Monday, December 5, 2022
Reviews 2021 Lexus RX 450h Review: All Roads Lead To the RX Hybrid

2021 Lexus RX 450h Review: All Roads Lead To the RX Hybrid

Lexus exists today thanks to the RX and the best version is without a doubt the hybrid

  • Base price for the RX 350 in Canada is $56,650, $45,220 in the US.

  • The 450h version starts at $59,400 in Canada, $47,920 in the US.

  • The RX 450h is where efficiency, luxury, and performance meet.

The late 1980s and 1990s were incredible years for Japanese auto fans in North America. Three major players were in the throes of launching and building up their burgeoning luxury sub-brands. Nissan introduced Infiniti, Honda birthed Acura, and Toyota lay claim to the Lexus name. All was going well but it was in 1998 that Lexus truly lay its own foundation.

2021 Lexus RX 450h | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Lexus quickly rose to prominence, ahead of both Acura and Infiniti, thanks in large part to the introduction of the RX SUV. As though it could read the minds of luxury car buyers, it launched a vehicle that was as comfortable and luxurious as any other of their sedans with the bonus addition of a taller driving position and AWD.

Over four generations, the RX has dominated the brand’s and the segment’s sales and there’s no reason to believe that this will change any time soon. Customers are typically loyal to the vehicle and all of this leads to the fact the Lexus RX is the best luxury midsize SUV.

Hybrid refinement

2021 Lexus RX 450h | Photo: Olivier Delorme

If it doesn’t rule the segment with an iron fist, the only plausible explanation is that Lexus does not offer an RX F high-performance version. Realistically, there is no need for one anyhow. The RX 350 is powered by Toyota’s pillar-of-an-engine, the 3.5-litre V6. With 295 horsepower and 268 lb.-ft. of torque, the RX gets around. For under $3,000, buyers can move into the RX 450h and entertain the same V6 however mated Lexus’ Hybrid drive technology and electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT). The total system output is a satisfying 308 horsepower.

I’ve driven all of the Toyota family’s hybrids and by far, the RX 450h is the most well-adapted of all. Nearly all others combine a 4-cylinder engine with the hybrid drive which may return slightly better fuel consumption numbers but there’s a price to pay: When the 4-cylinder comes to life, it disrupts everything. This is not the case with the V6.

2021 Lexus RX 450h | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The low subdued grumble it produces is rich and pleasing. Its extra torque and effortless power also enable the eCVT to keep engine revs low. Not only is the V6 hybrid’s operation quieter but it offers more power with little impact on fuel consumption. Average returned fuel consumption numbers should hover between 8L and 9L per 100km. Now, if Toyota was to drop a V6 Hybrid in the Sienna, I’d have no choice but to trade in all my junk cars for one.

Furthermore, and very in-tune with the powertrain, the drive quality is phenomenal. The chassis is focused on providing Lexus-like handling and comfort, and it truly delivers. Only the roughest surfaces disrupt the velvet-lined-like cabin, bathes in quiet opulence.

Plush and luxurious cabin

2021 Lexus RX 450h | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The 2021 Lexus RX 450h’s interior quarters are absolutely posh. Every surface is covered in classy materials with an eye for detail and, generally speaking, craftsmanship. The optional Executive package ($14,050) includes rich and supple premium leather everywhere it matters. Most of the plastics are top-drawer – all of this points to the fact that this is a high-end luxury SUV. All seating positions are comfortable with extra power adjustments up front with the Executive package.

In the recent past, Lexus has improved its human-machine interface by backing off its abysmal remote touch setup. The central display screen, up to 12.3 inches, is now closer to the front of the dashboard enabling and encouraging touchscreen interactions. Ergonomics and menu navigation are all but completely perfect.

2021 Lexus RX 450h | Photo: Olivier Delorme

If I must add a few words on the RX’s exterior design, I still find the spindle grille to be a little offensive. This is especially true when considering the 450h’s nature and personality. The front fascia’s attempt at attitude and visual aggression are at complete odds with what is otherwise a supremely civilized and comfortable SUV. With the sole exception of the front, the current Lexus remains handsome overall. With the optional as-tested Executive package and its lovely 20-inch wheels blended with the Birch interior and Nightfall Mica exterior paint hue, the SUV looks ultra-premium.

You can shop but you’ll be back

In the busy midsize luxury SUV segment, the Lexus RX faces challenges from the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Cadillac XT5, Lincoln Nautilus, and a few others. Pound for pound, when it comes down to features and real luxury, the RX is, at the very least, equal to the others. As far as efficiency is concerned, the RX 450h is the lone survivor.

Priced from $59,400, or $2,750 more than the RX 350, the RX 450h is one of the absolute best SUVs of its kind available for purchase today. As tested and even at $73,450, this RX is almost a bargain.

2021 Lexus RX 450h | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Lexus RX 450h | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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