The Lexus RX 450h has been given a mid-life makeover, with fresh styling and improved performance. Plus, the company has added this striking new F Sport model to the range.
The car is aimed at M Sport and S line versions of the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 respectively, and Lexus has sharpened up the looks with a new chrome-edged grille, which has already been seen on the GS and LS.
The F Sport model gets LED headlamps, exclusive dark grey 19-inch alloys and has its own unique aggressive front bumper.
Inside ares a sports steering wheel and drilled aluminium pedals, plus leather seats and high-quality switchgear. Lexus’ soft-touch dash and mouse controller are familiar, although the latter no longer has buttons on the side, so is easier to use. F Sport spec is equipped with sat-nav, a DAB digital radio and climate control as standard.
While the driving position is good, the seats are heavily padded and designed more for comfort than performance. The dash is easy to read, plus there’s a clear and sharp head-up display.
The hybrid powertrain is unchanged, so it still combines a 3.5-litre V6 with two electric motors to offer 295bhp. Power delivery is smooth, but throttle response is relaxed at best.
So while the car is fast, there’s a delay between you flexing your right foot and the surge of acceleration arriving. The electric steering is short on feel, too, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence into corners.
Hit the Sport button – which incidentally changes the colour of the dash display from blue to red – and things improve a bit, with slightly sharper throttle response. The ESP doesn’t cut in quite so eagerly, either.
The F Sport is the only RX 450h to have sports suspension and Lexus’ Lateral Damping System, which aims to reduce vibrations and improve stability. But the ride is still harsh, and thumps over speed bumps around town.
Even though the RX is four-wheel drive, it never feels completely planted on the road and the ESP light flashes in the rain. The official electric-only range in EV mode is a mere 1.2 miles, although this contributes to class-leading 44.8mpg economy and 145g/km of CO2, so the car costs less to run than its predecessor.
The latest RX is as practical as before, offering up to 825 litres of luggage space with its rear seats folded flat. Keyless entry and an electronic tailgate are standard, plus a reversing camera and large mirrors mean visibility is good.
But at £51,995, this F Sport is pricier than an X5 xDrive 40d M Sport and Q7 S line Plus 3.0 TDI. And while the Lexus has the edge on efficiency, the BMW and Audi are more powerful, desirable and better to drive.