Lexus RX 450h: a luxury that doesn’t need to be rushed
On the test, we have an updated Lexus RX. Previously, I already drove this Japanese crossover, but only on its pre-styling version, and already weighed all its pros and cons. Then I had conflicting feelings. This time I will draw conclusions by comparing him with some classmates.
I must say right away that this Japanese crossover still does not differ in dynamics and outstanding driver qualities; just like before, he is quite gluttonous. But, despite my own preferences (and I am a fan of the German car industry), this time I looked with interest towards Lexus. To be honest, I liked this car. And it’s not even that after the restyling in the RX, something has changed dramatically (although, of course, the engineers have updated something). Probably, changes have occurred in me, and this has affected the perception of the car.
But let’s figure it out together.
It must also be said that the updated Lexus RX has revolutionary BladeScan headlights. While the whole world is using matrices to control the light spot, and constantly increasing the number of diodes to improve accuracy, Lexus engineers have created an alternative and it seems they are going to excel in road lighting technology.
For comparison, in the most modern matrix headlights Multibeam from Mercedes-Benz, 84 diodes are installed. Selective disabling of some diodes, depending on the traffic situation, allows you to “cut out" oncoming and passing vehicles, as well as highlight road signs and pedestrians. But in the BladeScan headlights there are only twelve diodes, but they do not shine on the road, but on a rotating mirror, which, by changing the angle of reflection with a very high frequency, scatters the beam of light. And in order to “cut” another car out of the stream, the diode goes out for a split second. As a result, it was possible to achieve the highest accuracy, equivalent to the operation of four hundred diodes, having only twelve at its disposal.
It is believed that this technology has already called into question the further development of conventional matrix headlights from manufacturers Continental and Hella. It turns out that at a lower price and size, this technology provides a better result. During the test, we specifically tested the performance of the BladeScan lighting on the Lexus RX, so we can confirm the excellent performance of the system.
If we talk about the appearance of the model, then, as for me, the RX looks quite controversial. On the one hand, this is a representative of the Japanese design school, and the fact that it cannot be called completely ugly (like, for example, the Honda Pilot) is already good. On the other hand, there is somehow a lot of aggression in the design of this Lexus, which should correspond to the character of the car. But aggressive driving is not the strong point of this crossover at all, although we will discuss this in detail later. True, I am sure that many just love this model for the bright elements in the design, which significantly distinguish it from classmates.
In the current generation, the dimensions of the Lexus RX already clearly fit into the class of full-size luxury crossovers "K3". It plays Mercedes-Benz GLE, BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. The RX is quite comparable with the indicated crossovers both in length (4890 mm) and in width (2180 mm), except that it “does not hold out” a little in height (1705 mm). But the Volkswagen Touareg is exactly the same in terms of external dimensions as the test RX. True, the wheelbase of the German car is still larger, but, oddly enough, this does not affect the layout of the cabin.
However, many buyers still traditionally compare this Lexus to smaller crossovers like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLC. In addition, there used to be an opinion that the RX model is a “female” car. But these views are already fading.
As for the price of the crossover, the RX is located somewhere in the middle between proportionate German luxury classmates and more compact models. Since 2016, the RX has become a little more affordable, starting at $55,000 for the Business version with a 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel drive. A car with a 3.5-liter engine in a decent Premium package will cost $69,000. And in the maximum configuration of Luxury and with a hybrid power plant called 450h (as we have on the test), this car is already under 90 thousand rubles.
It turns out that for the same money today you can only buy a VW Touareg or a Volvo XC90. But many buyers do not consider these brands equal to Lexus. But GLE, X5 or Q8 in good trim levels will cost about 20% more.
True, the concept of "good equipment" is very subjective. Especially when comparing Japanese and German cars. For example, Lexus already in the “base” is equipped with double glazing, a good audio system and a leather interior. In addition, there is Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charging, power steering column and Keyless system. On the other hand, even the top-of-the-line RX does not have many of the popular options that are specific to this class. For example, there are no massage options and multi-contour chairs, night vision functions or door closers when closing are also not provided here. And in Ukraine, for some reason, there is no projection display in the list of options, which is offered in other markets.
All in all, the Lexus RX is a good alternative to a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz if you want to stay in the luxury class while still saving money. In addition, you will be able to save money not only during the purchase of a car, but also during the maintenance process. The thing is that the RX is much cheaper in maintenance than its German competitors. For 100 thousand miles, regular maintenance and replacement of brake pads every 30 thousand km will cost you about three thousand dollars. But servicing a BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE for the first 100,000 runs will cost at least two thousand dollars more. And if we take into account the cost in the secondary market in 3-4 years, it turns out that the monthly ownership of the Lexus RX, even despite the higher fuel consumption, is about two times cheaper than the aforementioned X5, GLE, Q8 (and even more so the Range Rover ).
True, the question of saving is not in the first place here; you need to understand well what you will have to sacrifice for the sake of such savings and trouble-free operation. And also to understand what buyers of German luxury crossovers are willing to overpay for when they choose their cars instead of Lexus.
The declared characteristics indicate that the Lexus RX cannot boast of dynamics when compared with any of today’s competitors. This car is definitely not suitable for those who are constantly somewhere in a hurry. RX with a 2.0-liter engine in our last test accelerated to “hundreds” in 9 seconds (and this is even 0.5 seconds faster than the result indicated by the manufacturer). At the same time, the power of such a power unit is by no means small, almost 240 forces. The RX 350 version with a V6 engine already produces 300 “horses”, but also does not demonstrate outstanding dynamics: 8.2 s to 100 km / h. In comparison, this is not even on par with the base 2.0-liter engines of German competitors. But under the hood, your Lexus will have the legendary 2GR engine in terms of reliability with a resource of under half a million kilometers.
The reason for the discrepancy between dynamics and power lies in the gearbox. Lexus still install very reliable and smooth Aisin automatic transmissions. Of course, their resource is impressive with indicators for 250 thousand kilometers. But alas, it does not make sense to compare the units installed on Lexus with German ZF boxes in terms of speed. And in the hybrid version, a variator is generally installed.
On the other hand, if you don’t know the indicators, it feels like the dynamics of the crossover is quite sufficient. The car is very "soft", and with a sharp press on the gas pedal, it noticeably "crouches" on the rear axle. The V6 engine sounds thoroughbred, including in the hybrid version. Very quiet though: no loud exhaust system, just six cylinders up front somewhere.
Sport mode predictably makes the throttle feel more responsive, and the RX picks up the speed you want – it feels – at the moment pretty quickly. At the same time, acceleration even slightly presses you into the back of the chair. As a result, it turns out that you do not feel any discomfort due to a lack of dynamics while sitting in the cabin. But this crossover does not provide dynamics as such. Magic Lexus, not otherwise!
The hybrid car is equipped with a CVT, so the traction when accelerating is smooth, without switching. But in the version of the RX 350, which has an eight-speed torque converter gearbox, shifts feel good.
Fuel consumption in the Lexus RX is a separate issue, because the actual figures here differ significantly from the declared ones. The most economical can be called the RX 300, where a 2.0-liter turbo engine is installed. Despite the fact that in the urban cycle, according to the passport, such a car should consume about 10 liters per 100 km, in reality it turns out about 15. On the highway up to 120 km / h, the consumption will be at least 12 liters, and if you move at a speed of 150-180 km / h, then the consumption will cross the mark of 16 liters of gasoline. Interestingly, the 350 consumes about the same amount of fuel. The only difference is that the 300 is more economical in the city with a quiet ride, and the 350 is on the highway. The main reason for this situation is the gearbox, because in the RX 350 version there are no longer six, but eight steps, which saves fuel at high speed.
The test RX 450h consumes the least fuel. The promised passport consumption is about 6 l / 100 km. In real conditions, you can fit in 10 liters (mixed cycle). Naturally, a hybrid is a very efficient technology when used in the city, especially in terms of fuel economy. The system can turn off the engine when needed, start driving on electric power only, and recharge the battery when you roll towards a traffic light.
But on the track it doesn’t work anymore. I will give an eloquent example: having driven about 80 km at a speed of 140-180 km / h, I received a consumption of 16 l / 100 km. On the way back along the same route, there were “toffees” in places, and for the same distance it turned out to meet 11 liters.
Of course, against the background of German competitors with diesel engines, “pouring” so much money into the tank of your car looks terrifying. But by choosing the Lexus RX, in fact, buyers still save money (on the purchase, service and resale mentioned above). Therefore, having calculated all the costs, it can be argued that fuel consumption is not a serious drawback of the Japanese crossover.
If we talk about my preferences, then I would stop at the RX 350 version. The fact is that the “hybrid” in the same configuration turns out to be more expensive by $ 8,600. In order to recoup this difference due to fuel consumption, you need to drive 150 thousand kilometers.
Of course, the Lexus hybrid power plant is a separate philosophy, and such a car has a number of undeniable advantages over other versions. For example, it is the most comfortable for the city and incredibly quiet. On the other hand, there are also disadvantages. Firstly, all-wheel drive is very conditional here. The rear wheels are driven by an electric motor, so even some off-road with a dead battery can turn into a real problem. Secondly, the hybrid Lexus cannot charge a 12-volt battery from a high-voltage battery. As a result, the battery drains rather quickly. It is enough to stand a little with the headlights on, and you will have to seek technical assistance. By the way, this is a feature of all Toyota hybrid cars.
As for the version with a 2.0-liter engine, it is not economical, and it lacks even more dynamics. In addition, the RX 300 version is not much cheaper and is sold only with simple trim levels. For example, the RX 350 Premium is $5,900 more expensive than the RX 300 Executive, but the difference in trim levels is quite noticeable. On the other hand, if you do not need extra options and you are indifferent to speed, then you can watch the 300th. By the way, rumors about problems with the turbine were not groundless. At first there were warranty claims, but then the problem was solved.
In any case, the resource of the turbo engine is less than that of the atmospheric 2GR unit. Perhaps this will be important for those who buy a car for a long time, and then are going to sell it at a bargain price.
The interior of the Lexus RX, like its appearance, is not for everybody. There are a lot of connoisseurs of this approach to design, but not among those who are used to German cars. Some consider this salon tasteless and soulless, but this is just a Japanese approach to style and design. But admirers of Lexus interiors believe that this is exactly what luxury should be like: when everything is big, when there is a lot of wood and pliable plastics, when the riders are surrounded by pleasant soft skin.
And if you definitely can’t find fault with the build quality and fit, then it’s easy with the quality of materials. To my surprise, there was a place in the cabin for inexpensive plastics, and the front panel cannot be sheathed in leather, there will only be its imitation.
But among the seventeen trim options, you will certainly be able to choose the right one for yourself. Even those who switch from German cars will be able to find a more restrained performance for themselves. Only now the wooden inserts in the steering wheel rim (which not everyone likes) are offered in all versions, except for the more “youthful” F Sport. In it, the steering wheel is sheathed in leather, there is a black ceiling, and contrasting inserts in the upholstery of the seats.
But all this is a matter of taste, because in the BMW cabin there is also something to complain about, so you need to choose for yourself.
But the dimensions of the cabin are amazing. For example, the distance in the RX between the B-pillars is 5 cm greater than in the Mercedes-Benz GLE (W166). It is comfortable to sit in a large soft chair, even though there are not so many settings for this chair (by the standards of a luxury class): in addition to the standard options, there is only an extension of the pillow and adjustment of the lumbar support. But there is practically no lateral support in the front seats. In fact, it is not needed in this car: believe me, you will not sharply enter turns on it.
The interior of our test car is sheathed in semi-aniline leather. The peculiarity of this material is that in light colors it is not very easy to clean, but it gets dirty quite easily. It is also worth noting that the thread stitching on the leather trim elements is perfect, as if it was not made by a person, but by a robot. Some automakers would do well to learn from the Japanese.
With ergonomics, everything is ambiguous. On the one hand, many elements are very large, understandable, “tested by time”. Almost every function has its own button, and everything is conveniently signed. On the other hand, the location of all these buttons is somewhat chaotic and in some places very uncomfortable. For example, heated and ventilated seats were for some reason placed behind the gear lever. Intuitively and quickly activating one of these functions is not so easy.
Controlling the multimedia system using the proprietary touchpad is also not very easy, and the process takes some getting used to. And in general, Lexus electronics are still that puzzle! Engineers sought to equip the car with all the modern features, but the algorithms of their work sometimes make the driver suffer. Where you could use one button, in Lexus you need to press two, and to enable some functions, you have to read the instructions. True, in comparison with German competitors, all these buttons and switches work flawlessly.
The main rule in the Lexus cabin is to work as quietly as possible. The air conditioning system is almost inaudible, just like the ventilation of the seats (it works on air intake). The windows close very nicely (the glass, I repeat, is double here). The bottom of the cup holder on the central tunnel can be deepened for different containers, and it rises very smoothly. After restyling, the niche for the smartphone received a rubber damper to minimize noise from its movement. As a result, we can say that its own world reigns here, where, thanks to tens of kilograms of noise and vibration isolation, their own rules apply.
My favorite thing about the RX’s cabin is the dashboard. It’s strange that the cheaper RAV4 got an almost digital "tidy", and the luxury model from Lexus for 90 thousand dollars (and even after restyling) is content with such a simple screen. With the backlight turned on at night, the situation does not get any nicer, and the only thing that can be noted with a plus sign is the ability to change the color of the tachometer scale when switching modes. I am sure that such a tidy scared away many potential buyers. True, the Japanese claim that customers do not complain.
But even more surprising is that the central display, unlike the “tidy”, looks very modern. Screen resolution and image quality are excellent. But it’s still difficult to understand the logic of managing various interfaces and menus. It’s good that now there is Apple CarPlay, which can "overlap" the shortcomings of the standard system.
It would be nice to follow the upgrade of the display to increase the resolution of the all-round cameras, and make the graphics vector, so that the pixels are not conspicuous. The very same function of circular review is implemented quite well.
As for the back row, I will immediately note the absence of a transmission tunnel, and this difference is not only in the hybrid version, where there is no cardan, but also in all other options. Interestingly, the engineers did not achieve this at the expense of free space in the cabin. Legroom is plentiful, even though the RX’s wheelbase is 10cm shorter than, say, the Touareg’s. Sitting on the second row is very comfortable, including due to the soft sofa, which gives additional comfort to passengers. There is an armrest with a niche and coasters. The inclination of the back itself is adjustable in a fairly wide range. I will only note that there is not much space above the head for a tall passenger.
Despite the fact that there is a sofa in the back row, and not individual chairs, the average passenger will find it uncomfortable to sit due to the very rigid armrest. Rear passengers have access to rear sofa heating, two USB chargers and window blinds in the Luxury package. The backs of the front seats are upholstered in leatherette. The sofa can be moved in the longitudinal direction, significantly increasing the volume of the trunk. An interesting detail: before restyling, it was possible to adjust the tilt of the back of the rear sofa using an electric drive, but now they decided to remove this convenient option.
I note that for some markets a Long version is also offered, where a third row of seats is additionally equipped. The increase in space was obtained by increasing the body by 10 cm with the same wheelbase. Moreover, such crossovers can be either seven- or six-seater, where the second row is represented by two captain’s chairs. By the way, we also have such cars available, but on order. I think the seven-seater RX (given its comfort and impressiveness) is a good option for those traveling with the family.
The steering in the RX has an interesting feature. Due to the fact that the connection with the wheels is poorly felt, it seems that you are driving some kind of large frame. But in terms of handling, the steering settings leave much to be desired.
But body roll, which is unexpectedly small. During restyling, Japanese engineers strengthened the stabilizers, made the body even more rigid and finalized the adaptive suspension. Now the RX has become even more comfortable, and in Sport mode it has begun to be better controlled. And even when the suspension is "squeezed", the car remains comfortable by reducing vibrations and buildup in the pits. I am sure that in the basic versions on standard springs, the car will behave differently. The only thing that ruins the idyll is the blows of heavy 20-inch wheels when the suspension “does not guess” the nature of the roadway and relaxes too much.
On the highway, 140-150 km / h can be considered quite comfortable, but even up to 180 kilometers this hybrid accelerates without problems and even keeps the trajectory perfectly. At the same time, the cabin is still relatively quiet. But what happens at such a speed with the steering wheel, I absolutely do not like. Apparently, in order to reinsure the driver from inaccurate movements, the steering wheel becomes less sensitive. The minimum turn does not work at all, the reaction is very late, and if you turn the steering wheel more, the car reacts with a sharp tilt. At such moments, confidence becomes less, and again you want to slow down to 140 km / h. Moreover, the brakes here are far from ideal.
Initially, the braking performance in the RX seems quite normal. Of course, the car “nods”, which is inevitable with such suspension settings, but at the same time the crossover stops smoothly and without jerks. In addition, under emergency braking, the resistance on the pedals is predictable, but there is no failure. At first glance, everything is fine. But measurements of the braking distance gave disappointing results – 41.3 meters. In almost ideal conditions, three times in a row I got 42 meters when braking from 100 km / h.
It is considered that all results exceeding 40 meters are fraught with danger. The normal value for today is considered to be an indicator of 37 meters. For comparison, the Mercedes-Benz GLE W166 showed a result of 39 meters, which is also not ideal, but much better. So sharp maneuvers on a Lexus need to be done with brake performance in mind or something to do with them. Reinforced brake kits are on sale, thanks to which, based on reviews, the braking distance will decrease by 3-5 meters. But then again, if you drive calmly, a regular braking system will be enough for you.
It is important to note that the Lexus RX is not an off-road car, even despite the claimed ground clearance of 20 cm. In fact, this is a front-wheel drive crossover, where the rear axle is connected either through a clutch or using an electric motor. Both options when skidding are enough for a very short time. Still, do not forget that we are talking about an urban crossover built on a common platform with the Toyota Camry.
Comparison with Mercedes-Benz GLE W166
I had the opportunity to test the RX 450h for a week. All this time I have been accustomed to driving this car quite slowly and relaxed. I just enjoyed driving, despite the fact that the car does not excel in driving qualities and consumes too much fuel.
When I get into the Mercedes-Benz GLE (W166) after spending time behind the wheel of a Lexus, I stop thinking about how the car handles and look for peace and quiet. Compared to the Lexus, the Mercedes lacks soundproofing.
It should be noted right away that the W166 body has already been discontinued. Nevertheless, this car is still considered very comfortable within the class, while remaining well-controlled. But still, in terms of comfort, this Mercedes is inferior to Lexus. After driving through bumps, a lot of vibrations remain on the body, which are practically absent in the Japanese crossover. But the steering wheel settings in Mercedes allow you to drive much more actively. But for relaxed driving around the city, Lexus steering is more suitable.
Comparison with VW Touareg
The air suspension on the Touareg gives the driver more balance, especially when sport mode is activated. This German crossover enters corners better thanks to a more informative steering, it can be easily maneuvered even at speeds up to 200 km/h. Also, the dynamics here are much better, and fuel consumption is less.
In general, the air-sprung Touareg is a fairly comfortable crossover. But even on 18-inch wheels, it can’t match the Lexus for comfort. First of all, the difference is felt in noise and vibration isolation. In addition, with a comparable mileage of the test cars, there are already more extraneous sounds in the Touareg interior. And most importantly, the passage of pits and bumps in the German crossover feels much stronger, so it’s better to go around them. But doing it is much easier than on a Japanese crossover.
The interior of the Touareg is head and shoulders above the RX, and for many today this factor is decisive when choosing a car. True, here I lack the feeling of high cost, which in places would border on controversial decisions, as is often the case in the luxury class. And I also note that the abundance of displays and touch buttons can scare away a more mature audience.
Of course, the Lexus RX is not without flaws and weaknesses, but there are more than enough weighty arguments for buying it. He justifies his gluttony with affordable service. Slowness and lack of handling – comfort. A clumsy (for some) design and a gloomy multimedia system – legendary reliability. What is really important and what is not, and whether one can replace the other, depends not so much on our tastes, but on our lifestyle and priorities. And as you know, they tend to change sometimes. This explains how people who have driven German cars all their lives are switching to Japanese ones. And vice versa.