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First Drive

First Drive: Lexus RX450h

Lexus RX450h F Sport
The story: A mid-life refresh for the big Lexus hybrid SUV brings mild styling revisions and new technology
Category:Large SUV
Key rival:Mercedes GLE
Emissions:134g/km (NEDC)
On sale:Now

The Lexus RX was a bit of a pioneer, because it was the first production hybrid-powered SUV when it went on sale in 2005. Fast forward to 2020 and the current fourth-generation RX faces a much stiffer test, because others have cottoned on to the benefits of hybrid propulsion and other ways to cut CO2 and raise MPG. If you sit still, you’re immediately going backwards, so they say, hence this mid-life restyle and update for Lexus’ big SUV.

First Drive-March 2020-Lexus RX450h-Image 4Having said that, the powertrain remains unchanged, so still comprises a 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine with two electric motors (one of which drives the rear axles to give the car four-wheel drive). It produces a total of 308bhp, which allows the RX to hit 62mph 7.7 seconds after setting off, while emitting 134g/km of CO2. This means the big Lexus sits in the 30% band for company car tax, although this will drop to 29% after April 6.

The RX450h definitely feels pretty brisk when pushed, but it is also hushed and subdued around town, when it can make the most of its electric powertrain.

The steering is reasonably light, which is good when parking, but doesn’t let you know much about what the front wheels are up to, which is less good when you’re pressing on. As for the ride, well it’s fair, although bigger bumps can get through to your backside, while many rivals have better body control.

First Drive-March 2020-Lexus RX450h-Image 3There’s decent space for five but the boot is merely acceptable, mainly because it’s too shallow as it houses the batteries.

The standard kit list is huge, and includes leather, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, a heated steering wheel and auto lights and wipers. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both now present, which is a good step in the right direction, and the system is controlled either through the central controller (fiddly) or the new larger touchscreen (quite a stretch). Meanwhile, the headlights are BladeScan lights, which allow you to have full-beam on all the time by automatically altering the beam to avoid blinding others.

euan doig

The verdict

RX scores well for emissions, BiK and luxury, but the driving experience isn’t as good as those offered by rivals.