It may be a veteran of the segment, but the current RX (which dates back to 2015) still manages to be one of the more popular offerings, with key rivals including the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Volkswagen Touareg.
Here on test we have the five-seat flagship, the 2022 Lexus RX450h Sports Luxury, which is a six-figure investment in the Australian market, and only supplanted by its seven-seat RX450hL equivalent in flagship status within the range.
Is it worth taking a punt on the well established but ageing current model, or should you wait for the new one?
The second-dearest RX variant is priced from $110,460 plus on-road costs, with the 450h V6 hybrid variant commanding a near-$9000 premium over its 350-badged V6 petrol equivalent.
2022 Lexus RX pricing:
- Lexus RX300 Luxury: $73,136
- Lexus RX300 F Sport: $88,136
- Lexus RX350 Luxury: $83,013
- Lexus RX350 F Sport: $95,513
- Lexus RX350 Sports Luxury: $101,713
- Lexus RX450h Luxury: $91,760
- Lexus RX450h F Sport: $104,260
- Lexus RX450h Sports Luxury: $110,460
- Lexus RX350L Luxury: $86,513
- Lexus RX350L Sports Luxury: $103,713
- Lexus RX450hL Luxury: $95,260
- Lexus RX450hL Sports Luxury: $112,460
Prices exclude on-road costs
While relatively affordable for a flagship variant, the six-figure price tag puts the RX450hL Sports Luxury amongst some very strong competition hailing from Europe.
The Volkswagen Touareg, which shares premium DNA with the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne, can be had in 210TDI Elegance guise for $106,990 plus on-roads, but needs about $10,000 of options to properly match up against the Lexus’s lengthy equipment list – more details further down.
If you want a hybrid, there’s only really plug-in options available elsewhere if you discount the array of 48V mild-hybrid options that can’t actually drive the wheels on e-power.
There’s the BMW X5 xDrive45e ($138,400), Range Rover Velar P400e ($138,800), Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid ($147,400) and the Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid ($118,990). While more expensive, these vehicles all offer a decent amount of electric-only range while the Lexus can only go for small distances in EV mode at low speeds.
While it may feel a little like a step back in time, the RX’s cabin in flagship trim is a hark back to old-school Japanese values, focusing on quality and craftsmanship.
From the semi-aniline leather seats and electrically adjustable steering wheel to the woodgrain steering wheel finish and analogue clock sitting proudly in the dash fascia, this is Lexus in its purest form.
Yes the design is dated, the clutter of buttons feels unnecessary, and the instrument cluster lacks a digital speedometer readout (if you discount the standard head-up display), but the RX still has a bit of character and charm to it.
Everything feels built to stand years, if not decades of wear and tear. The switchgear is solid and well-damped in operation, there’s a heavy clunk to how the gearshift operates, and the smooth, supple leather doesn’t pinch or crease when sat in.
I personally would go for a lighter interior option, but the black-on-black theme in our test car with matching dark wood would be a great option if you plan on carting people around often, particularly younger children prone to spilling drinks or dropping sugary snacks on the upholstery.
There are endless options to get comfortable, with full electric adjustment and memory for the front seats and steering wheel with a wide range. The easy entry/exit function also slides the seat back and pushes the steering wheel forward on exit, then remembers your previous settings once you press the starter button.
Further amenities include heating and ventilation functions which can be set to Auto and tie with the climate controls, the aforementioned head-up display with multiple layouts, and the basic if very Toyota-looking driver’s supervision display with various menus and information readouts.
A lot of the switchgear and typeface is very obviously from the Toyota stable, something that has been a Lexus criticism up until the latest generation of models. One more obvious example of the RX’s ties to its parent is the low-mounted stalk for the cruise control, which has done service in old RAV4s and Klugers for some time.
A key update for the mid-life refresh was the standard 12.3-inch infotainment display now with touch functionality. It has plenty of features on paper, but in execution it’s typical old Lexus in that it feels a generation or several behind some of the latest German units.
The touch inputs mean you don’t have to use that naff trackpad-esque controller on the centre tunnel, but the placement of the display (while relocated for better convenience) is still pretty far from easy reach. I ended up just using the trackpad most of the time to avoid leaning forward and trying to touch the screen while driving.
Lexus’s older Enform software is a little laggy and convoluted, and just lacks the clarity and intuitiveness of rival systems. The native satellite navigation is straight out of Toyota’s catalogue just on a larger display, and like other models within the Toyota/Lexus empire there’s that annoying lockout feature – so you can’t have a passenger input a destination address while the vehicle is moving, for example.
A saving grace for the RX’s infotainment system is that gorgeous 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, regularly a highlight in higher-end Lexus models. Crisp, clear sound couple with deep, thumping bass means the RX plays your favourite tunes better than just about any other vehicle for the money – sweet sweet fantasy baby.
Despite being a little smaller than something like a BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE, the five-seat Lexus RX’s second row is still quite accommodating, easily fitting two adults and three at a pinch.
While there’s a large sunroof in play here, headroom isn’t really compromised even at my height (6’1), and there are manual rear sunshades to, as the kids say, “block out the haters”.
Helping things is that relatively flat centre seat and minimal transmission hump, while the rear bench can be electrically reclined which is a nice touch.
There are directional air vents at the rear of the centre console, though oddly no separate climate controls even in the top-spec Sports Luxury trim – though the outer rear seats are heated. An indication of this vehicle’s age, there are no USB power outlets in the rear either.
Airline-style map pockets behind the front seats are the most obvious storage options, while a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders and a storage cubby add to the rear amenities. There are also bottle holders in the doors.
The five-seat RX’s sporty tailgate design means it’s one of the smallest boots in the Premium Large SUV class, quoting just 453 litres to the top edge of the rear seatbacks with the second row in use.
Drop the rear seats and that quoted volume ups to 924L, which again is behind the pace for the segment, as well as smaller size segments.
If you opt for the longer three-row RXL, the five-seat luggage capacity grows to 652L.
The Lexus RX450h comes with a space-saver spare wheel.
The RX450h and RX450hL team an Atkinson cycle version of the RX350’s 3.5-litre V6 petrol, which makes 193kW and 335Nm, with 123kW/335Nm front and 50kW/139Nm rear electric motors, as well as a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack.
System power output for is quoted at 230kW, with no system torque figure quoted as is typical Toyota fashion, and drive is sent to an ‘E-Four’ electrified all-wheel drive system – petrol engine drives the front, 50kW e-motor drives the rear. The transmission is an e-CVT with six simulated ‘steps’.
The hybrid is the most efficient and the quickest RX variant, according to Lexus, with 0-100km/h taking a claimed 7.7 seconds in the RX450h and 8.0 seconds in the RX450hL.
In terms of efficiency and emissions, the RX450h quotes combined fuel consumption of 5.7L/100km and CO2 output of 131g/km. The 65-litre fuel tank demands more expensive 95 RON premium unleaded as a minimum, with all RX engine variants in Australia meeting Euro 6 regulations.
Disclaimer: this was my first time driving a hybrid-powered Lexus RX.
Having spent plenty of time in Toyota and Lexus’s latest hybrid products featuring the company’s latest TNGA base architecture and new-generation four-cylinder hybrid systems, the RX’s old-school V6-based petrol-electric setup is showing its age.
The petrol V6 engine has a nice brassy tone to it, and definitely isn’t as coarse as some of Toyota’s four-cylinder hybrid motors, but while it’s silky smooth and pretty responsive, fuel consumption is not a patch on the new stuff.
We saw high sevens to low eights during our week with the RX450h, and a lot of it comes down to the vehicle’s reluctance to rely on electric power, presumably down to the age of the driveline and setup.
It seems the e-motor won’t engage above 70km/h, so you won’t see the EV mode symbol light up unless you’re in the city or suburbs.
You’ll also notice the RX450h will lean on the V6 petrol engine quite early too, so don’t expect to be rolling along silently in traffic if you need to get along at a decent pace. The e-CVT flares up revs quickly to get you going, and while any transition between e-power and petrol power is impressively seamless, it’s just not as economical as it could be.
Unlike the RX350 with its slick-shifting eight-speed automatic, the RX450h’s e-CVT isn’t as engaging as you’d expect. It does have what sound like ‘steps’ programmed in when you’re pushing a little harder, but the hybrid is far from sporty despite being the most powerful and quickest engine variant on offer.
Being a Lexus, comfort and refinement is clearly the priority here. Unlike some rivals, particularly out of Germany, there’s no illusion of sportiness in the character or feel, at least with this Sports Luxury version.
The soft suspension tune takes the edge off the big 20-inch alloy wheels and 235/55 tyres, but over successive bumps and undulations it can get a touch wallowy. It’s a similar story in the bends, where you can feel its 2.2-tonne mass shifting from side to side – it’s far from sharp and lithe.
Steering feel is a little on the heavier side and it’s at times a little vague, which like the soft ride encourages you to take it easy and waft along rather than driving it hard.
Refinement is a strong point, an old Lexus hallmark. Insulation from wind and road noise is wonderfully suppressed, and even engine noise is kept to a minimum though the V6’s note is nicer than most four-cylinder hybrids.
Switching the eight-speed auto out for an e-CVT helps this further, given the revs drop into near silence once you’re off the throttle, and below 70km/h it’ll usually switch off the engine entirely and coast in EV mode.
From a driver assistance angle, the RX is fully kitted out on paper but being a generation behind some other products within the Toyota/Lexus stable the functionality of said systems isn’t quite up to the pace of rivals.
The adaptive cruise control with stop/go works fine but can be quick to brake if a vehicle cuts into the lane ahead of you, and keeps quite a conservative distance even in its shortest distance setting.
Lexus’s Lane Tracing Assist function likewise isn’t the sharpest lane-centring technology on the market, but it’s fairly good at doing what it says on the tin and keeps the RX on the straight and narrow just fine.
Perhaps the most helpful assistance functions in daily use are the surround camera system with 3D view, though again the cameras aren’t as sharp as some rivals, and the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic systems help compensate for the thick rear pillars and small rear windows.
RX300 Luxury highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Satellite navigation
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Nuluxe leatherette upholstery
- 10-way power front seats
- Keyless entry and start
- DAB digital radio
- Bi-LED headlights
- LED daytime running lights
- 12-speaker sound system
- Dual-zone climate control
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Heated side mirrors with memory
RX350 and RX450h Luxury add:
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Genuine leather-accented upholstery
- Memory function for driver/front passenger
- Heated/ventilated front seats
RX300/RX350/RX450h F Sport adds:
- F Sport 20-inch alloy wheels
- F Sport leather-accented upholstery
- Head-up display
- 8.0-inch instrument cluster display
- Adaptive suspension
- LED headlights (triple stack)
- BladeScan adaptive high beam
- LED cornering lights
- 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium sound system
- 360-degree camera system
- Panoramic sunroof
- Rear window sunshades (manual)
- Sequential LED indicators
** F Sport not available for RX350L/RX450hL
RX350/RX450h Sports Luxury adds:
- Sports Luxury 20-inch alloy wheels
- 14-way power front seats with memory
- Semi-aniline leather-accented upholstery
- Heated second-row outboard seats
** removes F Sport digital instrument cluster
All versions of the RX range wear a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2015 off the back of Euro NCAP testing.
The range received an adult occupant protection score of 83 per cent (despite a 0.0 from 3 result for AEB City), 82 per cent for child occupant protection, 79 per cent for pedestrian protection and 74 per cent for safety assist (with 0.0 out of 3 for speed assistance system).
Standard assistance equipment includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian detection (Day/Night)
- Cyclist detection (Day)
- Forward collision warning
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear-cross traffic assist (reverse AEB)
- Auto high beam
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane Trace Assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Tyre pressure monitoring
There’s also a nifty Drive Start Control that reduces power if you grab the wrong gear between transmission drive modes (for example, Drive to Reverse). The 10-airbag suite encompasses dual front, driver’s knee, front passenger cushion, as well as dual side and curtain coverage for the first and second rows.
All Lexus vehicles sold from January 1, 2022 are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Further, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric models get high-voltage battery cover for up to 10 years and unlimited kilometres.
RX buyers get a complementary three-year subscription to the Lexus Encore ownership benefits program, which includes three years of capped-price servicing, service loan cars, and Drive Care – i.e. roadside assistance.
The Lexus RX range requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first). Those first three visits will cost you $595 a pop – Lexus doesn’t advertise capped-price servicing beyond three years like other brands.
As for real-world fuel consumption, we averaged an indicated 7.9L/100km over a week’s worth of driving covering more than 480 kilometres in mixed conditions, including daily commuting to and from the office. That’s quite a bit up on Lexus’s 5.7L/100km combined claim, but it’s still about 5.0L/100km less than what you’d get in the RX350 petrol.
With that said, you’ll get better economy (and performance) from European rivals with high-tech turbo-diesel engines, again a clear indication of the RX’s age. The next-generation model will offer both closed-circuit hybrid and ultra-efficient plug-in hybrid versions, so if all-out economy is a key priority it might be worth the wait.
It’s easy to see why the Lexus RX has long been a popular choice in the luxury SUV market. It’s well-sized, well-equipped, and has a reputation for bulletproof quality and reliability.
The RX450h specifically was a trailblazer for hybrid technology at this end of the market, with European rivals only recently starting to offer electrified drive – albeit with more sophisticated and more powerful PHEV options.
Spending $9000 over the RX350 feels a bit steep though, given that sort of price difference is usually the price you pay for a plug-in hybrid over an equivalent petrol or diesel engine. The RX450h’s hybrid system seems to also be barely more efficient to some of the gruntier V6 turbo-diesel engines offered by European rivals.
If you’re keen to get into a current RX, the sweet spot for most Lexus models is the mid-spec F Sport, and in the case of the RX the entry-level RX300 2.0-litre turbo has decent enough performance but is more efficient than the V6 ‘350’ in the real-world.
An RX300 F Sport is a whopping $15,000 cheaper than the RX450h F Sport, too.
Otherwise, it could be best to wait for the all-new RX which is likely due in the early stages of 2023.
A lighter, more dynamic platform with newer, more efficient four-cylinder powertrains will be offered, including the RX450h+ plug-in hybrid as well as the warm-performance RX500h which will debut Lexus’s new turbocharged hybrid system and “high output” eAxle rear electric motor.
It’ll also sport a fresh new interior with less buttons and better screen technology, and will be a much more well-rounded package against the likes of the Audi Q7 and Q8, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Volkswagen Touareg.
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