2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport Review and Buyer’s Guide

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport review

Lexus RX?

When Lexus released the RX in 1998, it was the beginning of the luxury SUV scene. Before that, yes luxury 4x4s existed but the RX offered customers a luxury car-like feel with an all-wheel-drive system that needed no thought or input.

The Lexus RX quickly become hugely popular, especially in the USA, and to date over 2.1 million have been sold worldwide. So, it’s indeed a popular choice of SUV, but does this 2016/17 forth generation version appeal just as much to owners of older versions looking to trade up? I was sent the 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport hybrid to find out…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

The exterior styling of the previous three generations of RX can perhaps be described politely as ahh… umm… restrained, and perhaps… different. Certainly, it was never punchy, more sedate than anything, but by the third generation (2012 – 2015) its looks were even quite bulbous and uninteresting.

Thankfully, this forth generation is far more edgy than before, with a sharp, focussed appearance. To begin with though, I wasn’t impressed viewing the images through the Lexus website, and from a rear three-quarter angle I even believed it to be slightly ugly, due to the rear ‘quarter-light’ window, which is strangely shaped.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport review

However, those initial thoughts were dispersed over the week I had the RX 450h on test. I was sent the F Sport, which differs from the rest of the range with a front lip extension jutting out from the bottom of the grille, plus the grille styled with the nice Lexus ‘spindle’ design, rather than the horizontal slats featured on the other RXs and it definitely helps it stand out more.

A standout feature for me are the intricate 20-inch F Sport wheels, the graphite finish contrasting incredibly well with the beautiful Mesa Red paintwork – a £645.00 option – featured on this particular model. Up front, that aforementioned grille – which has to be one of the biggest on any current car or SUV – stands out, while the lights and folded edges catch the eye, giving the impression that Lexus used designers and engineers with serious Origami skills to created the RX. Oh wait, they actually did.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport review

If you’re an owner of the third-gen RX, the dimensions are quite similar on this new model, but with a 120mm overall increase in length, with a wheelbase taking up 50mm of that adding extra legroom. The new RX is 10mm, and there’s 10mm more ground clearance, while the height stays the same as the previous generation’s.

I think the entire front-to-rear of this forth-gen Lexus RX looks absolutely fantastic, because (unlike previous RX models) it is actually an interesting. The more time you spend looking at it, the more you notice the neat features it possesses. Although it’s a large vehicle, the RX has a drag coefficient of just 0.33, which not only aids in better fuel economy, but also with stability and lower cabin noise levels.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport rear view

As an example, that rear side window I first though of as ugly, actually starts to make sense. View the Lexus RX from a side-on point, and you’ll begin to see an outline. Your eye is naturally drawn to the satin-finish trim around the glass, starting at the end of the rear door, and running all the way around and finishing at the tail of the car.

To me, this appears almost as the smoke you see coming off the back of a car in a wind tunnel test. It is quite elegant really, and it ended up being a feature I genuinely liked. Another cool point is the LED indicators, which flash outwards – like arrows – in the direction you’re turning. This is being taken up by more manufacturers – Audi, for instance – and it is something that drew people’s attention from both the front and rear of the RX, with passersby and people in cars pointing animatedly. The RX attracted more attention than any other car I’ve had on test because of this – but almost exclusively when it was indicating.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport side view

It’s not all good though. Personally – and I know to a degree this is for practicality as the RX is still a functioning AWD SUV – but the plastic trim running around the wheel arch edges just isn’t very attractive. In the photos it doesn’t appear like much, but in the flesh the plastic trim almost looks… economical. The other issue is that it accentuates the squared-off shape, and the problem is that even with large 20″ wheels, it tends to make them look ever-so-slightly too small for the car – something I found with the similarly-shaped arches on the Jeep Cherokee.

This is something I’d live with though, and it certainly wouldn’t put me off buying an RX. As an overview, this forth generation Lexus RX looks truly contemporary and cool, and it’s so much nicer than previous versions of this popular SUV.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport rear three-quarter view

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

The Lexus RX has always been a very comfortable, and really quite luxurious, SUV. Today, as I step into the new RX 450h F Sport, I’m greeted with that familiar high degree of comfort, refinement and quality level.

Slide behind the chunky steering wheel, and you’ll see that Lexus has their own way of doing things. Bucking the trend that many manufacturers follow of using glossy piano black trim copiously, Lexus use a matt finish on the majority of surfaces, with satin silver surrounds, and for the F Sport – aluminium inlays. Should you go for other models, the wood seated on the centre console is beautifully finished with a hand-polishing process, and made by Yamaha – the musical instrument people.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport front seats

The F Sport also gets drilled aluminium pedals, with the foot rest being a huge slab of the stuff – one of the largest I’ve come across, in fact. As your eyes sweep side to side, the dash is noticeably flat and combines soft, stitched leather with shaped satin-finished aluminium. On almost every surface of the RX F Sport’s cabin, leather has been used and the stitching is perfectly straight and uniform wherever it is used – a sign of Lexus’ relentless ‘pursuit of perfection’.

The F Sport comes with a huge 12.3 inch multi-information display screen – which is controlled via a joystick with force feedback – is entirely contemporary, featuring sleek graphics and easy-to-use menus, alongside a Lexus Premium Navigation system. I still don’t entirely like their sat nav, as it comes across slightly too over-thought when inputting destinations, and the graphics don’t look as modern as they perhaps should for a new car, with the routes and separate slip roads sometimes almost blending into one, confusing you with where you’re actually exiting.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport front seats

Aside from the navigation though, the information and menus are really very nicely done, and I especially like the graphics for the hybrid system, and the fact you can have either one particular thing – say, the sat nav – covering the whole of the huge 12.3″ screen, or you can split the screen to show your music, the energy display, map etc. Very neat indeed.

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While you can control the majority of features from this information system, Lexus had the foresight to still include physical controls for the things you’ll use regularly, i.e. the ventilation system, volume control, heated/ventilated seats and media options. I think that’s a brilliant touch, and the buttons themselves feel like they’ll last for decades without issue.

Optional on the RX 450h F Sport is the 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. At £1,000 it’s not cheap, but having tested the ML system on other Lexus’, if you love your music then you must opt for this as the sound quality is superlative.

 

For the majority of their models over the years Lexus’ have had nice-looking instrument clusters (save for the 1997 – 2004 GS with its lurid acid green dials), and the RX takes that forward. However, unique to the F Sport version – with either the 450h or 200t – is that instead of two large dials, you have a main TFT (Thin-Film-Transistor) dial which changes its look depending on your drive mode, a full-colour TFT information screen and a smaller dial incorporating fuel and water temperature readouts. The TFT screens within the binnacle shows pin-sharp graphics and highly-readable, uncluttered displays.

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There are only two issues I have with the RX’s cabin layout. Firstly, I don’t like the matt black surround around the gear selector and drive mode dial. The finish makes it look strangely low-grade, like someone’s painted it themselves, or put a decal over it. Lexus’ interior designers won’t like that, but I’m afraid it’s true guys.

Secondly, the buttons for the ventilated/heated front seats have been placed almost underneath the overhanging upright centre console section, which means they’re in the dark, and they’re awkward to reach for the driver, especially when the gear selector is in Park.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport ventilated seat controls

On to the seating. The front seats differ slightly on the RX 450h F Sport, as they have deeper side and leg bolsters for more cornering support. While they are as far from cramped or uncomfortable as can be, and longer journeys will still see you sat in comfort, my personal preference would be for the seats that come on the other RX models as I’d prefer not to have the F Sport’s deeper bolsters, which do tend to hug your shoulders and legs.

Sitting in either of the rear side seats, I found them to be amongst the most comfortable of any car I’ve tested to date. They are genuinely sublime, being both supportive whilst have deep, supple leather to sink into. Even in their most upright position, the angle is still very much reclined and therefore relaxing, and when reclined at their maximum angle they become so pleasant and restful that you could easily sleep well on longer trips.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport rear seats

The seats also slide back and forth, to create more boot room if needed, and at the furthest point there’s acres of legroom. Sat in the back of this forth generation 2016 Lexus RX, with its sumptuous leather seats, deep carpets, heavily tinted windows, retractable side blinds and a large panoramic roof to look out of, you really do feel like you’re sat in something quite special, and it makes for an excellent vehicle to be chauffeured about in.

My only issue is that I believe the rear seats should have been heated, especially as this is a premium spec SUV, but strangely enough none of the RX models have either heated rear seats or the option to spec them. Quite bizarre.

The RX’ boot is quite large, as you would imagine. With the rear seats in place there’s a 453 litres, and with them down 924 litres. With the seats up, Lexus state you can fit four large suitcases in the rear, which gives a good idea of the capacity. These specs may also only be to the window line, so expect a much higher capacity if measured to the roofline.

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Having a powered tailgate is handy, and unlike many manufacturers doing the ungainly, silly-looking, balancing-act leg-waving under the rear for self-opening, you can simply hold your hand above the rear Lexus emblem for a few seconds and it’ll open. Clever – although it does still appear as if you’re trying to use a Jedi mind-trick to open the thing.

On a passive safety side, all forth gen. RX models are equipped with 10 airbags: dual-stage and dual-chamber driver and front passenger airbags, driver’s knee airbag, front passenger cushion airbag, front and rear side airbags and curtain airbags.

Engine & transmission

In the UK, the RX is available with two powertrains – the 200t and 450h. The 200t is a two-litre, four cylinder turbocharged engine producing 235bhp from 4,800 to 5,600 rpm, and 258 lb ft (350Nm) of torque between 1,650 and 4,000 rpm, running through a 6-speed Electronically Controlled Transaxle (ECT) transmission, available in either two-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, with the 0 – 62 mph run completed in 9.5 seconds (9.2 for the 2WD).

I had the 450h – a full hybrid mated to a petrol engine. For this 4th generation RX, there’s a re-engineered 3.5 litre V6, 24-valve DOHC VVT-iW naturally-aspirated petrol engine with a 650-volt hybrid system, including twin AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors (front and rear), a nickel metal-hydride battery pack.

2016 Lexus RX450h hybrid system technical view

The 3.5 V6 petrol engine produces 259 bhp at 6,000 rpm, and 247 lb ft (335Nm) of torque at 4,600 rpm. However, a the combined power output from the engine and electric front motor combine to 305 horsepower. The 450h is reasonably quick at the 0 – 62 mph run, with a time of 7.7 seconds and a maximum speed of 124 mph.

An E-CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission) is employed on the 450h, so there’s no particular number of gears. I don’t always like CVT systems, because of the the constant high-revving each and every time you put your foot down, but this one seems nicer than the others somehow, which I’ll talk about in the next section.

2016 Lexus RX450h F Sport gear selector

Cleverly, a proactive AWD system has been used – namely the E-FOUR – which only drives all four wheels when needed, saving fuel and energy in the process, with the rear electric motor regenerating power when in regenerative brake mode. Clever stuff, and it’s certainly a good system, which I’ll discuss in the next chapter.

Official UK fuel stats for the 450h are 51.4 mpg for urban, extra urban and combined. The base SE 450h gets three mpg more for some reason. On a motorway run, I averaged a shade over 35 miles-per-gallon which I think is reasonable for this large SUV. However, it’s the city and urban usage where the the RX 450h shines, and with the excellent hybrid system kicking in and out constantly, you can see over 60 mpg when using the system to its potential.

Ready to roll? Let’s go!

If any single car manufacturer is known for doing an exceptional job of producing cars that give a quiet, refined ride and drive, it’s Lexus. This 4th generation RX 450h continues that tradition, and if you want an SUV that’ll allow you to luxuriate in a drive so entirely undemanding, and in a superlatively relaxing, hushed cabin, then take a serious look at the RX hybrid.

Over the course of the week-long test, I liked the Lexus’ full hybrid system more and more, and it impressed me on a few levels. This is not a complex or daunting system, and while I found you do tend to adapt your driving style, (less heavy on the accelerator, for a start) the point on the throttle when the petrol engine kicks in is much less sensitive than previous hybrids, meaning you can driving it more ‘normally’ than you would have had to in the past, and still have all the benefits of the electric motors doing the work and saving fuel.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport driving

The hybrid system feels ‘strong’ in a way, in that I was surprised by how often it ends up using full electric, and how effectively and quickly it regenerates power. For instance, on a country road route I often use as part of the test I’d had the RX in Sport+ mode (and the accelerator hard down) which used a whole chunk of battery power, but at the top of the steep hill I simply let the RX 450h coast down, with some braking needed.

By the turn-off at the bottom of the hill the battery was almost full again, and as I turned off, accelerated to speed and then coasted at the limit, I noticed the Lexus was being powered by electricity alone – at 60 miles-per-hour. Okay it was ever-so-slightly downhill, but considering this is no a plug-in hybrid, that’s impressive.

 

I was surprised by just how often I found the car was running in full EV mode actually, and as long as there were sections where I could let the RX regenerate the battery power, I was able to cover around five miles with the engine rarely kicking in, and that was at 30 and 40 mph speeds.

With its CVT gearbox producing zero palpable changes, and plenty of power and torque under your right foot, acceleration is buttery-smooth and the RX 450h will whisk you up to your desired speed with surprising gusto. Especially unexpected is the power delivery during rolling acceleration, and its ability to overtake cars with relative ease even at higher speeds brought a grin to my face.

On that point, in the driving video I’ve done, I mentioned that the throaty roar you hear when accelerating hard may be coming via the speakers rather than the exhaust, and I was correct as the RX uses a sound generator system that creates a performance-style intake sound. It uses air intake pulses to raise the sound pressure level across three resonance frequencies to heighten the sense of performance. I’m not a big fan of these system, but on the RX it does admittedly sound great, and quite realistic too.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport review

Of course, when you do want want to simply let the car sweep up the miles of open road at higher speeds, it’ll do that with all the ease and of any of the big luxury SUVs out there – this is a Lexus after all, and it’s one of the things they’re very good at.

While the F Sport and Premier editions of the RX get Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) the rest of the range gets standard MacPherson struts up front and rear trailing arms/double wishbones at the rear. I had the F Sport on test, and found the AVS setup works really nicely, keeping the RX composed at higher speed corners while providing an incredibly comfortable ride over rougher sections of road, and keeping the car stable and level even under heavy braking.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport driving

The F Sport has a kerb weight of 2,100 – 2,210 kilograms (4,630 – 4,872 lbs), so it’s not exactly a lightweight, and the fact they’ve provided a G force meter makes me smirk a little as this isn’t exactly a low-slung, featherweight sports car, and I can’t imagine one on a track day either. Pointless device? Perhaps. Bragging rights? Definitely.

Lexus say they’ve done a lot of work to make sure you’re shielded from any exterior noise, and I’d have to applaud them because they’ve done sterling work in that department. As mentioned at the start of this section, the Lexus RX is impressively hushed inside, and if you want a car that’ll waft you home from work on a cloud of silence and refinement, and cut you off from all the noise and stress outside, then the RX 450h should be considered on your ‘next SUV’ list.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport driving position

From a safety aspect, Lexus is pulling no punches in when they state “Not only does Lexus provide the most comprehensive active safety provisions in the premium SUV market, it does so at a price that is significantly lower than that of rival systems.” Okay, I’ll put in the shorted version of what it has, but visit this page on the Lexus site (or see the spec sheet at the bottom of the article) to find out what each one means. As standard, the RX 450h has VDIM, ABS, BAS, EBD, VSC+, ECB, EPS, HAC and Lexus Safety System+. Phew!

Price

(Figures correct Oct. 2016) The RX 200t starts at £39,995 and top out at £48,995, whereas the 45oh – which will obviously be expensive due to the hybrid system – is £46,995 up to £57,995. My F Sport tester was £52,995 but with the Sonic Titanium exterior paint (£645) and panoramic roof (£1,295) it came to £54,935.

The RX certainly seems worth the asking prices, and indeed in terms of technology and build quality, it’s extremely competitive too. Rivals for a similar price include the Audi Q7, Range Rover Sport and Volvo XC90.

2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport verdict & score

As an overall view, I very much like the forth generation Lexus RX 450h. Clearly, this new model will appeal to current RX owners thanks to the continued superb build quality, refined cabin finish and great comfort levels front and rear.

The full hybrid system is better than ever, not only making for a quiet and clean drive both in and out of the city, but also offering surprisingly good power and torque via both the electric motors and 3.5 V6 petrol engine, making for brisk acceleration when needed. The drive and ride is again, very refined, and there’s little not to like about it overall.

2016 Lexus RX450 F Sport rear three-quarter view

My choice wouldn’t be the F Sport as I’d prefer the more comfortable front seats of the other models in the RX range, but that’s obviously personal, and on the flip side I love the more meaty exterior bodywork of the RX F Sport.

I believe Lexus lack a degree of character next to some rivals, such as the Range Rover Sport and Volvo XC90, but the immense attention to detail and level of quality that Lexus offer make up for that missing chunk of soul.

Do you own a Lexus RX, or have questions about one? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below! Read more CarProductsTested.com Lexus reviews here.

Exterior  8
Interior  7.5
Engine/hybrid system  9
Transmission  9
Price  7.5
Handling  7.5
Drive & Ride  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10 

Specs

All specs based on ‘as tested’ model.

Model (as tested) 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport
Price (not inc. options)  (correct October 2016) RX 450h F Sport: £52,995 | As tested: £54,935.
The competition  Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Audi Q7, Volkswagen Touareg, Infiniti QX70, BMW X5Mercedes-Benz GLE SUVVolvo XC90
 Spec includes  Lexus Premium Navigation, smart entry & push-button start, dual zone climate control with electrostatic temperature switches, power adjustable/heated/ventilated front seats, 12.3 inch multi-information display, Drive Mode Select (5 modes), all-wheel-drive, adaptive cruise control, F Sport specific front seats. See Lexus website for more spec information 
Safety  Lexus Safety System+ with Pre-Collision System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition. Driver & passenger front & side airbags, driver knee airbag, front passenger seat cushion airbag, curtain airbags, rear side airbags, sway warning alert, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (BFD) & brake assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction, control, hill-start assist, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, Adaptive Variable Suspension, tyre pressure warning. 
Options you should spec  For slightly more comfortable seats, any RX model other than the F Sport
Off-road information  Minimum ground clearance: 195 mm (7.7 inches)
Engine & Hybrid Engine: Petrol, 3.5 litre, V6, 24-valve, DOHC with VVT-iW, naturally-aspirated | Hybrid: 2 x 65o-volt electric motor (1 front, 1 rear), high-voltage nickel metal-hydride battery
Power, Torque   Engine power: 259 bhp @ 6,000 rpm | Engine Torque: 247 lb ft (335Nm) @ 4,600 rpm | Combined engine/hybrid power: 308 bhp
Drive, Gears (as tested)  All wheel drive | CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) 
Towing capacity  No specs given
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph  Max speed: 124 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 7.7 seconds
Official fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 51.4, Extra urban: 51.4, Combined: 51.4 | CO2: 127 g/km
Weight (kerb)  Minimum kerb weights: 2100-2155 kg (4,630 – 4,872 lbs)
Websites  Lexus UK, Lexus USA, Lexus international 

Words: Chris Davies | Photography & film: Chris Davies

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