By LEN INGRASSIA
Arcadian Auto Editor
There are good reasons the Lexus RX is just about everywhere. Next time you’re motoring around, count them. You’d be astonished. Whether new or used since its 1998 debut, this mid-sized luxury crossover hit the sweet spot in a market ripe for quality workmanship.
Four generations later, the RX sport utility has been updated, restyled last in 2016 and this year adding bundled software and useful features to its remote app. It is a truly amazing vehicle.
Quiet as a church mouse
Compliant and silky ride
Good (SUV) fuel economy
Newer third-row seat is cramped
Electric all-wheel-drive system lacking
Not all safety gear standard
No Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
Slotted between the smaller NX model and larger GX SUV, the RX is sold as a well-equipped base or hybrid with either F Sport package, third-row seat ... or both (available). Our review is focused on the three-row, six-passenger 450h L hybrid model introduced in 2018. Compared with other hybrid luxury SUVs, its base $46,245 is a relative bargain at nearly 30 miles per gallon with decent acceleration, most safety gear standard and a stylish interior.
For some reason, though, Lexus designers are strong on its big stout front grille that sets it apart, for sure. They maintain that distinctive look, like something you could do with your mouth on a dare, which stretches across most of the Lexus lineup, designed for the upscale urban millennial.
All right, then.
Interior treatment is fashionable, with soft touch materials where needed, numerous cubby holes for storage at all doors, center console in first and second rows and ample cargo. The L designation extends seating to three rows, captain’s chairs in the second row. Third row seats are power operated and are best utilized in their folded position unless small children are onboard.
Engine performance is what you would expect in a refined luxury SUV ... and Lexus does not disappoint. Its hybrid drive system includes a standard V-6 and three electric motors mated with a continuously variable transmission. Total output is 306 horsepower, yet combined fuel efficiency with torque control/all-wheel drive is 29 mpg, about 10 mpg more than its pure gasoline powered sibling.
It is worth noting that the hybrid’s all-wheel drive kicks in with one of the electric motors sending power to its rear wheels when slippage occurs as opposed to all-wheel drive, all the time.
The Lexus received top safety ratings from government and private testing agencies and a Superior rating in front crash tests avoiding collisions of up to 25 mph.
Under the what’s new category, the Lexus Enform Remote app makes available an interface for your compatible smartwatch and Alexa. Once connected it will stop or start your engine, lock and unlock doors, locate your (lost you) Lexus in a parking lot and check its status. Pretty cool. A one-year trial subscription is included.
On the flip side, Lexus does not offer support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which is weird in modern times.
What brings Lexus owners back time and again is its whisper quiet ride, handling and craftsmanship, and the 450h L version is no exception. There are rivals to consider, though, and the list includes Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Lincoln Navigator and Jaguar F-Pace.
But there’s no question Lexus rests near or atop the crowded field of luxury SUVs.
Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at email@example.com
2019 Lexus RX450h L
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6; three electric motors
EPA rated mileage: 29 city, 28 highway, 29 combined.
Assembled: Toyota Motor Corp. facilities in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada; U.S./Canadian parts content, 35 percent; major source of foreign parts, Japan, 55 percent; country of origin, engine and transmission, Japan.
Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the 450h L with four stars overall, its highest rating with five stars in side-impact collisions and four stars in frontal crash rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 450h L its highest rating of “Good” in moderate and small overlap frontal collision for driver side, five stars in side impact, roof strength and whiplash protection from rear impact. The IIHS also awarded a “Superior” rating for the Lexus standard front crash safety system.
Warranty: 4-year/50,000-mile basic; 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain; 8-year/100,000-mile hybrid battery and components, first and second scheduled maintenance