2020 Lexus RX 450h Review


The Lexus RX not only helped usher in the red-hot luxury SUV category, but has consistently led the segment in sales since its debut more than two decades ago. The latest fourth-generation RX was redesigned in 2015 and receives several significant updates for 2020. The front fascia gets a new bumper and headlights, and the body and suspension are tweaked for improved handling and ride comfort. Tech-wise, the RX finally gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a touch screen, and over-the-air software update capability. Compared with some of its European competitors, the RX’s acceleration is unimpressive and its cargo space is below average. But if you’re looking for high fuel economy from a midsize luxury vehicle, the 2020 Lexus RX 450h is hard to beat.

Features, Pricing, and Design

The hybrid version of the Lexus RX comes in three trim levels: the base RXh, the sporty RXh F Sport, and the three-row RXh L. All come with a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with three electric motor-generators with regenerative braking (one for each front wheel and one to drive the rear wheels when extra traction is needed) for 308 combined horsepower, governed by an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.

The base RXh starts at $46,800 and comes with such exterior features as 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, front fog lights, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, body-colored door handles, a rear spoiler, and a power liftgate. Standard interior features include paddle shifters, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated leather upholstery, eight-way powered and heated front seats with two-way lumbar support, a leather shift knob, leather and metallic trim, a power moonroof, and a rear manual reclining 40-20-40 bench seat.

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Standard tech amenities include an 8-inch touch screen and Remote Touch trackpad, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Lexus Enform connectivity, Bluetooth for hands-free phone and wireless music streaming, a CD player, AM/FM HD radio, SiruisXM satellite radio, six USB ports, and a nine-speaker audio system.

The 2020 RXh comes standard with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that includes front collision warning with automatic emergency braking, daytime bicyclist detection and low-light pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, road sign recognition, and auto high beams.

2020 Lexus RX450h interior

The RXh L starts at $50,510 and adds a 50/50 split third-row seat, second-row captain’s chairs, NuLuxe synthetic leather seating and interior trim, and three-zone climate control.

The F Sport we tested starts at $50,550 and adds 20-inch alloy wheels, Sport+ and custom modes for the base RXh’s Drive Mode Select, a more rigid chassis, front and rear performance dampers, special exterior styling, and sport-tuned suspension, steering, and exhaust. Inside, the F Sport adds bolstered front seats covered in Circuit Red NuLuxe synthetic leather, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals and accents, and an instrument cluster with a motorized speedo/tach that slides to reveal a multi-information display that provides real-time data such as G-forces, 3D navigation information, and more.

Our test vehicle added a 12.3-inch touch screen, built-in navigation, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Audio system as a $3,365 option. A bundle of blind spot and rear cross traffic monitoring, surround-view monitor and front and rear parking sensors were a $1,865 option, while adding triple-beam LED headlights, fog lights, turn signals, and cornering lamps cost $1,675. It also came with a $600 color heads-up display, a $150 liftgate kick sensor, $280 all-weather floor mats and cargo cover, a $200 Cold Weather Package with windshield wiper de-icing, auto-leveling headlamps, and headlamp washer, and a $315 carpeted cargo cover, netting, and wheel locks. With a $1,025 delivery, processing, and handling fee, the F Sport’s final sticker jumped nearly $10K over the base price to $60,025.

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2020 Lexus RX450h steering wheel and dashboard

Long known for conservative exterior styling, Lexus has significantly loosened up with more angular sheet metal and by adding its signature and gaping “spindle” grille across its model line. It’s a polarizing design and contrasts with that of its European competitors, but hasn’t hurt RX sales in the segment. The flashy Circuit Red seats and bright bits inside our F Sport trim are equally flashy. Otherwise, the interior is Lexus-quiet and ultra comfortable.

Interface and Connectivity

We have long loathed the Lexus Remote Touch infotainment interface for its awkward handling and because it can be distracting to use while driving. Lexus attempts to solve these problems with a new trackpad that somewhat improves operation, but doesn’t solve the issue of having to align a cursor with an onscreen icon that requires looking away from the road, even though you can adjust the haptic feedback that helps with cursor placement.

One saving grace is the 12.3-inch touch-screen that provides plenty of room to make it easy to distinguish desired features at a glance. Besides having touch capability, it’s positioned nearly 5.5 inches closer to the driver than in the previous model.

The 2020 Lexus RX 450h adds Amazon Alexa capability to play music, access news and other info, and control compatible smart home devices and more. It’s also the first vehicle from the Lexus to get Android Auto in addition to Apple CarPlay.

2020 Lexus RX450h infotainment system

Other forms of connectivity supplied by Enform in the LX 450h are subscription-based (after a free three-year trial) and include telematics services, a smartphone app for remote services, and in-cabin Wi-Fi. The Lexus Dynamic Navigation system also leverages Enform’s embedded connectivity to provide over-the-air software updates.

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Performance

The RX 450h F Sport is the trim to get if you want great fuel economy and decent performance. But while it has the same horsepower as the BMW X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid, the RX 450h F Sport can’t compete with the BMW when it comes to acceleration and agility.

But the RX 450h outdoes rivals like the X5 xDrive40e and the Acura MDX hybrid in ride comfort, while adding significant chassis stiffening for improved handling. This also helps the RX 450h remain better isolated from the road for its renowned quiet interior.

Conclusions

If you want a luxury hybrid SUV, you don’t have a lot of options. In addition to the BMW X5 xDrive40e and Acura MDX hybrid, there’s also the Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV, although like the BMW, it’s much pricier. The Lexus RX has ruled the midsize SUV roost for more than 20 years because it hits the sweet spot for most people looking for a mix of luxury, style, and performance. The 2020 Lexus RX 450h adds great fuel economy, better tech, and an improved ride. Despite a few shortcomings, it represents one of the top vehicles in a limited field.

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