Used 2012 Lexus RX 450h Review
It used to be pretty much impossible to find a luxury crossover SUV that got good fuel economy. But the Lexus RX hybrid changed all that when it debuted six years ago, providing respectable performance and an impressive city rating of 27 mpg. Although the 2012 Lexus RX 450h has a couple of rivals that didn't exist when its forebear (the 400h) debuted back in '06, it continues to be a top pick.
As with its RX 350 brother, the RX 450h has a 3.5-liter V6 engine, but being a hybrid, it is also supplemented with electric drive and the typical hybrid traits like regenerative braking. Notably, the 450h is more powerful (by 20 horsepower) than the standard RX, yet gets fuel economy about 40 percent higher. This best-of-both-worlds proposition doesn't come cheap, however; the 450h costs nearly $6,000 more than the 350. So if saving greenbacks is more important to you than being green, know that it will take a number of years to recoup that cost in fuel savings.
Along with its impressive efficiency, the 2012 Lexus RX 450h provides all the other RX benefits such as a plush ride and a handsome cabin fitted with top-quality materials. There are also plenty of high-tech features available, including a navigation system with an intuitive, mouselike multifunction controller and a superb Mark Levinson sound system.
The few other hybrid luxury crossovers choices include the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid and related Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid. But both are quite a bit more expensive and not as thrifty on gas. There are also diesel-fueled models like the BMW X5 xDrive35d and Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec, though they don't deliver such satisfactory fuel economy. In light of this, as well as the Lexus' refined, light-effort approach to daily driving, it's easy to see why the RX 450h remains our top recommended choice in this niche segment.
performance & mpg
Powering the 2012 Lexus RX 450h is a combination of a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 engine and electric motors. Front-wheel-drive models use two motors: one acting as a starter/generator and the other providing propulsion. The all-wheel-drive version adds a third electric motor to drive the rear wheels. Total output amounts to 295 hp that is routed through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In recent Edmunds testing, the 450h accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, which is on par with the conventionally powered RX 350. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 32 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 30 mpg in combined driving for the FWD model, while the AWD scores slightly less at 30/28/29 mpg. Properly equipped, the RX 450h can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Standard safety equipment for the 2012 Lexus RX 450h includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and dual front knee bags. Safety Connect, a telematics service with automatic collision notification, a stolen-vehicle locator and an emergency assistance button, is also included. Optional is the pre-collision system that comes packaged with adaptive cruise control. It determines when an accident is unavoidable and tightens the front seatbelts and initializes brake assist.
In Edmunds brake testing, a front-wheel-drive RX 450h came to a stop from 60 mph in an acceptable 127 feet.
In government crash tests, the RX450h received a total score of four stars (out of five). It earned four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the related RX 350 earned a perfect "Good" rating for its performance in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
The 2012 Lexus RX 450h doesn't disappoint when it comes to a smooth ride. The compliant suspension and plentiful sound insulation ably isolate passengers from the outside world. The hybrid powertrain is also pretty silent, though at full throttle the V6 does make a surprising amount of noise. The softly sprung suspension never feels uncontrolled, but it's far from athletic.
The RX 450h is capable of approaching 30 mph in electric-only mode, which improves fuel economy, especially in stop-and-go traffic. An "EV" mode is also at the driver's command, which allows electric-only propulsion at low speeds over short distances.
Upscale appointments, exceptional cabin materials and cutting-edge tech features make the 2012 Lexus RX 450h look and feel much more expensive than its midlevel luxury status would suggest. Authentic wood trim and high-quality leather lend an air of opulence, and the optional Mark Levinson audio is one of the best sound systems on the market.
Another noteworthy option is the navigation system that features the Remote Touch interface, a mouselike controller that replaces the traditional touchscreen operation. The controller features haptic feedback when rolling over on-screen controls, allowing the user to "feel" the buttons. We found this system to be immediately intuitive and easier to use than other competing interfaces.
Rear passengers will find the seating roomy and comfortable thanks to reclining and sliding adjustments. Luggage and cargo space are accommodating as well, allowing up to 40 cubic feet behind the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats and 80 cubes with them stowed.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.