When an SUV stops pretending to be something that it’s not, the results are simply impressive. See why the RX 450h is the best Lexus we’ve ever driven.
Lexus pioneered the luxury SUV segment back in 1999, when it debuted the groundbreaking RX 330. Utilitarian features converged with luxurious and high-tech attributes, offering an irresistible package to folks looking for the best of both worlds. Who would’ve thought such concept would eventually grow to be what it is today? Well, Lexus did.
As you already know, we were some of the very first folks to get a chance to drive the all-new and completely redesigned RX in the fall of 2015. Since then, we’ve had the chance to tackle dry and snow-covered roads behind the wheel of different trims, but never the hybrid variant.
Thankfully that’s no longer the case, as we recently enjoyed a full week in the 2017 RX 450h, and we’re 100 percent confident it is — by far — the best Lexus money can buy.
F Sport Who?
Like many auto manufacturers, Lexus has fallen victim to industry trends, which have seen comfort and luxury evolve into stiffness and sportiness. Sadly, not what a Lexus is all about.
You can find out more about our past experience with the Lexus RX 350 AWD, which featured the optional F Sport package. Large 20” wheels, stiffer suspension, heavily bolstered seats, and overall sharper handling rendered the RX 350 a fine and sporty machine, but quite bumpy and unpleasant when compared to the non-F Sport RX 450h side by side.
At first glance our test model didn’t strike us as the most glamorous RX ever built. The Atomic Silver paint paired well with the sharp lines, but the 18” wheels with meaty rubber didn’t quite look as luxurious as other models we’ve tested. But then; then we got to driving it, and all of that went away. Real quick.
The Driving Experience
The softness of the suspension, my goodness, it was welcomed with open arms. After driving several Lexus SUVs which seemed more interested in being sports cars than family luxury SUVs, the RX 450h simply wanted to be a mighty fine SUV — and it achieved it.
In addition, the hybrid powertrain was smooth, responsive and extremely quiet — unlike in the 2017 NX 300h. The 3.5L V6 engine delvers a total of 308 horsepower, which are more than enough to get this robust SUV going in a jiffy. Steering too, is light and extremely relaxed, a quality also lost when equipped with the optional sizzling-hot, but overly stiff F Sport package.
Driving around town is a joy behind the wheel of the RX 450h, primarily due to the comfortable suspension, but also due to its driving dynamics. Like most new Lexus models, the driver can select between Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes. While some folks may prefer a quicker and more responsive ride, we hardly deemed it necessary to switch out of normal mode. The throttle pedal’s response was well balanced — not lightning quick, but not molasses slow.
Yes, the Hybrid Model Is the One
Just like a wine connoisseur can be hard to impress, we aren’t easily moved by most vehicles. But, it didn’t take us long to realize that the 2017 Lexus RX 450h is hands down the best Lexus we’ve ever driven, and if you’re looking for an everyday, comfortable, refined, in-to-please, luxury SUV — this is the one to buy.
If you’re not sure whether the price difference between the RX 350 and the RX 450h is worth it, just know that we drove a total of 366 miles over the course of a week, and still achieved a combined average of 27.3 mpg. As a result, we gave our hybrid luxe machine back to Lexus with almost a quarter of a tank of fuel left.
2017 Lexus RX450h
- Starts at: $53,835
- Price as tested: $57,274