2016 Lexus RX Hybrid

Starting MSRP: $53,175 - $57,985

Estimated MPG: 31 city / 30 hwy

2016 Lexus RX Hybrid Review

The word “unique” gets thrown around pretty often in the auto industry, but rarely does it fit a vehicle as well as it does the 2016 Lexus RX 450h. This is the hybrid model of the brand’s popular midsize crossover, and even without that performance-oriented F Sport upgrade package, the 2016 RX 450h is the only two-row luxury hybrid offered in the midsize crossover segment.

By Charles Krome
Last Updated 08/25/2016

The Lexus RX 450h is a luxury midsize SUV that’s been fully redesigned for 2016. It shares a platform with the non-hybrid Lexus RX 350, which is covered in a separate review.

The all-new generation that kicked off for the current model year is noticeably bigger, more stylish and more technologically advanced than past editions, and that last trait also applies to the RX 450h’s Lexus Hybrid Drive propulsion system. It combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine and nickel-metal hydride battery pack in all models, which also feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Exterior

Exterior
8

Although the outgoing 2015 RX 450h did show off the brand’s “spindle” grille, the 2016 model is fully updated with the company’s newest and most expressive design language. It gives the RX 450h a very modern and aggressive look, with sharply angled body sculpting that’s complemented by slanted, drawn-out LED headlamps. The front lights also are available in two configurations. Standard are bi-LED headlights, and those can be upgraded with L-shaped LED signature lighting and LED cornering-light clusters.

A nice detail at the rear is the outlet treatment for the exhaust. Here, the dual exhaust outlets are subtly hidden within the creases of the vehicle’s rear air-diffuser trim. The height of the side windows is rather short, which does affect driver visibility. Yet it also creates a nice visual effect with the disguised rear roof pillar.

To all that, our test RX 450h F Sport introduced additional cues to help indicate the vehicle’s high-performance, high-efficiency resume. Up front, for instance, there’s an F Sport mesh grille and a lower spoiler, while a lowered suspension and 20-inch Dark Graphite wheels deliver a more athletic stance. And yes, there are a few F Sport and hybrid badges.

Interior

Interior
8

The interior of the 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport was a clear strong point, both in terms of luxury and versatility. Unlike the standard RX 350, with “NuLuxe” leatherette seating surfaces, the RX 450h serves up the real thing, and that’s with standard front-seat heating and ventilation. The F Sport interior then takes things in a Sportier direction, of course, showing off perforated leather, more heavily bolstered seating, a thick F Sport steering wheel and aluminum pedals. In practice, the front seats may be a bit too firm for daily driving for some customers, who may also find the dual-cockpit layout of the front row to be somewhat short on storage.

Second-row comfort is increased by sculpted front seatbacks for more legroom, and both rows enjoy extra vertical space from lower seating positions when compared with the 2015 model. The RX Hybrid also offers useful cargo space, with 18 cubic feet available behind the second row. That second row also folds, with a 60/40 split, for a maximum cargo capacity of 55.9 cubic feet.

Performance

Performance
8

Our 2016 RX 450h F Sport, despite its athletic credentials, doesn’t gain any horsepower versus the “regular” RX 450h. The enhancements tighten up handling and responsiveness so that drivers can get more out of what the vehicle does have. On the other hand, all RX Hybrids do welcome more output for 2016, thanks in part to a re-engineered 3.5-liter V6. With a new high-pressure fuel-injection system and other fine-tuning, the engine helps raise overall system output for the RX 450h to 308 horsepower. That’s up from 295 horsepower in 2015.

Nor did engineers forget about the vehicle’s hybrid system. For this latest iteration of Lexus Hybrid Drive, they deployed lighter components and improved cooling capability enough to ever so slightly bump up fuel economy. Thus, the 2016 Lexus RX 450h is rated at 31/30 mpg city/highway. In comparison, the 2015 model is rated at 32/28 mpg. Opt for all-wheel drive, and the 2016 RX 450h gets 30/28 mpg.

The F Sport package doesn’t impact those grades, at least not according to the EPA. But it’s hard to resist dialing the vehicle’s multi-mode drive selector to “S” or “S+” modes to put its sophisticated Adaptive Variable Suspension to the test. Once that happens, the RX 450h is a lot more fun to drive, but it’s also a lot harder to hit EPA projections. Our test vehicle returned 28.4 mpg for about 240 miles of travel. This despite an aggressive EV mode that seamlessly and automatically enabled all-electric travel both in the neighborhood and at near-highway speeds. The flipside of this advantage: Because the RX450h charges its battery through regenerative braking, it may take some time to get used to the stopping experience.

Technology

Technology
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As an up-range entry from an established luxury brand, our 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport boasted a significant number of technologies that was centered around an Enform infotainment system. It supplied all the expected functionalities, including voice recognition, navigation, smartphone app access, premium audio and Bluetooth connectivity, but in a Lexus-specific fashion. Instead of a touch screen, the RX has a wide 12.3-inch display that’s mounted on the dash and accessed through the Lexus Remote Touch controller. It’s meant to prevent reaching for a touch screen, though the lack of feedback between that controller and the cursor on the screen can be tricky.

Moreover, the RX 450h’s driver-information technologies were adjusted to provide more data about the vehicle’s hybrid performance. Examples are the multiple displays for the status of the propulsion system, so that owners can get visual feedback to improve their own driving efficiency.

Safety

Safety
8

The RX 450h’s technology benefits spill over into its safety systems. Adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system (with automatic braking and pedestrian detection), lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and more are all available, as are a multi-angle, multi-view camera system, rear cross-traffic alert and a head-up display. A rearview camera is included as standard equipment on all models.

As far as real-world performance, features that were testable without actually crashing generally lived up to expectations. The lane keeping system, which both vibrates and provides automatic steering input to keep the vehicle on track, could be intrusive, but the multi-view camera system is a notable highlight. Among other functions, it was able to stitch together a top-down, 360-degree of the area immediately around the RX 450h and also perform a moving perimeter scan that was quite helpful.

Meanwhile, in IIHS testing, the RX has earned Top Safety Pick+ recognition with a Superior grade for front crash-prevention technology.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The 2016 Lexus RX 450h starts at $52,235, excluding a $940 destination charge. Our well-equipped 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport was stickered at $59,275, marking an advance of $17,375 compared to an entry-level RX 350. Yet from the solid feel of the doors, meticulous cabin stitching and vast array of creature comforts, this is a vehicle that checks all the boxes for a premium ownership experience. The same can’t be said for the RX 350, or other crossovers at that price, and our test vehicle additionally added expensive hardware such as on-demand all-wheel drive and the exclusive F Sport package.

Admittedly, the RX 450h’s unique positioning makes it hard to directly compare its value to any alternatives. But as one benchmark, the all-wheel drive 2016 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid has an MSRP of $52,050, albeit with a weaker four-cylinder engine.

Overall

Overall
8

The Lexus RX initially rose to prominence based on its luxurious amenities and bulletproof reliability, and this new generation finally pairs those traits with a dynamic design and an equally dynamic driving experience. Our specific 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport builds on that success by doing a fairly good job at a particularly difficult task: It was designed to furnish the luxury of a Lexus, the capability of a crossover, the fuel efficiency of a hybrid and the premium performance of a sports car. Not quite a master of those trade-offs, the 450h F Sport nonetheless lives up to its stated purpose admirably.