We climbed down from the LX’s high perched cabin, straight into the sharp looking Lexus RX 450h. From the very outset, the car gives you an impression of the machinery being new age, very today, and packs loads of attitude. Where there is this dignified elegance about the LX, the RX 450h is out and out bold and savvy. We sampled the Lexus RX 450h F Sport, which is one of the variants the car will be sold in – the other being a ‘Luxury’ variant. Both are like these conjoined twins, where one gets fancier toys and athletic apparel, while the other is more gentlemanly.
P.S.: The Red car with beige interiors here is the Luxury variant, while the White car with a Red cabin is the F Sport.
The Lexus RX 450h is a full blown hybrid. Meaning, it can be driven purely by its electric motors too in an EV mode (Although only for about a couple kilometres). Conventional power comes from a 3.5-litre V6 that cranks out 259 bhp @ 6000 rpm and 335 Nm at 4600 clicks. It also charges 240 Nickel Metal Hydride cells which power an electric motor that on its own is good for 165 bhp. Together, the hybrid system develops 308 bhp which is transmitted to all four wheels via an E-CVT transmission. Get this, For what it is and the amount of power it makes, the Lexus RX 450h can return a claimed fuel efficiency figure of up to 18.8 kmpl and will cross the 100 kph mark from a standstill in 7.7 secs.
Inside the cabin of the RX, the driver sits in the car slightly lower, that feeling perhaps amplified after we got inside the RX straightaway from the LX’s cabin. Seats set to make the two aggressive creases on the bonnet visible, we slot the dimpled, wrapped in leather lever into ‘D’, and the RX 450h took off in eerie silence powered by just its motors. Coming downhill from the tea estate we had climbed up to, the RX felt more rigid and wholesome, in comparison to Lexus’ flagship.
Once on the road, powered by a peppy V6, the RX started making nippy progress around the winding roads in Ooty. Throttle responses felt crisp, and a fair bit of engine note was apparent in the cabin. The RX 450h F Sport comes with a sound generator system that boosts sound pressure level in the air intake to pump out a sporty note when the pedal is mashed. We used the shift paddles behind the wheel to make things exciting, and it did provide a fair bit of fun. However, the CVT does take away a little bit of that engagement factor.
Ride & Handling
The Lexus RX 450h rides on adaptive dampers which are dictated by four driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+. When dialled to the latter two, the RX tackles bends with a taut demeanour. There’s hardly any body roll, and for an SUV, this Lexus feels perky and eager to change directions. Eco and Normal mode tone things slightly down, but even then, the ride isn’t all mushy and finds a good balance between sporty and supple. Although if you encounter some ruts, the partiality towards stiffness is heard and felt somewhat inside the cabin.
The rich and great to hold steering puts on some artificial weight if you summon a mode that eggs you on to drive fast. But then there isn’t much information that is relayed back through the front, and although very precise, the steering is like most modern units which concentrate on ease rather than feels. Likewise, the wifi brake pedals do their job without letting you know if there’s a visible cable that blinks to tell you things. But that is understandable, as the braking system has also been assigned the job of generating energy to charge the batteries.
Cabin and Kit
The first thing you appreciate once inside the RX F Sport’s cabin are the superbly bolstered and comfortable front chairs which hold you really well. Once over that, one starts to notice the contrast scheme, perfectly woven threads, the slightly angled centre console and the eclectic mix of fine leather, aluminium and wood. The sporty meters, seats, the steering wheel, gear knob, drilled aluminium pedals and a MID which also includes a G-sensor are indicators of the F Sport’s athletic intent.
Like the LX 450, the RX gets a Mark Levinson stereo system too. Although the one here is a 15-speaker unit. But it sounds excellent and does a great job of making the cabin groovy. There’s a 12.3-inch tablet-like display which is operated through Lexus’ remote touch interface, gesture controlled LED lighting and a high set central tunnel that merges seamlessly with the console. The quality of materials, finish and detailing here too, like the LX, is top notch.
The RX, unlike the flagship, gets a full panoramic roof and makes the cabin a happy place to be in. Rear seats are comfortable and provide adequate support to even full-size adults all round. Rear passengers can recline their backrests electronically and seats can be heated if they like.
The tailgate requires your hand to simply move across the logo and it flips open to reveal quite a lot of boot space. There are buttons to flip the rear seat down, and unlike elsewhere, you do get a full-size alloy wheel as a spare. There are five interior trim choices and 9 body colour options to pick from for the Luxury variant. Where on the other hand, the F Sport can be had in 3 colour schemes for the cabin and as many body colours.
The Lexus RX 450h looks distinct, sharp and unlike any SUV on sale in India right now. A prominent spindle grille at the front gets a mesh pattern for the F Sport and dense horizontal slats on the Luxury variant. A sharp looking headlamp cluster with three individual LEDs and an L-shaped DRL amplify the aggression in the design, along with two very prominent creases on the hood which add a lot of lean muscle.
Prominent and muscular wheel arches compliment angled creases which run along the shoulder line and highlight a shaved design element at the bottom of the front door. ORVMs give the impression as if standing free, and so does the roof line which swoops down to end sharply within the blacked out C-pillar.
Complementing all that visual energy is a mean looking rear section which gets a LED taillight setup that continues with the L-theme and a heavily angled rear glass which is capped by a roof mounted spoiler. The RX 450h looks distinct, has a thoroughly modern personality and attracts quite a lot of attention for the way it looks.
A few details through images…
Sporty red leather seats are reserved for the F Sport only
The spare wheel doesn’t wish to save any space because there’s plenty
Shun those cables and embrace a wireless future
Mark Levinson sound system sounds smashing
The Luxury variant gets conventional dials. The F Sport gets a digital display
Rear backrest can be reclined or tumbled at the touch of a button
Remote touch interface is easy to operate once you get the gist of it
Quality workmanship is visible throughout the cabin
Rear seats get heater function
Summing it up
The Lexus RX 450h is loaded with kit, looks futuristic and feels very un-SUV-like to drive. Although that wicked Lexus face will have to face tough competition from the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and other similar contenders from Europe, thanks to the CBU route it has chosen to take. However, in its class, it is the only machine on sale in India that will acquaint you to the Hybrid or fully electric future we all are headed towards. That, along with the novelty of the Lexus badge, and those distinct looks will be the gravity that will pull admirers and seekers of the latest alike.