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In-depth reviews

Lexus RX review - Engines, performance and drive

Performance is good, but the RX would rather you take it easy

The Lexus RX has been given a sporty look, but don't expect it to match a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5 when it comes to handling or performance. Key criticisms have always been the big SUV’s body roll through corners and lifeless steering. Lexus has attempted to address this by adopting stiffer anti-roll bars, retuned electric power steering and shock absorbers, along with an Active Cornering Assist system that reduces roll and understeer.  

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The 450h model has 309bhp and 335Nm of torque and goes from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds, but thanks to the poor throttle response and CVT gearbox, it never quite feels that fast. The CVT gearbox doesn't have gears as such, but is constantly changing ratios to keep the engine moving optimally. It means that in operation the RX feels smooth to drive as there's no mechanical swapping of ratios, but as a trade-off, CVT transmissions like to grab and hold revs under mild acceleration. 

The latest RX has a more rigid body, achieved by using laser screw welding, additional spot welds and high strength adhesive at key points around the chassis. It also includes a new friction control device in the shock absorbers which helps to reduce vibration from poor road surfaces.

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The RX and RX L come with four driving modes: Normal, EV, Eco and Sport, while the F Sport and Takumi versions delete the Sport option and go with Sport S and Sport S+. These modes stiffen the suspension, improve engine responsiveness and add weight to the steering - but you'd have to really be paying attention to notice these small changes. The engine does get louder in Sport modes, though. 

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The EV mode on the hybrid 450h lets you run on the electric motor only until the charge is depleted. You'll only be able to do short bursts around town on electric power only though, as the 288 volt battery pack is small and depletes quickly.

There's no real difference between the RX and RX L from behind the wheel, but the bigger, heavier seven seater is slightly slower, chalking up an 8.0 second dash to 62mph from standstill.

Engines

As mentioned, the RX is now offered with just the one engine, the 308bhp 3.5-litre V6 hybrid. There are no diesel options, and the base 2.0-litre petrol has been dropped  from the line-up for the time being.

The big V6 hybrid is powerful enough, with overtaking manoeuvres being relatively straightforward , but you do need to plan ahead slightly more than normal while you wait for the power to be delivered. At low speed, the hybrid system works well, as it uses the electric motor for silent progress in traffic.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    450h 3.5 5dr CVT
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £49,924

Most Economical

  • Name
    450h 3.5 5dr CVT
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £49,924

Fastest

  • Name
    450h 3.5 5dr CVT
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £49,924
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