Lexus RX Review
The Lexus RX is a well-built, luxurious SUV that’s only available as a hybrid. It’s very comfortable for four people, but let down by a fiddly infotainment system and the lack of a diesel engine.
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Some big, luxurious SUVs have been designed to look like they were hewn from a solid block of granite. Not so the Lexus RX, which looks much more like it was assembled from a single massive sheet of steel and folded, origami-style, into the shape of a car by an industrious giant.
That said, the Lexus’ lustrous paint and bold chrome grille make it look posh, but not quite as showy as an Audi Q7, a BMW X5 or a Range Rover.
It’s more tasteful from the inside, too, with wood trim pieces favoured over the brushed aluminium panels you might find in a BMW or Audi.
The dashboard has an asymmetric design that’s quite appealing, but it’s the solid-feeling materials that really make the Lexus RX’s cabin shine. Gaps between trim pieces are so consistent they look like they’ve been measured using lasers, and the curved slab of wood you can get in top-spec cars is hand-picked by the same craftsmen who build Yamaha pianos.
Perhaps these piano builders also designed the infotainment, because it clearly wasn’t put together by anyone who knows a great deal about electronics, because the Lexus’s touchpad control system is fiddly to use and the screen’s graphics aren’t anywhere near as high-res as those in most alternatives. It does, at least, come with Apple and Android smartphone mirroring for the first time.
On a more positive note, the front seats are brilliant. They’re electrically adjustable, heated and cooled on all but entry-level models. The back seats have room for six-footers, and they slide back and recline to give your passengers more knee room and comfort on long journeys.
Sadly, although the boot space is a reasonable size, it’s significantly down on capacity compared to the BMW X5 and the Audi Q7, which might call for some strategic packing if you’re planning a fortnight away with the family.
The Lexus RX gives you more pampering than a weekend away at a five-star hotel – providing you go for a top-spec car, that is
Faced with a long drive, you’ll be extremely happy to climb aboard the Lexus RX. Its cabin is quiet, the suspension absorbs bumps well at higher speeds and it’s also very safe thanks to plenty of driver assistance systems.
Around town, the Lexus RX’s electric motor does most of the work – whisking you along almost silently. Accelerate hard, and its smooth 3.5-litre six-cylinder petrol chimes in to waft you along effortlessly at higher speeds. The only downsides are that it can’t match a diesel’s fuel economy on long-distance drives and the automatic gearbox causes the engine to rev unnaturally highly when you accelerate to motorway speeds.
That said, it is quick, but the Lexus RX isn’t a car you’ll want to drive fast. It leans in bends and has light controls that focus on comfort rather than feedback.
But that’s fine in a car that’s going to spend most of its time transporting your family – who’ll definitely appreciate the RX’s excellent comfort. Factor in the Lexus’ brilliant build quality, hybrid engine and the level of equipment you get as standard in top-of-the-range models, and it’s hard to understand why more people don’t have an RX parked on their drive.
The Lexus RX has plenty of space for four people and a boot that’s big enough – if not the largest in class. Sadly, a fifth passenger will feel rather less comfortable and you can’t have it with seven seats
The Lexus RX’s seats are so comfortable they make a La-Z-Boy chair feel like some sort of medieval torture device
The Lexus RX pampers your passengers with thickly padded seats that offer a decent range of adjustment for all four people
Even if you’re not the tallest of people, the RX’s driver’s seat can give you a towering view out of the car, and a steering wheel that moves electrically for reach and height means you don’t have to peer over it to see out. You’ll also be pleased to hear that electric lumbar adjustment comes as standard, so you can add a little extra support if you suffer from backache on long journeys.
Even entry-level cars come with eight-way electrically adjustable seats, while F Sport and Takumi versions come with 10- and 12-way adjustment respectively. Go for the latter and you could easily waste hours tweaking the seat to find your ideal driving position.
Unfortunately, no matter where you position your seat you’ll find it’s almost impossible to see the heated seat buttons tucked away under the dashboard ahead of the gear lever.
Jump into the Lexus RX’s back seats and you’ll find it’s nearly as comfortable as the front. There’s space for two six-footers to sit up straight and loads of knee room behind the front seats – even if they’re occupied by some equally lofty individuals. The only downside is that there isn’t a great deal of space to slide your feet under the front seats if they’re in their lowest position.
This isn’t a huge issue, however, because you can slide the seats back an inch or two if you need even more space to stretch out and the backrest can recline a decent way to let you lounge out on a long journey. All of that means the Lexus’ back seat will be more comfortable for your passengers than in alternatives such as the Mercedes GLE or BMW X5.
Things don’t feel quite so first-class in the centre rear seat, however. Sure, there’s a reasonable amount of headroom and the flat floor means there’s plenty of space for your passenger’s feet, but the folding central armrest isn’t particularly comfortable to lean against.
If you need to carry very your passengers, you’ll find the Lexus RX’s wide rear door openings make it a doddle to lift in a bulky child seat and the clearly marked Isofix point make it easy to lock the base into position. Sadly the RX doesn’t come with a seven-seat option – meaning that you’re better off with a BMW X5 or Volvo XC90 if you need a third row.
You’ll be well-catered for interior storage in the Lexus RX. The glovebox is a good size, there’s loads of space under the front armrest and there’s a handy storage tray under the dashboard for your phone, in front of a dedicated slot if you’d rather store it vertically.
Both front cupholders are generous enough, but you can extend one of them to comfortably hold very tall, very thin bottles. Those mounted in the folding rear armrest aren’t quite so roomy, but you do get a storage tray and a pair of soft-lined seatback pockets and some fairly deep door bins.
At 453 litres, the RX’s boot is smaller than a BMW X5’s (650 litres) and a Mercedes GLE’s (690 litres). It’s also low on features with only a couple of tie-down hooks and a 12v power socket – handy for charging a handheld vacuum – being worthy of mention.
Although the RX’s boot doesn’t compare well to other SUVs of the same price, it’s still big enough to swallow a pair of large suitcases and you’ll get a couple of smaller ones in on top if you remove the parcel shelf. Loading them is easy because there’s no boot lip to lift items over.
If you need more room, you can fold the Lexus RX’s back seats down in a two-way (60:40) split using buttons by the boot opening or flip just the centre section down using a lever by the headrest – just the thing if you need to carry two passengers and some very long luggage poking through from the boot.
With all the back seats folded flat into the floor, the RX has a total load capacity of 924 litres. That might not sound like much for a car of this size, but in practice, it will easily carry an adult’s bike without you having to remove the wheels.
The Lexus RX is a comfortable car that’ll leave you feeling relaxed after long journeys. It’s not remotely sporty though, and the lack of a diesel engine won’t you if you do lots of long drives
Asking a Lexus RX to drive quickly down a country road is like asking a P&O ferry to compete the America’s Cup
The Lexus RX is only available with petrol-electric hybrid engine. The lack of a diesel option means no model will provide brilliant fuel economy on a long motorway run.
Surprisingly for a car of its generous proportions, it’s in town where the RX really feels at home. Its silent electric motor can power the car for a few miles on battery power alone, making it very quiet and relaxing to drive.
Get up to higher speeds and the electric motor makes way for a 3.5-litre petrol V6 that you’ll only ever hear as a constant hum when overtaking or when you accelerate hard. Unfortunately, most of this noise is as a result of the Lexus RX’s CVT automatic gearbox that causes the engine to rev higher, and for longer, than the conventional automatic ‘boxes you get in most alternatives.
Taking in a mix of motorways, city streets and country roads, you can expect the Lexus RX to return fuel economy in the high thirties. That’s not bad for a large luxury SUV, but it’s some way off the 51mpg Lexus claims.
If you’re looking for a Sports Utility Vehicle that’s genuinely sporty, then the Lexus RX isn’t for you – you’ll be much happier with the BMW X5 or Porsche Macan. But, if you have no interest in emulating Lewis Hamilton on the school run, the Lexus RX will be right up your street.
In town, its high body gives you a decent view out the front of the car, the controls are light and easy to handle at low speeds and the near-silent electric motor makes the RX the perfect place to unwind after a hard day at the office.
Granted, the RX’s small rear windscreen and large pillars on either side of it do block your view slightly when pulling out of junctions or overtaking on the motorway, but the standard reversing camera means parking is fairly easy. The only other complaint is suspension that can occasionally jolt over sharp bumps.
As the speeds rise, however, the suspension smooths out bumpy country roads and motorways very well. Factor in the RX’s quiet interior, and how comfortable the padded seats are, and the Lexus is the kind of car you could drive hundreds of miles without feeling the least bit stressed.
For ultimate peace of mind it’s also good to know it has a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. Standard safety features include active cruise control – that can slow the car when it detects traffic braking in front – lane keep assist and automatic emergency braking that can detect cars as well as people.
It’s only when you’re looking for excitement of a less extreme level that the RX comes up short because it suffers from a fair amount of body lean in bends and the slow steering means it doesn’t feel particularly enthusiastic on country roads. Even in Sport+ mode, which amps up the throttle response, the Lexus RX feels like a car that doesn’t want to be hurried – a bit like an elderly relative who isn’t fussed about missing the next train.
Less of an issue is the fact that the RX isn’t a proper off-roader like a Land Rover Discovery. Sure, it comes with four-wheel drive that’ll be handy on slippery winter roads, but the Lexus won’t tackle the extreme conditions a Land Rover can and it can only tow a 2,000kg trailer to the 3,500kgs the Discovery can haul.
The Lexus RX’s interior looks absolutely lovely and feels super plush. The only problem is the clunky infotainment system that’ll make you want to pull your hair out