox CVT