2021 Lexus RX 450h evaluation: Snug if not stylish

The expressively styled Lexus RX is easy and coddling.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The 2021 Lexus RX 450h F Sport hybrid crossover is sinuous, frugal and impressively quiet — precisely what I need in a luxurious car. There’s, nonetheless, one facet of this Lexus that is unforgivable, a mortal sin that drags down an in any other case nice car: the infotainment system. 

LikeStellar Mark Levinson sound systemSpacious and cozy backseatExemplary refinement

Do not LikeLoathsome infotainment systemToo-aggressive exterior stylingMeh real-world gasoline financial system

Hybrid variations of the RX come commonplace with all-wheel drive, however this instance can be fitted with the F Sport package deal, which incorporates dress-up gadgets like a novel grille, aluminum pedal covers, 20-inch wheels and even efficiency dampers. For additional sportiness, a $970 dealing with package deal can be supplied, bringing an adaptive suspension system, retuned energy steering and extra goodies to the desk. Past these F Sport upgrades, my tester options the Black Line Particular Version package deal. The excellent news is that this improve prices simply $685 and contains particular body-side graphics, a black grille encompass and a Halliburton Edge light-weight two-piece baggage set. The dangerous information is the Black Line Particular Version package deal is restricted to only 750 gas-powered RXs and 250 hybrid fashions.

The Lexus RX’s styling is actually aggressive, with its comically giant grille, angular headlamps and chiseled surfacing, however its inside is way more restrained and nice. The cabin’s high quality is stellar and its supplies are usually superb. The headliner and roof pillars are wrapped in a flannel-like cloth, comfortable plastics are used liberally all through and practically all of the switches and knobs really feel slickly lubricated. Certain, you may discover a smattering of Toyota-sourced buttons right here and there; stuff you get in, say, a Camry, however these carryover controls are nicely hidden and hardly objectionable.

Simply behind this Lexus’ unusually deep dashboard, the entrance bucket chairs are all-day snug and enticing, rendered in black and white with contrasting blue stitching, a combo that is additionally a part of the Black Line Particular Version package deal. Space for storing up entrance is sweet, consisting of a decently sized bin beneath the middle armrest, a number of different small cubbies on the console and generously proportioned entrance door pockets that pop outward once you pull on them. Transferring rearward, the RX’s backseat is almost sprawl-out spacious, with loads of legroom and an honest quantity of noggin house. Snug cushions present nice assist, with the decrease one being a pleasant distance above the ground for a chair-like seating place. Offering easy accessibility, this Lexus’ rear doorways open good and large.

However now for some dangerous information. If there is a worse infotainment system than what’s supplied on this Lexus, I am not conscious of it. With a bewildering consumer interface in addition to a clunky and difficult-to-use management pad on the console, this multimedia system is half laptop computer, half low-end Android pill and all types of horrible. Not solely is the menu construction complicated, the observe pad you employ to navigate by it’s kludgy, making even easy duties a distracting chore. Rubbing salt within the wound, this RX 450h can be fitted with the top-shelf 12.Three-inch display (an Eight-incher is commonplace), which is bundled in a $Three,365 choices package deal, so that you’re paying hundreds extra for an terrible expertise. No less than that outlay additionally will get you embedded navigation and an outstanding Mark Levinson sound system that makes even extremely compressed MP3s and muddy satellite tv for pc radio come alive. Whereas a little bit of a attain, the RX’s infotainment display is touch-enabled, so you’ll be able to skip the trackpad, however provided that your arms are lanky sufficient. Fortunately, this method additionally helps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (in addition to Amazon Alexa), so you do not have to make use of the infotainment system any longer than it takes to plug your cellphone in. The car’s six USB ports guarantee everybody’s cell gadgets are totally juiced; a wi-fi charging pad can be accessible.

The RX’s inside is extraordinarily nicely constructed and refined, although its infotainment tech leaves a lot to be desired.

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The Lexus RX was up to date in 2020, gaining a stiffened construction and revised suspension for higher dealing with. This yr, the car beneficial properties some new know-how, together with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, each of which are actually commonplace throughout the vary. Auto-dimming, power-folding mirrors are included at no additional cost, too, as is Lexus Security System Plus 2.zero, a collection of driver aids that features daytime bike owner detection, low-light pedestrian detection, street signal recognition and lane-keeping help. Fortunately, I’ve not had a chance to check the pedestrian-detecting techniques, however the lane-keeping support is mild but fairly efficient.

Underway, the RX 450h is one easy operator. Whether or not you are traversing frost-heaved highways, tiptoeing alongside a cratered filth street or simply cruising round your subdivision, this Lexus’ experience is all the time sinuous. Even rolling on 20-inch wheels, small growth joints barely register and bigger impacts are simply deflected, all with no harshness or gritty vibration percolating by to the passenger compartment. Regardless of its easy experience, the RX 450h’s physique is decently managed. Certain, it may really feel a bit tighter in corners and it is perhaps good if the steering had been faster and heftier, however the entire chassis feels so nicely balanced that these adjustments aren’t mandatory, plus they may destroy the fluffy experience, which might be a disgrace.

Refined, punchy and economical, there’s little to complain about relating to the RX 450h’s powertrain. 

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Matching its over-the-road refinement, the RX’s cabin stays extremely silent, quieter than naptime in a nursing residence, with virtually no wind, tire or engine noise being heard. The RX 450h’s hybrid powertrain is constructed round a Three.5-liter V6, one augmented by two electrical motor-generators up entrance that type a repeatedly variable transmission, and a separate motor on the rear, which offers all-wheel drive. Whispering whereas it really works, this association offers a web 308 horsepower, although a torque determine is just not listed as a result of the maths with hybrids is bizarre. By itself, nonetheless, the V6 engine whips up 247 pound-feet of twist. The RX 450h’s simple dealing with and all-wheel drive add immensely to my confidence someday because the climate goes from drab to harmful, with a winter storm dumping sleet on the roadways.

Stand on the accelerator and this Lexus scoots. Efficiency, whereas not awe-inspiring, remains to be superb, the engine sounding prefer it’s working far off within the distance reasonably than a number of inches forward of your toes. The hybrid elements of this drivetrain are equally polished, barely drawing any consideration to themselves. The brake pedal can be pleasant, with a seamless transition between regenerative and friction braking. For added versatility, the RX 450h presents an EV mode, which lets you run it solely on electrons. The onboard battery pack has sufficient juice so that you can sneak down a cul-du-sac or into the storage with out working the engine, however as quickly as you go too quick or prod the throttle too aggressively the engine fires up. Bear in mind, this isn’t a plug-in hybrid, so electric-only vary is just not the first focus.

Chopping gasoline consumption, nonetheless, is considered one of this Lexus’ predominant aims. Count on 31 miles per gallon within the metropolis and 28 mpg on freeway drives. In blended use, the RX 450h ought to return 30 mpg, nonetheless, in the actual world I solely common round 25.1, a disappointing rating. It is usually a breeze to satisfy and even exceed marketed fuel-economy scores in Toyota hybrids, which makes this efficiency (or lack thereof) a little bit of a shock.

The Lexus RX is one thing of a blended bag.

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With its upscale inside, refined manners and, sure, unlucky infotainment tech, a base 2021 Lexus RX 450h begins at simply shy of $49,000, together with $1,025 in vacation spot charges. That is about $2,650 greater than an entry-level, front-wheel-drive, non-hybrid RX 350. Because it sits, this F Sport instance checks out for $59,380, a determine goosed by a number of add-ons like a $200 wi-fi charger, $640 heated and ventilated entrance seats, $1,365 for parking help and a 360-degree digital camera system, plus a number of further goodies. Nonetheless, that outlay will get you a family-friendly car that is extra docile and refined than the sportier Acura MDX and, due to its aggressive styling (which you will or could not love), extra visually fascinating than a Lincoln Nautilus or Mercedes-Benz GLC.

There’s an abundance of luxurious crossovers accessible as we speak, nice examples from German, American and Asian automakers. Loads of them provide upscale interiors and a great deal of fancy options, however few are as refined, gasoline environment friendly — and in a single specific approach — irritating as this largely likable Lexus.

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