2016 Lexus RX 450h hybrid: Dresses to the 9’s, accelerates only to the 8’s
Lexus invented the luxury crossover back in 1998 when it introduced the first RX, a sensible, modestly attired vehicle. So who could’ve predicted that original RX would be the Rx that would lead to this!
Gimme a sedative, doc!
All new for 2016, the eye-popping RX 450h hybrid wears zoot-suit duds with pride. From its trademark Lexus “spindle” grille — a gaping maw big enough to be a train tunnel’s stunt double — to its blister-pack taillights, RX boasts more angles, lines, creases and crimps than a wadded up traffic ticket. But the piece de resistance is the profile’s upper chrome strip, which at the partially blacked-out C-pillar drops from atop the rear window down to the belt line, looking for all the world like an “S” scroll on a hearse. Have mercy!
Love it or hate it, there’s no ignoring this one’s flamboyant haberdashery.
Alas, the hybrid’s sprint doesn’t back the boast, even in the F Sport trim we drove. While F Sport’s chassis modes — Normal, Eco, Sport, Sport S, Sport S+ — provide a drive that ranges from relaxed to athletic, acceleration is invariably leisurely thanks to a CVT transmission incapable of making the most of this hybrid’s 308 total-system horsepower.
On the other hand, as you’d expect from Lexus, RX is quiet, stable, smooth and comfortable.
450h’s power is courtesy of a 259-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 assisted by a 37-kW Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack and, in our all-wheel drive F Sport, a pair of electric drive motors — one driving the front wheels, one the back. A third electric motor functions as a generator/starter.
We found the result to be a smooth, leisurely run of about 8 seconds to 60 mph while our observed fuel economy, at 26 mpg, proved less gratifying than the EPA’s optimistic estimate of 30.
What truly is gratifying is the interior, which, thanks to RX’s longer length and wheelbase, is roomier — even the back seat is accommodating — while fit and finish is superb, materials are first class and the infotainment interface is cutting-edge.
Notable is a new 12.3-inch navigation display second in size only to Cinerama. Offering split-screen capability, this widescreen option can show navi, audio, phone, climate, whatever. Operating the computer-mouse controller is a learned response, but hard buttons abound for traditionalists.
RX, also available as the non-hybrid 350, is an astonishing blend of technology, versatility and retina-stamping looks.