2018 Lexus RX 450h

2018 Lexus RX 450h Review

If you're looking for a comfortable and fuel-efficient SUV, the Lexus RX 450h hybrid might be for you.
author
by Cameron Rogers
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

A strong road presence, unparalleled passenger comfort and a practical amount of storage space are absolute requirements for any luxury SUV maker. Environmental friendliness is often an afterthought, or at least not a priority. This isn't the case with the 2018 Lexus RX 450h, the hybrid variant of the massively successful RX 350 crossover. Not only is the 450h quicker and more efficient than its gas-only sibling, its price point is lower than it has been in years.

One of our primary complaints against the RX 450h in the past was its high price tag relative to the standard RX 350. Part of that was due to the 450h's substantial list of standard features, which was far more robust than the base 350's equipment roster. That changes for 2018; the 450h loses some luxuries in exchange for a lower base price, so it doesn't cost a fortune if you just want the hybrid powertrain. You can always put these features back in through a combination of packages and stand-alone options.

Like other Lexus vehicles, the RX 450h boasts high-quality interior appointments, a quiet ride and exceptional everyday livability. Also like other Lexus models, the mouselike controller for the infotainment interface is exceptionally difficult to use — take it for an extensive test run before you commit to buying the car. Other than that, the 2018 Lexus RX 450h is as solid as they come, and should be a top choice for luxury SUV buyers in the market for a fuel-efficient people mover.

Notably, we picked the 2018 Lexus RX 450h as one of Edmunds' Best Hybrid Cars and Best Hybrid SUVs with 3rd Rows for this year.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 Lexus RX 450h is less expensive than last year, but some features that were standard are now optional. These include the sunroof, roof rails, heated and ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory settings, navigation system and blind-spot monitoring. The new Premium package adds some of these features back in, while others are sold as stand-alone options.

We recommend

The 2018 Lexus RX 450h comes in a single, well-equipped trim level, with adaptive cruise control, LED exterior lighting and a 12-speaker audio system all standard. We think the F Sport package is a must-have because it fundamentally changes the way the car handles and rides for the better. The Premium package is also desirable since it adds real leather upholstery and a few other goodies. Be forewarned: It's not as affordable as the list price suggests; the optional sunroof is a separate but required add-on.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Lexus RX 450h is a five-passenger midsize luxury SUV. Although there is officially only one base trim level, the F Sport package deserves a special mention, as it drastically changes the character of the SUV. It features different styling, an upgraded suspension and a lower ride height. Otherwise, both the regular and F Sport versions of the RX 450h come well equipped and are available with the same option packages. Just keep in mind that the availability of those options can vary based on the region of the country you live in.

Every RX 450h is all-wheel drive, powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and three electric motor-generators (one on each front wheel and one controlling the rears). The power unit's combined 308 horsepower is routed through a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Standard equipment highlights for the base RX 450h include 18-inch wheels, LED exterior lighting (headlights, foglights, taillights and running lights), automatic high beams, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and automatic braking, lane departure warning and intervention, and keyless ignition and entry.

Inside, the RX includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 40/20/40-split rear seat (reclines, slides and folds) and a cargo cover. Tech features include the Remote Touch interface, an 8-inch color display, Safety Connect emergency communications, voice controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 12-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio and two USB ports.

The F Sport package adds sportier exterior styling, 20-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, a lower ride height, an engine noise enhancer, special gauges, heated and ventilated sport seats, a heated sport steering wheel and special interior trim.

There are a number of notable packages available for the RX 450h, whether you stick with the base model or check the box for the F Sport. These include the Cold Area (a windshield wiper de-icer, auto-leveling headlights, headlight washers and a heavy-duty heater), Premium (auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, driver-seat memory settings and leather upholstery) and Luxury (20-inch wheels, a wood-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel, ambient lighting, rear sunshades and upgraded leather upholstery) packages. A Towing package is also available, adding a heavy-duty alternator, radiator and transmission oil cooler.

There are numerous stand-alone options, some of which require adding one or a few of the aforementioned packages. Options include a color head-up display, a panoramic sunroof, power-folding and heated rear seats, a hands-free liftgate, upgraded LED headlights, a 12.3-inch central display (bundled with a navigation system) and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport (3.5L V6 hybrid | CVT automatic | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current RX 450h has received some revisions, including new safety equipment added in 2017 and the deletion of some standard features in 2018. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's RX 450h.

Driving

Considering what you get in fuel economy — the presumptive reason you buy the RX 450h instead of an RX 350 — performance is admirable. It moves with seamless authority; the steering, handling and braking are much the same as in the regular RX except for a little extra weight.

Acceleration

The hybrid powertrain includes a stout 3.5-liter V6 engine, and the system delivers seamless acceleration in all conditions. Its 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.2 seconds is a bit slow for the segment but actually a couple tenths quicker than the RX 350.

Braking

The brakes feel consistent and reassuring in routine use, but they can feel grabby if you have to tap them quickly (say, when you're cut off). In our 60-0 mph panic-stop tests, the RX 450h posted distances ranging from 121 to 130 feet. Those are merely acceptable distances.

Steering

Response is smooth, and steering effort is just about right. (It can also be altered by switching between driving modes in the F Sport.) Isolation from road vibrations is excellent, but it almost feels as if it's too good because it's sometimes hard to judge just how much to turn the wheel.

Handling

It feels coordinated and secure in most situations at civilian speeds, with moderate body roll. But the extra hybrid system weight is apparent if you hustle it on winding roads. The F Sport suspension has a selectable Sport mode.

Drivability

The strong V6 engine rarely has to rev high enough to make the electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission obvious — annoying droning is rare. The brakes avoid the typical hybrid weirdness, as does the rest of the RX 450h in general.

Off-road

The rear-drive portion of the AWD system is just an electric motor that engages for a number of seconds when slip is detected, such as during ice and snow launches. It's just a traction aid, not a true AWD system that can deliver sustained propulsion. The RX 450h has decent ground clearance.

Comfort

Like the RX 350, the 2018 RX 450h is a comfortable place to spend time — even more so with the F Sport. The seats are handsome and comfortable, and the ride is smooth and composed without being overly buoyant. The hybrid drivetrain makes a few extra noises, but they're sufficiently muted.

Seat comfort

We like the thoroughly comfortable front seats, and the F Sport's more supportive seats are still sufficiently wide set that they do their job without being confining. The heating and cooling feature for the front seats works great, too.

Ride comfort

Contrary to expectations, the F Sport suspension feels less busy and soaks up bumps better than the regular RX suspension. It's neither too stiff nor too soft, which is to say the 450h is smooth-riding but with enough control to prevent it from being floaty.

Noise & vibration

There is very little wind or road noise, and the hybrid powertrain is often quite silent. Other times the hybrid CVT automatic holds engine revs higher, but the sound is muted. The regenerative braking system tends to emit a muted whine.

Interior

The 2018 Lexus RX 450h's cabin is great to look at and beautifully made. It's a real standout in the segment. However, some controls are difficult to use and the back seat isn't as generous as those of some rivals.

Ease of use

The cabin controls are logically laid out, and there's a good mix of knobs and buttons. But we're unconvinced by the joysticklike Remote Touch system needed to control many vehicle functions. It can be distracting to use.

Getting in/getting out

The RX 450h is easy to get into because the doorsills are narrow and the seat height is about perfect. The doors open wide, too, with nicely squared-off upper openings, even in back.

Driving position

The current RX features a lower, more carlike driving position than some SUV rivals. We like this because it makes you feel more in control yet still provides a sufficiently commanding view out.

Roominess

There's more than enough head- and legroom up front, and there's a good amount of elbow room. Lots of rear headroom and elbow room, too, but knee clearance and toe space can be tight if the backseat passenger and the driver are both taller than 6 feet. Some rivals also offer three rows.

Visibility

There's a sweeping view to the front and sides, with slender pillars and peekaboo windows ahead of the nice-size mirrors. The rear three-quarter blind spot is not terribly large. The decent direct rearward view is enhanced by the standard backup camera.

Quality

The RX 450h boasts tremendous build quality. The materials look and feel rich, and they've been put together meticulously. Lexus really knows what it's doing. The quality is one of the key reasons to consider the RX.

Utility

The Lexus RX 450h is far from what we'd consider utilitarian. Its cargo area's versatility is limited by its slanted roofline, and the center console lacks storage.

Small-item storage

The center console is really big, but most of it is taken up with the shifter, Remote Touch and drive settings controllers, and admittedly pretty wood trim. The cupholders are of an OK size, but there aren't many places to store odds and ends.

Cargo space

The slanted roofline reduces cargo space for bulky items. It's really just a big trunk with an easy access height. Most similarly priced rivals are better. The 40/20/40-split backrest can be folded for long items while keeping two seats in place.

Towing

Towing isn't the RX's primary mission, but it can pull a decent 3,500 pounds if equipped with the towing prep package (which also upgrades the cooling system). A hitch is not included, but one can be added as a dealer-installed accessory if needed.

Technology

The RX 450h comes standard with driving aids that are optional on its rivals and that can give you added peace of mind. We also like its enormous optional display screen. But the Remote Touch interface that controls it is a constant distraction and potential deal-breaker.

Audio & navigation

The Remote Touch interface (a joystick used to highlight icons on the 8- or 12.3-inch dashtop display) requires too much dexterity and concentration while driving. It's a distraction. We'd prefer almost any other tech interface.

Smartphone integration

Bluetooth and two USB ports are standard, as are the Lexus Enform and Enform Destinations trip planning and live assistance apps. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available.

Driver aids

The RX 450h comes standard with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and automatic braking (it can detect other cars and pedestrians), and lane keeping assist. These are optional on all rivals. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional.

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.