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First drive: 2023 Lexus RX 450h+. Image by Lexus.

First drive: 2023 Lexus RX 450h+
Lexus fresh-faced RX has arrived with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain, but is it a convincing alternative to the Land Rover Discovery and BMW X5?

   



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2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Takumi

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Lexus has given its flagship SUV, the RX, quite the makeover. The old architecture is gone, replaced with an entirely new car that just happens to wear the same badge. There's new styling inside and out, new powertrains under the bonnet and, crucially, new tech inside. But can all that modernity bring the RX into contention with accomplished premium rivals?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Takumi
Price: 79,450 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with 'self-charging' hybrid system
Transmission: e-CVT, all-wheel drive
Battery: 18.1kWh
Power: 308hp
Torque: 270Nm (front e-motor); 121Nm (rear e-motor); 227Nm (petrol engine)
Emissions: 25-26g/km
Economy: 235.4-256.8mpg
Range: 42 miles
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Boot space: 461 litres

Styling

It's immediately apparent that although the RX follows many of the same rules as the old car, it's a much more modern machine. There's a stronger design with a bluff front end (note the disappearance of the 'spindle' grille, Lexus fans) and a cleaner rear end. As is so often the way these days, Lexus' trademark 'L' logo has been replaced by the Lexus lettering on the tailgate. Special mention should also go to the Sonic Copper paint of our test car, which uses sound waves to help create that striking bronze colour.

Interior

Lexus exists to provide customers with a premium experience, and the RXs interior definitely does that. Its clean and minimalist, and in the case of our test car, adorned with smart wood trim and plenty of plush leather.

But the highlight is the new central touchscreen, which is much more intuitive than that of the old RX. Its basically the same unit youll find in the smaller NX and the forthcoming RZ electric SUV, and its finally brought Lexus infotainment technology into the 2020s. Admittedly the system isnt perfect there are some confusing menus and some important functions are too well hidden but the improvement is dramatic, and it means tech is no longer a weak spot for the big SUV.

Quality isnt an issue either, but then it never was. Every aspect of the RXs interior is beautifully stitched, bolted or glued to its neighbour, and everything feels upmarket and solid. The fact its also more stylish than ever makes the cabin arguably the RXs best feature.

Practicality

At almost 4.9 metres long, the RX is quite a big car, but the luggage capacity doesn't sound that brilliant. Officially, this 450h+ model's boot measures 461 litres, which should be enough for most occasions, but it looks a little small next to a Jaguar F-Pace. That said, the plug-in hybrid F-Pace barely has more luggage space than a VW Golf, so the Lexus suddenly looks considerably more competitive. It's spacious enough inside, too, with ample rear leg- and headroom, so carrying four adults shouldn't be an issue.

Performance

The RX is being offered with a choice of three hybrid powertrains, ranging from the basic 'self-charging' 350h hybrid to the range-topping 500h plug-in hybrid, via this mid-range 450h+ model. This system combines a 2.0-litre self-charging hybrid system with a plug-in hybrid system, which means the car can be more efficient when the battery is depleted. But with a real-world range of well over 30 miles on a single charge, some customers will barely need to use the petrol engine.

That's a good thing not just for the planet and their wallets, but also for their ears. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine makes an irritating mooing sound when it's pushed, but because of the electrical assistance on offer it rarely needs to make an effort. The official figures suggest the RX can use its battery so much that economy of more than 200mpg is possible, assuming you can charge the car regularly and most journeys are short. Perhaps more pertinently, the system allows CO2 emissions of 25-26g/km, and that means company car tax bills should be kept in check.

Ride & Handling

The RX 450h+s powertrain is something of a mixed bag, and so too is the driving experience, which is definitely more adequate than awesome. You might expect a big SUV like this to be supremely comfortable, but the weight of the RXs battery and multi-motor powertrain seems to handicap it somewhat. It doesnt ride terribly its better than most sports cars, in fact but it doesnt waft in the way we were hoping it might.

But a slightly stiff ride is forgivable if the handling is exceptional. Unfortunately, the RX doesnt excel there either, with predictable body roll and slightly numb steering that puts the kybosh on any delusions of sportiness. It is at least easy to drive, though, with light controls, reasonable visibility and a host of driver aids to help you out. Unfortunately, some of the driver aids, including the speed limit assistance technology and the front cross traffic alert system, are greater sources of annoyance than assistance not least because they turn themselves on every time you turn the car on, no matter whether you previously switched them off.

Value

The new RX starts at just under 60,000, which pays for the basic 350h Premium Pack. Lexus isn't expecting to sell too many of these base models, but it is expecting to shift more 450h+ models in the more upmarket Premium Plus Pack and Takumi grades. That takes the price well over 70,000, but you do get plenty of kit for your money. The Takumi we tested came with a head-up display, a panoramic roof and 21-inch alloy wheels, as well as a remote parking function and a 21-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. All the usual luxury touches such as a heated steering wheel and heated seats were thrown in too.

Verdict

While the RX 450h+ hybrid system fills its brief pretty well, it remains slightly too raucous for our liking, and cars such as the plug-in BMW X5 simply do the job slightly better. The RX is an improvement on its predecessor, though, with a beautifully crafted interior and a significantly improved infotainment system. And though it might not be top of the class, it is at least a competitor and a likeable one at that.



James Fossdyke - 8 Mar 2023



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2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.

2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.2023 Lexus RX 450h+ Premium Plus Pack. Image by Lexus.







 

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