2019 Lexus RX 450hL Premium SUV First Drive Review
Lexus has introduced its fourth-generation RX premium SUV in South Africa. The 2019 Lexus RX 450h doesn’t need to try too hard, as it is just fine the way it is. Since the current version of the RX 450h hasn’t changed much since its 2016 debut, Lexus must think the same way. The right size, excellent fuel economy, an abundance of safety technology and a compelling entry price make this midsize premium SUV a leader in its category.
While the RX may evoke a sportier, more aggressive attitude with its angular looks, this is still a Lexus ‘s geared for comfort over corner carving. The F Sport has adaptive dampers that stiffen the ride a bit, but even in that configuration, it’s plusher than many competitors. Steering is light and turn-in is direct, though strangely, the steering provides more feel (albeit less heft) in Comfort mode than Sport.
Lexus made small visual changes to both variants of the RX. Look closely, squint, and tilt your head and you just might notice the headlights have a new-look design. The spindle grille – which the company is reinventing as it prepares to electrify – received minor revisions, and stylists gave the rear lights a nip and tuck. These updates play second fiddle to the tech improvements outlined earlier, though. They’re the proverbial cherry on the cake.
It’s inside, however, where the most important updates lie. The 2020 RX is now outfitted with standard Android Auto, making this the first Lexus product to carry the Google-backed smartphone mirroring tech. Apple CarPlay also now comes standard. Base RXs will use an 8-inch touchscreen, but a 12.3-inch touchscreen is optional. Thank goodness for reactive screens, because the RX will continue to use the universally derided Remote Touch infotainment interface on the center console. Forward of the clunky touchpad now sits dedicated smartphone storage, along with six Type-A USBs throughout the cabin.
Speaking of the lights, the RX 450h packs in three LED ‘eyes’ per headlamp unit which also incorporates led bulb. The indicators use a sequential action and scroll outwards like in the Audis. If the front end looks striking, the side profile is a smash hit thanks to that sexy floating-roof effect engineered into the C-pillar. Factor in the sloping roofline, muscular wheel arches and some clever kinks in the bodywork and the RX 450h looks tremendously dynamic from the side. The design squares off cohesively at the rear with high-set wrap-around, a smart spoiler and some subtle chrome work in the bumper. Spanning 4.9m in length and 1.9m across, the RX 450h is a seriously big machine and easily the most striking-looking vehicle in its class – the Jaguar F-Pace is more handsome, but this will surely turn more heads.
Externally, the RX’s design has been sharpened and simplified with a host of tweaks to the front and rear fascias that have improved the aesthetic of the still aggressively styled SUV. The optional LED headlamps have new look and the grille’s design has been cleaned up a bit. Lexus’ design language has started to grow on me and this refresh is a step in the right direction, but it’s still not quite my cup of tea.
The 2019 Acura MDX Hybrid is around $2,000-$8,000 more than the RX 450h but standard features include an adaptive suspension that delivers an equally comfortable ride quality to that of the RX 450h F Sport and is a three-row SUV with a more spacious third-row offering than the RX 450hL. With Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality included as standard the MDX already offers superior technology, however, the dual-screen setup is as unintuitive as the RX 450h’s Remote Touch Interface. The interior of the MDX isn’t as opulent and refined as the RX 450h’s, but overall the MDX offers more versatility and practicality in storage and occupant solutions. The MDX offers better tech, better storage utility, and more room than the RX 450h, but as the MDX is nowhere near as fuel-efficient or as luxurious as the RX 450h, the RX 450h is the better hybrid vehicle.