2020 Lexus RX 450hL AWD SUV Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Large and luxurious but cumbersome
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Lexus has redesigned the RX for 2020, giving it a midterm freshening rather than a full makeover. Like Pinocchio, the snout of the RX grows more prominent with each new iteration of this SUV. I'd be a liar if I said the latest grill did much for me. This time around, the front fascia's trademark double helix crescendo utilizes about 200 dark gray tabs arrayed horizontally to produce a waterfall effect. More successful is the revision to the side cladding, which emphasizes sharper character lines along the flanks. A rear exhaust diffuser tidies up the departure angle, but no matter which way you cut the cloth on the "L" version of the RX 450h AWD we drove, this is one massive vehicle - visually, physically, and spatially.
The L version adds a third row of seats to the RX's normal two row mix. Our test car accommodated two up front luxuriously, two in back somewhat less so, and three more in the far back, stuffed together subway style, with no social distancing whatsoever. What allows this judicious dispensation of space is the RX's 110 inch wheelbase and 193 inch overall length. This is one very large and substantial SUV, with a curb weight of 4,435lbs, and a vast turning circle of 38.8 feet. Lexus issues the standard RX450 with 18 inch wheels and rubber, but our test model had been upgraded to 8Jx20 inch "Dark Silver Alloy Wheels with Machined Finish" for $1,130. Also available are alloys with "Superchrome Finish and Interchangeable Colored Inserts." In either event these split-spoke 20 inchers carry Michelin Premier LTX mud and snow tires (235/55R20) with a very long (and hard) treadwear rating of TW620.
The hybrid version of the RX is the most powerful model you can buy, with 308hp. A pair of high torque, electric drive motor generators add 13hp to the base model's 295hp. With an SUV this heavy, every extra horsepower is treasured. The hybrid system also increases mileage, with our test vehicle rated at a stellar 29MPG in overall driving. The D4-S fuel injected 3.5 liter V6 produces 247lb.-ft. of torque, a number sufficient to generate a tow rating of 3,500lbs. Dispersion of that torque is handled by an electronically controlled, paddle shifted ECVT transmission that parcels out horsepower to all four Michelins. Lexus has devised a nifty drive train that eliminates transfer gears and drive shafts to the rear wheels. Instead of that extra weight and complexity, the RC450hL uses a second electric motor for the rear wheels that operates only when necessary.
As you would expect from an upper echelon Lexus product like the RX, the 450hL version is quite luxuriously fitted. Although our test model carried a modest base price of $50,460, it ended up costing $63,620 before delivery fee of $1,025. Trace that increase to three pricey option groups. The first was $1,775 for triple beam LED headlamps, plus LED cornering lamps, front turn signals and fog lamps. $1,580 went for a Premium Package that consisted of a power tilt/slide moonroof, and wood ornamentation for the door panels. This lovely satin oak matched the wood upper and lower segments of the $450 "Heated Wood and Leather Steering Wheel." Finally, $3,365 went for the RX's 12.3 inch Navigation System and Mark Levinson 15 Speaker "Premium Audio System." We loved the size and clarity of the screen, but were less fond of the system's jittery operating touchpad which replaces last year's equally awkward mouse.
With the L version of the 450h, the second row comes standard with captain's chairs. This proved to be a drawback for easy reconfiguration of the interior. In order to fold the second row chairs, you must develop just the right touch for operating the two levers needed to accomplish the task. On an SUV in this price range, this job should be accomplished with the push of a button. After all, the third row seats can be raised and lowered electrically - albeit slowly - with buttons conveniently located in the aft storage area.
You will buy an RX for its multiple useful applications, like carrying seven, portaging large objects, or towing moderate loads. You will not, however, buy this Lexus for its poise and balance on the open road. No matter where you set the drive mode dial, the RX450hL will proceed at its own deliberate pace, with a ride that simulates what you might expect from a flying carpet. On a particularly windy, small craft warning day, the big Lexus was all over the road, even in "Sport" mode. In fact returning it to "Normal" mode seemed to quell its tendency to wander. But if you value the trappings of luxury more than the ability to cut a deft apex, the latest RX450hL is a worthy workhorse.
ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6 plus 2 electric drive motor generators
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 29MPG City/28MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $63,645
HYPES: Luxury People Hauler
GRIPES: Cumbersome Handling
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10
SEE ALSO: Lexus Reviews 1994-2020