Drive: You get what you pay for with the 2020 Lexus RX 450h
The RX is Lexus’ top-selling sport-utility vehicle, topping 111,000 units sold for each of the last two years. The “R” might just as well stand for right-sized, and that in turn may explain its popularity compared with Lexus’ other four SUVs — two smaller, two bigger.
What’s “right” about the Lexus RX 450h, the model we test-drove? Well, a lot of things. The front seats are as comfortable as any we’ve sat in, and the back seat is roomy enough to accommodate six-footers. The ride is impeccably smooth, and the car does a terrific job of hushing road, engine and wind noise. The interior materials and styling are of the highest quality, constantly reminding drivers and passengers that this truly is a premium luxury SUV. The V-6 engine, with an electric motor in each of the front wheels and a single motor serving the rear wheels, generates 308 horsepower and delivers good fuel economy; we did a little better than the EPA rating of 31 mpg city, 28 highway.
Of course, if there was any doubt about the RX 450h’s quality, the sticker price offers a reminder that you get what you pay for. The base RX 450h starts at $47,720. Priced at $45,070 in base trim, the RX 350, powered by a 295-horsepower V-6, falls far short of the 450h in fuel economy at 20 mpg city, 27 highway. Our 450h, with several options, had a sticker price of $58,490.
Our Nori Green Pearl 450h was equipped with a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters; Bi-LED headlights; the Lexus Safety System Plus 2.0; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto compatibility; 4GB WiFi; satellite radio; dual-zone climate control; power tilt and telescopic steering column; reclining and sliding split rear seat; and power liftgate. The safety feature included lane-tracing assist, road-sign assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, and intelligent high-beam headlights. All of these features are standard.
The all-wheel drive system bumped the base price up to $48,750. We were disappointed to note the highly desirable blind-spot monitor with intuitive parking assist, panoramic view monitor and rear cross-traffic braking was a $1,865 option, rather than standard on this luxury SUV. Also optional were the heated and ventilated front seats, panoramic moonroof, head-up display, 20-inch wheels and touch-free power rear door with kick sensor. The navigation system, Mark Levinson 15-speaker premium audio system and 12.3-inch display added $3,365.
Lexus has plenty of company in the midsize luxury SUV game. Among the top choices are the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Cayenne, Jaguar F-Pace, Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, Lincoln Nautilus, Cadillac XT5 and Volvo XC60. Also worth a look, once it arrives on these shores from South Korea, is the 2021 Genesis GV80. With a starting price of $48,900, it’s likely to cost thousands of dollars less expensive than similarly equipped competitors.
The 450h earned an overall score of 5 stars in U.S. government crash tests.
2020 Lexus RX 450h AWD
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 308 horsepower2.0-liter inline Four, 141 horsepower, 247 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: continuously variable automatic with paddle shifters
Ground clearance: 8.2 in.
Weight: 4,740 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear
Wheels: 20.8-in. Split 5-spoke dark silver alloy
Tires: P235/55R20 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 18 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 55.9 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 3,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gal.
Fuel economy: 31 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.