Sunday Drive: Lexus RX keeps getting better and better
Just over four years ago, the Lexus RX Crossover was completely redesigned both inside and out as the company continued to build on what has become the go-to standard in luxury crossovers. In the way-back machine, Lexus became the first luxury company to enter the world of crossovers and has never really looked back, continuing its dominance by selling more than 100,000 a year in the U.S. alone.
With the new fourth generation of the RX, the engineers and designers came up with a very aggressive look, heading more toward the look of their new NX model, along with adding a little more room, a little more power and even better gas mileage. We noticed the latter during our week of test driving the RX hybrid, attaining a combined 31.9 mpg. The hybrid technology performed exactly as we would expect from Toyota, giving us an electric boost whenever we needed it.
Lexus was the first in the SUV hybrid category to jump out of the box and come up with a completely unique way to run the AWD. The RX does not have a drive line connected from the gas motor to the rear. Instead, it has a third electric motor mounted in the rear of the vehicle that transfers power to the rear wheels as needed. In other words, it simply demands more torque from the electric motor for the rear wheels as driving conditions dictate.
Since this is the third of three electric motors in the car, where are the others, and what do they do? These two are mounted in the standard engine compartment. One starts the gas engine when needed as the RX will shut down the gas motor when stopped. The other is used to add an extra power boost to the front wheels to aid with better mpg.
The advantage of all this electronic and gas wizardry is the RX 450 gets a combined total horsepower output of 308. That is not a typo; it’s an amazing number for this size of SUV. In combination with the rear-wheel electric motor, the Lexus will conquer most any type of weather Utah has to offer. Keep in mind that the RX 450 was not designed to be an off-road vehicle. It may get you to a Sunday picnic in the mountains, but it is not going rock crawling in Moab anytime soon.
Since it was baby boomers who were the first buyers of the RX back in 1998, it was imperative that the designers stay true to a look that has been proven over the years. However, it was also important to appeal to the children of these buyers who are looking for something with a strong, appealing look, so the spindle grill up front has now become the focal point of the RX.
Our test ride in the F-Sport trim came with all the extras, including a full-color heads-up display that projected speed, radio information and navigation on the front windshield, something we always love in a vehicle.
Another notable feature in the 2022 RX is an available 12.3-inch infotainment screen. The cumbersome mouse pad was back, but it included side buttons to assist with clicking on items. We strongly recommend a long test ride if you are not familiar with this system to make sure it works for you.
We had the opportunity to enjoy an extra-long Saturday drive that took us down into Carbon County and then on to Emery County, with the RX doing a fantastic job of getting up and over Soldier Summit.
At that point, we figured it would be nice to see some snow, so we took a right in Huntington and headed up and over the mountain to Fairview. Again, climbing to almost 10,000 feet was easy in the crossover, and we found there was still more than 4 feet of snowpack on the top of Skyline Drive.
Overall, you just can’t beat the comfort and mobility of a Lexus, and with the injected hybrid technology from industry-leader Toyota, this is a great mid-sized SUV for whatever point one might be at in life’s journey.
The RX 450 hybrid comes with a CVT (continuously variable transmission). We have driven a number of vehicles that are now using this type of transmission from various manufacturers. Lexus has done a fantastic job with the RX as we hardly noticed the CVT this time around.
Included standard was the Lexus Safety System 2.0+ with pre-collision braking and pedestrian detection, which now also includes bicycle detection and low-light pedestrian detection, along with dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent high-beam headlamps and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. These are all great safety features we love!
The overall ride was nothing short of incredible for a small SUV. There was power to burn, a very quiet interior and all the extras to keep the entire family happy on either a long road trip or just a quick jaunt to the grocery store. Mom and Dad alike will enjoy the many features offered in the RX. It was very hard to give this one up at the end of our weeklong drive!
As far as hybrid technology and fuel economy go, the RX is the best thing going in the luxury SUV category right now. We both agreed it would be hard to go wrong with the RX 450h as Lexus has really hit the sweet spot with the hybrid version of this SUV.
Base price: $53,820
Destination charge: $1,075
Price as driven: $62,450