- There's a new powertrain for the RX lineup in 2024.
- It's called the 450h+, and it's the first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) RX.
- A quick drive revealed whether it's just a gimmick or a genuinely good option addition to an already strong lineup.
Lexus RX 450h+ First Drive: Not Enough or Just Right?
The first-ever PHEV RX. Is it any good?
The current RX hasn't even been around long enough for Lexus to give it a proper midcycle refresh, but it has already added a brand-new powertrain to the lineup for 2024. It's called the RX 450h+ and it's the first time Lexus has offered its plug-in hybrid powertrain in the RX lineup.
Some might have already balked at the idea of PHEVs in favor of pure EVs, and to those early adopters, a PHEV will never be enough EV to satisfy them. But we think the argument for a plug-in hybrid powertrain holds more water than ever before. They regularly inprove their usable EV ranges, use fewer of the precious metals found in battery packs (which lowers their environmental cost and increases how many of them you can make with the same amount of raw material), and some even feature fast charging on board.
Plus, with EV demand waning slightly and automakers abandoning internal-combustion engine development, a PHEV serves as a neat halfway point between the past and the future. The 450h+'s powertrain starts with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It's paired up with three electric motors and a 18.1-kWh battery pack. The result is a total of 366 peak horsepower and, in Lexus' estimation, up to 35 miles of electric-only range. If you're inching your way toward an EV but aren't totally sure if it's right for you, think of the 450h+ as a bridge between the right now and the "eventually."
In normal operation, the 450h+ feels a lot like any other RX (save for the harder-riding, more responsive F-Sport badged models). It rides neatly over every surface and the cabin is a hushed place to be. Steering effort is light and linear. The whole thing screams "easy mode" for SUV buyers. And though it's always been the safe choice, this new RX is better than ever before.
However, on its face, there are seemingly few gains to be made in the switch from the hybrid RX 350h to the plug-in hybrid 450h+. Their combined mpg ratings are both around 35 miles to the gallon and they feel largely similar when it comes to acceleration. The one major difference between the two is, of course, the option of electric-only operation. That 35-mile EV-only range on a single charge is a significant amount for a PHEV in this segment. Even for Americans who live in a large urban area, that range figure should be sufficient to satiate most of their daily commute.
This is the PHEV's party trick: Keep the 450h+ charged up at home and you might never find yourself filling up at a gas station. That's the beauty of a plug-in hybrid right now. It's the right kind of powertrain for the in-between phase the automotive industry is in right now and it gives us a glimpse into what an EV-only RX could feel like. (Hint: It's better than the RZ, the brand's full EV.)
But the best part is this RX plug-in isn't a gimmick made to satisfy Greenpeace. Every strength the new RX brings to the table like the fresh interior design, the high-quality materials, the new (albeit menu-dense) infotainment system, and the friendly cabin ergonomics are all here. The new RX is a great place to be regardless of what's under the hood, it just so happens that this one is a PHEV — a darn good one at that.
The RX 450h+ is a solid contender in a segment that's only getting more and more crowded with PHEVs — in fact, we only expect to see more of this exact recipe from Lexus and brands like it.