Lexus brought us the hybrid RX in the last generation nearly 10 years ago, making headlines at the time and gaining a number of celebrity first adopters as buyers. A luxury SUV that could get high fuel economy was something the world was willing to pay for.
Fast forward to current, our 2014 RX 450h has sharper lines, the latest spindle grille styling of the Lexus brand and some rather expensive looking LED headlamps which came courtesy of the Luxury Package optioned on our tester.
Also coming with the package were larger 19” wheels, roof rails and heated power folding side mirrors. While this design has been with us for some time now, it seems to remain crisp and unique, elegantly aging with the help of its face lift received in 2013.
The interior remains a study in what Lexus is and means. Ours came with sumptuous semi-Analine leather and rather striking bamboo wood trim accents. While the RX is available with countless interior color and wood combinations, I find this one fitting to its hybrid theme.
The center driver interface has a large display screen controlled exclusively with an intuitive console mounted control puck. When you move the mouse-like controller it features tactile clicks that match the buttons on the screen making it easy to use when driving. I still find it one of the best in the business.
The menus are simple enough and quick to navigate. You can control all media, audio, navigation, and HVAC there but the center stack and steering wheel also has redundant knobs and buttons for most which I like.
Our tester was optioned with the Mark Levinson audio system which at $995 seems like a relative bargain considering its strong uptick in sound quality over the base system. In the RX it’s lucky to be a stand alone option.
There were heated and ventilated front seats which are exquisitely comfortable. I did notice in our 100+ degree heat this week the ventilation feature on the seating wasn’t that robust and was hardly noticeable.
What I find striking is level of consistency Lexus has achieved with the material quality throughout the cabin. As you move your hands around from spot to spot, nothing seems to be out of place in terms of fit, feel and style. It’s not at quality all manufacturer’s have achieved.
The rear cargo area is generous enough and is unhindered due to the additional battery pack in the hybrid model. Even better news still is the fact it retains a spare tire, something some hybrids give up when they gain that extra battery.
The rear passengers will enjoy adjustable seats and plenty of room. Missing are a few creature comforts like individual video inputs for the optional dual screen entertainment system. Your second row passengers also do not get individual controls for HVAC.
The RX450h is based on a chassis which has been around for a while but it hasn’t seem to age in terms of handling and overall driving dynamics. It’s still a front-wheel drive biased crossover in overall feel, not so much an off-roader in its pursuits.
Smooth and buttery are the words that best describe the driving experience of the RX450h. Everything from the steering feel, the ride and the hushed quiet cabin exude a creamy smooth persona that really well defines this crossover.
Under the hood is a 3.5 liter V6 engine similar to that in other Lexus models and the hybrid drive system which in our all-wheel drive model is rated at 30 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined.
With an electric motor mounted at the rear axle which provides for the all-wheel drive aspect of our RX450, the entire drive-train offers up a smooth delivery of power. The constantly variable transmission (CVT) seems a good fit here, allowing for seamless power regardless of whether it comes from the gas engine or electric motors.
The entire collection of electric motors and the gas engine offers up a total system 295 horsepower, the most powerful RX model you can buy. In our testing we achieved 27 mpg combined, slightly less than the EPA estimate, but keep in mind our AC was on 100% of the time. For more news and test drives of hybrid or electric vehicles see our partner channel Motoring2.com.