Used 2016 Lexus RX 450h Review
Edmunds expert review
Comfort and interior quality remain the key strengths of the redesigned 2016 Lexus RX 450h, but a more carlike driving experience helps broaden its appeal. We think the latest RX 450h is a smart pick for a luxury hybrid crossover SUV.
What's new for 2016
Let's get this out of the way first: The 2016 Lexus RX 400h has an extremely large grille. If that black expanse were any bigger, Stephen Hawking would probably have to be called in to investigate for the presence of a gravitational pull. At the same time, the all-new RX also has enough creases and sharp edges to make one think that Lexus delegated the design phase to a sword-slashing samurai. For a midsize crossover that has been quite anodyne until now, this makeover is bound to be a bit shocking.
Lexus completely redesigned the 2016 RX 450h for a sportier, even polarizing, new look.
But whatever you think of the outside, know that Lexus also incorporated scores of substantive changes that make this luxury midsize crossover SUV more carlike and better than ever before. For one thing, Lexus increased the 2016 RX 450h's wheelbase and overall length to improve interior space for passengers, while simultaneously raising the ride height and slimming out the roof line. The result is a much sleeker and less SUV-like profile, yet there's still abundant head- and legroom in both seating rows.
Up front, the dashboard is lower and the center control stack more angled toward the driver (who also sits a bit lower), while the improved interior materials and construction are absolutely first-rate. Most RX 450h models you'll find on dealers' lots will include a colossal new 12.3-inch color touchscreen display, one of the largest you'll find this side of a Tesla. This display comes paired with a revised Remote Touch controller. We think the interface still requires more driver attention than it should, but in general the new RX's infotainment features are welcome.
For power, the RX 450 still has a gasoline/electric powertrain that Lexus says it has revised and improved to produce more power and increase fuel economy. Maximum output breaks through the 300-horsepower mark for the first time, though official EPA combined fuel economy stays the same (from 2015) at 30 mpg. Lexus has also retuned the suspension to provide better handling than on prior RX models. In particular, the new RX 450h F Sport model really delivers the goods. It not only boasts sharper handling than the standard version, but its adaptive suspension yields an impressively controlled and comfortable ride.
If you're shopping around, you'll quickly notice that worthwhile competitors are few and far between. The 2016 Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid is a lot more fun to drive than the Lexus, but it is also considerably more expensive and less fuel-efficient. The new BMW X5 xDrive40e and Volvo XC90 T8 Hybrid show promise, however, and if size isn't that important, Lexus' own NX 300h delivers better fuel economy and similar luxury in a smaller, less expensive package. Still, the RX 450h is an easy choice for the shopper seeking a luxury midsize crossover that's strong on standard features, comfort, quality, fuel economy and value. Just be prepared for plenty of looks (envious or otherwise) from passers-by.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Lexus RX 450h is a five-passenger midsize crossover SUV available in front-wheel- and all-wheel-drive versions. The conventionally powered RX 350 is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the RX 450h includes 18-inch wheels, LED exterior lighting (headlights, foglights, taillights and running lights), aluminum roof rails, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, a rearview camera, a sunroof, and keyless ignition and entry. Inside, the RX includes dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power front seats (with two-way power lumbar adjustment), heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory settings, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a 40/20/40-split rear seat (reclines, slides and folds).
Standard tech features includes the Remote Touch interface, an 8-inch color display, the Lexus Enform and Enform Destinations trip planning and live assistance apps, "Safety Connect" emergency communications (see Safety section), voice controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite and HD radios, an auxiliary audio jack, two USB ports and a media player interface.
The F Sport is available with all-wheel drive only. It includes sportier exterior styling, 20-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, a lower ride height, an engine noise enhancer, special gauges, heated and ventilated sport seats and special interior trim.
Options are grouped into two packages or are stand-alone items. Note that availability can vary based on the region of the country in which you live.
The Luxury package adds 20-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, rear door sunshades, upgraded leather upholstery and four-way front seat lumbar adjustment. For all-wheel-drive models, there's also a Tow package with heavy-duty alternator and radiator and a transmission cooler (towing capacity is 3,500 pounds). The Lexus Safety System + package provides adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlight control and accident avoidance features described in the Safety section below.
The 2016 Lexus RX 450h comes standard with an 8-inch display, but the larger 12.3-inch screen is an option.
Other options include front and rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, power-folding heated rear seats, a rear seat entertainment system (with twin display screens, an HDMI port and a 120-volt household-style power outlet), a head-up display, a navigation system (available with the upgrade 12.3-inch screen), a wide-view rear camera, a hands-free power liftgate, LED headlights, a heated steering wheel and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system (requires 12.3-inch display).
Performance & mpg
Every 2016 Lexus RX 450h is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a pair of front-mounted electric motor/generators. AWD models have an additional motor for the rear wheels. (Note that there is no mechanical connection between front and rear wheels in the all-wheel-drive RX.) Total system output is 308 hp and 247 pound-feet of torque.
The 2016 Lexus RX 450h comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, active front headrests, front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is standard along with Lexus Enform Safety Connect, which includes automatic collision notification, an emergency assist button and a stolen vehicle locator.
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is optional. The optional Lexus Safety System + package adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking, and a lane-departure warning and intervention system.
Power is merely sufficient in the RX 450h, whereas the acceleration of most competitors would be described as at least energetic. Even though it boasts a few more horsepower than the RX 350, the hybrid isn't noticeably quicker, likely because it is several hundred pounds heavier. The nebulous response and inconsistent effort of the standard steering setup also leaves something to be desired, while the standard suspension's bounding and mild float over undulations don't instill the level of confidence and control provided by most rivals. This RX 450h is dynamically better than before, and certainly plenty comfortable and supremely quiet, but that's about as far as the platitudes go.
We're not very enthusiastic about the way the 2016 Lexus RX 450h drives, but you can't argue against 30 mpg combined.
The exception is the RX 450h F Sport. This sport package doesn't do anything for the engine apart from piping extra noise into the cabin. But the steering is more consistent in its weighting, even when switched into one of two Sport modes, and the F Sport's adaptive suspension makes it the best of the RX bunch. Aside from the immediately noticeable handling improvements, the RX 450h F Sport's body is more controlled when driving over bumps and undulations, while the ride remains genuinely comfortable. We were surprised to find that it was perfectly pleasant even in the suspension's firmest, Sport S+ setting. Even if you'd never otherwise consider a sport model, the F Sport is a worthwhile exception.
With its lower seating position and driver-focused dashboard design, the 2016 Lexus RX 450h, like its conventionally powered sibling, is more carlike than its predecessors. But you still get that elevated view that helps make crossovers so popular. We find the RX family's overall design to be visually appealing (especially in the available two-tone color schemes), while the quality of materials and construction has been elevated to the same level as most upper-crust competitors.
A wealth of high-quality materials, instrumentation and switchgear adorns the 2016 Lexus RX 450h's cabin.
There's plenty of headroom in the cabin despite the 2016 model's more radically raked roof line, even if some may find it a tad claustrophobic compared to some competitors (especially the airy Volvo XC90). The sliding and reclining backseat is wide and comfortable, with abundant legroom for even tall occupants, while further benefiting from optional power adjustment. The front seats seemed supportive during our initial test-drives, though larger drivers may find the F Sport model's sport seats too confining.
Cargo capacity leaves something to be desired, though. While the hybrid's battery pack, installed beneath the cargo compartment, only robs the RX 450h of 0.4 cubic feet, the new design and expanded passenger cabin further reduces usable cargo space. The sharply raked roof line doesn't leave much room above the cargo cover, so bulkier items are less likely to fit. Furthermore, the 40/20/40-split rear seatback doesn't quite fold flat. Listed cargo capacity is 18 cubic feet behind the second row and 55.9 cubic feet with the seats folded. Lexus has changed the way it measures total capacity, so these numbers aren't directly comparable to the previous RX or competitors, but suffice it to say that the new RX nevertheless has less overall space.
Another downside is the Remote Touch electronics interface. Its mini-joystick-like controller is superior to the irritating touchpad found in the Lexus NX and RC, and we especially like the gigantic display screen it's typically packaged with, but this interface still requires a distracting degree of dexterity and concentration to operate effectively.
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.