The Lexus RX450h L is a 7-seater petrol-electric hybrid with a focus on luxury, performance and refinement.
Model/Engine size: Lexus RX450h L Premier
Fuel: Petrol-electric hybrid
Fuel economy combined (WLTP): 47.1 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 8/10
By Paul Clarke
The petrol-electric hybrid Lexus RX450h has been around for a number of years now, but the RX450h L is the first 7-seat Lexus model in Europe. The RX450h has grown by 110mm in length to accommodate an extra row of seats.
The petrol engine is a 3.5-litre V6, with an electric CVT transmission. There’s also a 165bhp/335 Nm electric motor at the front, and a 68bhp/139Nm electric motor at the rear.
An extra set of rear seats has been added, together with a clever system to raise and lower these seats electronically. You can also move the middle row of seats forwards and backwards to optimise legroom for second or third row passengers. With the extra set of seats down, there’s a very large boot. If you lay down both sets of rear seats, the luggage capacity is huge.
Unlike many cars that have been extended to accommodate an extra row of seats, we think the RX450h L looks good. The upmarket feel of the RX450h interior remains.
The Lexus RX450h L feels very luxurious, refined and comfortable to drive. Although we’re primarily here to report on low emission powertrains, it has to be said that the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is very impressive – it’s smooth and powerful – and it makes a nice noise. It’s mated to an electric CVT transmission, which has improved significantly over the years. There used to be lots of revs and noise when accelerating, with little resulting improvement in speed, but now the revviness has almost been completely banished.
The gearbox offers the choices of Drive or Sport. You can change manually, but as this is a CVT, it’s a simulated gear shift, and this has to be done using the gear selector, as there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles. Unlike increasing numbers of automatic transmissions from rivals, which simply require a push forward for Reverse and a pull backwards for Drive, the Lexus gear selector gate has a dog-leg arrangement which means moving it from Park to Drive can be quite a notchy process.
There are Drive modes of Eco, Normal, Sport or Sport S. Sport mode seems to make the RX less revvy – unlike the Sport mode on a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV which makes the car more revvy. You can also switch off the traction control and you can (theoretically) select EV mode – but the chances are that the car will tell you that there isn’t sufficient battery capacity to do this. In fact, although the hybrid system cuts the petrol engine at standstill and when coasting or decelerating, don’t expect to drive very far, or at high speeds, on electric power, as the electric range is very limited.
The ride quality is very good, and driving over roads with poor surfaces shows that the whole suspension feels very well screwed together. You also get the impression that the brief for this car was to focus on a comfortable ride, and as a result it’s not the most precise car to position through corners (not helped by its size or weight). All this suggests that the RX450h L is aimed at the US market.
And testing the car in early winter also showed that there’s not a huge amount of grip – especially for a car that’s supposed to have all-wheel drive capability. If you accelerate quickly out of a wet junction to join traffic on a main road you can easily experience wheelspin, torque steer and understeer from the front wheels (resulting in a very active traction control warning light in the instrument cluster), giving the feeling that this is a very front-wheel drive-biased SUV. The relative outputs of the electric motors reinforce this: the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine powers the front wheels, along with the 165bhp / 335 Nm electric motor at the front. The rear wheels are powered just by a 68bhp/139Nm electric motor. So effectively the RX450h is predominantly front-wheel drive. Maybe fitting all-season tyres would improve the grip in winter.
The infomedia system features a wide screen, but in our opinion, things go somewhat downhill from there. The issue is that the infomedia system in the RX450h – along with other Lexus models – is controlled by a mouse. If you’ve not tried such a system, it can’t take much to imagine how difficult it can be to select items on a very complex infomedia system using a mouse while driving. Key items such as the ability to enter a postcode on the satnav is also hidden away on a separate screen, and when the system boots up, it defaults to encouraging you to select a Point of Interest on the map, which isn’t usually the first thing that people want to do. This means that you always have to select the back button to get rid of this, which can get a bit tedious. And zooming in and out of the map is difficult.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Lexus RX450h L is 47.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 138 g/km. After a week of mixed driving we averaged 33.3mpg. This is quite a way short of the official 47.1mpg, and we didn’t get close to 47.1mpg at any stage. There is the potential to improve on our figure by very careful driving, but a large 7-seater SUV weighing 2.2 tonnes with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is never going to be massively economical.
Our Lexus RX450h L test car cost £61,995, on top of this it had options of deep blue paint (£645) and sunroof (£995), taking the total price to £63,635. Three grades are available: SE, Luxury and Premier.
The Lexus RX450h L is a petrol-electric hybrid which offers the space of a (large) 7-seater along with luxury, refinement and an impressive powertrain. It has a very comfortable ride, which appears to be prioritised over sharp handling. This suggests that the car is aimed at the North American market. There’s lots of performance, and although the RX450 has an electric driving capability, this is very limited. The real-world fuel economy may be good for a 2.2 tonne 7-seater petrol SUV, but if you’re looking for a high miles per gallon figure in real-life, then you may have to look elsewhere. But of course the petrol-electric hybrid Lexus is cleaner than a diesel in terms of emissions that impact on local air quality. And you don’t have to plug it in to charge it – a definite benefit if you don’t have off-street parking. The Lexus RX450h L gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.
Fuel economy extra urban (WLTP): 46.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban (WLTP): 44.8 mpg
Test economy: 33.3 mpg
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 138 g/km
Vehicle tax rate (VED): H, £195 year 1, £440 year 2 onwards
Weight: 2,200 kg
Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2018/19): 28%
Insurance group: 43E
Power: Engine 259 bhp, electric motor 335 bhp, total system output 308 bhp
Max speed: 112 mph
0-62 mph: 8.0 seconds
Torque: Engine 335 Nm