Road Test: 2021 Lexus RX 450h

Lexus has long been a trend-setter when it comes to luxury SUVs, especially in hybrid form, with one of the very best in that category taking the form of the 2021 Lexus RX450h.

Right off the bat, the RX lineup is a winner in my books when it comes to styling. While the aggressive look and quite unique grille might be a put off to some folks, it allows the model to stand out in a crowded field.

2021 Lexus RX 450h

However, as a hybrid, our tester’s performance on the road was the polar opposite of aggressive, with it best described as smooth, calm and quiet.

That’s not to say the RX lineup doesn’t have something that matches its looks.

Available for 2021 is a limited production RX 350 Black Line Special Edition, which delivers unique styling and more spirited performance to the model’s lineup – which now boasts no fewer than 16(!) different trims and configurations.

2021 Lexus RX 450h

The RX450h has a starting price of $59,400 and comes pretty well equipped, including a host of standard safety features such as Lexus Safety System + 2.0, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and rain-sensing wipers.

Coming in at $75,175.70 with all the fees added in, our tester was a Lexus RX 450h with the Executive Package, which includes some desirable upgrades. With it comes a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Audio system, power folding rear seats, power rear door with kick sensor, a panoramic glass roof, a head-up display and a wireless charging system for personal electronics. New for 2021, the Executive Package now includes a towing package capable of handling up to 3,500 lbs.

Powertrain: Lexus (and it’s Toyota parent) have probably the longest and best track record in the industry when it comes to hybrid powertrains. So the setup in the all-wheel drive RX450h is, predictably, quite refined.

2021 Lexus RX 450h

The self-charging system combines the Lexus Hybrid Drive with a 3.5-litre V6 to deliver smooth performance, whether you are driving on electricity or gasoline.

The system uses the Atkinson cycle, a continuously variable transmission and electric motors that combine to deliver a net system horsepower of 308 (and 247 ft-lb of torque).

Lexus claims that the system can return a combined fuel economy average of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres, but my week with the vehicle missed that mark by quite a bit. The best result I got was 11.6 L/100 km in a mix of driving. So that is one cause for concern.

Despite that, there is a lot to like about the hybrid powertrain, including how quietly it operates even with the engine running and how seamlessly the RX450h transitions between engine power and electricity.

Exterior: With the deep blue Nightfall Mica on our tester, the styling of the RX450h takes on a bit of a classier appearance, highlighted by chrome accents and a nice set of 20-inch alloy wheels.

The real star attraction, though, is up front in terms of the signature spindle grille which, when looked at head on, has an aggressive look to it which juxtaposes nicely with the overall elegance of the styling. It is flanked by air intakes and nice LED headlights – which also feature L-shaped LED daytime running lights – to complete the look.

The body panels are also nicely sculpted, giving the RX450h an elegant silhouette, including the floating roof effect that entices the eyes toward the rear of the vehicle and the large wrapround taillights.

Interior: The passenger compartment of the RX450h is at the nicer end of the spectrum in this competitive segment. The overall layout is good, and the materials and finish are excellent, including a hand-stitched leather dash.

2021 Lexus RX 450h

The heated and cooled front seats are comfortable, and the driver’s seat allows for an excellent seating position. Back seat occupants in this five-seater are also treated to a decent amount of leg room (of note is that the RX lineup features three-row models that accommodate seven passengers).

I did find the positioning of the buttons for the heated and cooled seats to be a little awkward, especially with the shifter in park.

Another nit to pick is in terms of cargo space, as that is somewhat limited.

Infotainment: While the overall experience with the infotainment system is good, the one issue I continue to have with Lexus is their touchpad controller. I am sure that more time with it would limit my annoyances and thankfully it offers feedback (vibration) to let you know your input has worked, but I still do not recommend using it while driving. Another little hiccup is the dial for tuning the radio, which is nicely sized but an awkward distance from the driver.

On the plus side, the infotainment system has clear menus and a good response time powered by the Lexus Enform platform. Standard across all RX models is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the tester also featured wireless charging and a navigation system.

The tester also features the upgraded 12.3-inch display screen, up from the standard 8-inch screen. For added ease of use, the display is also a touchscreen (which makes you wonder why the touchpad is needed at all).

Drive: If you are looking for a smooth and competent driver on the road, the RX450h is a good choice.

The setup allows it to tackle rougher roads while still maintaining a calm demeanour that ensures passenger comfort. And engineers did a great job at soundproofing the cabin to provide a nice and quiet environment, even at highway speeds.

That makes longer rides in this luxury SUV definitely more enjoyable and, dare I say it, almost serene.

Conclusion: If you are looking for a sporty and dynamic drive, the RX450h is not for you. What it lacks in those departments, however, is more than made up for with its the other attributes: Stylish looks, an elegant interior and delivering a comfortable ride for its occupants.

And the hybrid powertrain is one of the best on the market, and one of the few in this segment, so that also gives it an advantage to those who want to be a little “greener” while motoring around town, even if I did miss the mark on that.

2021 Lexus RX 450h
Price: $59,400.00 base price CDN / $47,820 USD
Price as tested: $75,175.70
Freight: $2,095.00
Configuration: Front engine/All-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5-litre V6 with Lexus Hybrid Drive/ Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)
Power/torque: 308 horsepower (net)/ 247 ft-lb of torque
Fuel (capacity): Regular (65 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 7.9 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.6 L/100 km
Warranties: 4-years/80,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac XT5, Infiniti QX60, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Volvo XC90

Links: Lexus Canada

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