2018 Lexus RX 450hL

2018 Lexus RX 450hL Review

The new RX 450hL provides a fuel-efficient and carlike driving experience combined with a larger cabin.
author
by Calvin Kim
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The Lexus RX has long been known for its excellent build quality, easy handling, quiet interior and reliability. What it hasn't been known for, though, is being able to seat more than five people. But that changes with the new 2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Like its similarly new sibling, the RX 350L, the RX 450hL has a longer body and an extra row of seats.

Those extra seats aren't very roomy, though. Even with the second-row seats slid all the way forward, there's barely enough room for an average-size adult. Also, while you get more cargo space in this L version compared to the regular RX, it's not dramatically more. Then again, Lexus doesn't intend the 450hL to be a massive family taxi. It's more for people who want a vehicle that can provide occasional seating for a couple extra kids without costing a whole lot or being a lumbering beast to drive.

On that front, the 2018 Lexus RX 450hL succeeds. It drives much like the regular RX, too, providing quiet and care-free motoring. Being the hybrid version of the RX family, it's also impressively fuel-efficient. It gets 29 mpg combined, which is just 1 mpg less than the regular 450h.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 RX 450hL is all-new. Based on the regular 450h, it's about 4 inches longer and features a power-folding third-row seat.

We recommend

The amount of standard equipment on the RX 450hL is impressive, but we recommend getting the Luxury trim level. On top of standard equipment such as tri-zone climate control, LED lighting and a power-folding third-row seat, the Luxury trim level adds heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery, and heated second-row seats. The Luxury trim level is reasonably priced, too, without a lot of superfluous equipment.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Lexus RX 450hL is a six- or seven-passenger midsize hybrid SUV that comes with three rows of seating and all-wheel drive. It uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine that works with a pair of front-mounted electric motor/generators through a continuously variable automatic transmission to drive the front wheels, while a third electric motor powers the rear wheels. Total system output is 308 horsepower.

Standard equipment highlights for the base RX 450hL include 18-inch wheels, LED exterior lighting (headlights, foglights, taillights and running lights), automatic high beams, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and automatic braking, lane departure warning and intervention, a sunroof, and keyless ignition and entry. Inside, the RX comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and a power-folding 50/50-split third-row seat.

Standard tech features include the Remote Touch interface, a 8-inch display, Safety Connect emergency communications, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker sound system.

The RX 450hL's Luxury trim level (which can also be considered a package) adds 20-inch wheels, rear side sunshades, LED ambient lighting, illuminated doorsills, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, a heated wood steering wheel, perforated-leather seating surfaces, and front-seat power lumbar and thigh-extension adjustments.

A Premium package adds wood interior trim, driver-seat memory settings, auto-dimming and folding side mirrors, and a storage compartment in the rear armrest.

Like other RX models, a package bundling navigation with a Mark Levinson premium audio system is available. It includes a 15-speaker surround-sound system plus a 12.3-inch display, Enform smartphone connectivity, and a climate-control smog sensor.

An optional Cold Weather package includes a windshield wiper de-icer, an upgraded interior heater with quicker warm-up time, auto-leveling headlamps and headlamp washers, and automatic wipers.

Stand-alone options include a color head-up display, a hands-free liftgate, upgraded LED headlights, a surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert (includes automatic braking), front and rear parking sensors, 60/40-split folding second-row seats, and heated and ventilated front seats.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our first drive of the Lexus RX 450hL (hybrid 3.5L V6 | CVT automatic | AWD).

Driving

Considering what you get in fuel economy — the presumptive reason you buy the RX 450hL instead of an RX 350L — performance is admirable. It moves out 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. Lexus says the 450hL has a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 8.1 seconds, which isn't far off the 7.9 seconds for a standard RX 350 AWD.

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 450hL 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.

Comfort

Like the RX 350, the 2018 RX 450hL is a comfortable place to spend time. The seats are handsome and comfortable, and the ride is smooth and composed without being overly buoyant. The hybrid drivetrain may make a few extra noises, but they are sufficiently muted.

Seat comfort

We like the thoroughly comfortable front seats, and the heating and cooling feature works great. The second-row seats recline and slide, but the third row is best left for kids.

Noise & vibration

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

Interior

The 2018 Lexus RX 450hL's cabin is great to look at and beautifully made. It's a real standout in the segment. But some controls are difficult to use, and the back seat isn't as generously sized 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 joystick-like Remote Touch system needed to control many vehicle functions. It can be distracting to use.

Getting in/getting out

Front- and second-row passengers will find it 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. But getting to the third row is difficult because of a narrow pass-through area.

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 it 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. But knee clearance and toe space can be tight if the backseat passenger and the driver are both taller than 6 feet. The third row is small and suitable for kids only.

Visibility

A sweeping view to the front and sides, with slender pillars and peek-a-boo 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 450hL boasts tremendous build quality. The materials look and feel rich, and they've been put together meticulously. Lexus really knows what it's doing. One of the key reasons to consider the RX.

Utility

Due to its slanted roofline that limits cargo versatility, the regular RX 450h is far from what we'd consider utilitarian. Enter the 2018 RX 450hL, with its flatter roofline. It should make a positive impact. The center console storage is small.

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 an OK size, but there aren't many places to store odds and ends.

Cargo space

The RX 450hL's straightened roofline reduces cargo space for bulky items compared to the shorter RX 350. It's really just a big trunk with an easy access height. Most similarly priced rivals are better. Both the second- and third-row backrests can be folded flat.

Technology

The RX 450hL 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 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 12.3-inch dashtop display — requires too much dexterity and concentration to use 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 450hL comes standard with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and automatic braking (which 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.