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2015 Lexus RX 450h REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/4/2017

Con: Electronics interface can be distracting to use; no third-row seat option.

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Interior: Upscale appointments, exceptional build quality and cutting-edge tech features make the 2015 Lexus RX 450h look and feel suitably expensive for its price. Authentic wood trim and high-quality leather lend an air of opulence, and the optional Mark Levinson sound system is one of the best on the market.

When you opt for the Navigation package, you get the Lexus Remote Touch system, which is a mouselike device that allows the user to move among a variety of icons on a large centrally located screen. It's a nifty technological achievement, but in practice we've found that the cumbersome on-screen menus and the controller's imprecise nature draw too much of your attention away from the road.

The front seats could use some extra adjustment range, and both thigh and lateral support are somewhat lacking. However, rear passengers will find the seating roomy and comfortable thanks to reclining and sliding adjustments. There's also ample luggage space -- just as much as in the regular RX 350, in fact -- with 40 cubic feet behind the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats and 80 cubes when they're all lowered. There is no third-row seat available, though.

Body: The RX 450h, which is available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, LED running lights, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats with two-way power lumbar adjustment, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a sliding and reclining rear seat with one-pull folding levers, cloth upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Standard electronics features include a 7-inch display screen, a rearview camera, Safety Connect emergency communications, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 12-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface. Those with compatible iPhone models can also use the voice-operated Siri Eyes Free feature.

The 450h offers several option packages, some of which require the purchase of one to obtain another. Availability can also vary by region, so you'll want to check with your local dealer.

The Premium package adds a sunroof, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, roof rails, leather upholstery and driver memory settings. A version of this package also can be had with a blind-spot monitoring system. The Luxury package incorporates the contents of the Premium package and adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel, a power driver seat cushion extender, upgraded leather upholstery, a household-style power outlet and smog-sensing auto climate control recirculation.

The Comfort package requires either the Premium or Luxury package and adds automatic wipers, xenon headlights and heated and ventilated front seats.

The Navigation package also requires either the Premium or Luxury package, and adds a navigation system, voice controls, the Remote Touch controller, HD radio and the Lexus Enform app suite that includes Safety Connect security and accident-mitigation functions.

Depending on which option package you select, individual options include LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision warning system, a head-up display, a dual-screen rear entertainment system and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system.

Driving: The 2015 Lexus RX 450h's compliant suspension and plentiful sound insulation ably isolate passengers from the outside world and provide excellent comfort on long drives. The hybrid powertrain is also pretty silent. Initial acceleration can seem a little slow unless you really get on the gas, but overall, the 450h feels a lot like its RX 350 sibling. Through turns, this Lexus hybrid remains composed and secure, though it's not as sporty as many diesel-powered luxury crossover SUVs, and the steering can feel overly heavy.

What’s New: For the 2015 Lexus RX 450h, the 7-inch display screen and a rearview camera are now standard equipment. LED headlights and foglights are new options, and the Remote Touch knob has been revised for better ergonomics.

Powering the Lexus RX 450h is a combination of a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 engine and electric motors. Front-wheel-drive models use two motors; one acts as a starter-generator and the other provides propulsion. The all-wheel-drive RX adds a third electric motor to drive the rear wheels. Total output amounts to 295 horsepower, and it's routed through a specialized continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

In Edmunds testing, the 450h went from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, which is a few tenths of a second slower than the conventionally powered RX 350. It's also a bit slower than average for the midsize luxury crossover segment.

The upside is that EPA-estimated fuel economy is an impressive 30 mpg combined (32 city/28 highway) with front-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive version returns 29 mpg combined (30 /28).

Safety: Every 2015 Lexus RX 450h comes standard with a rearview camera, antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Also included is the Safety Connect emergency communications system, which includes automatic collision notification, an emergency assist button and stolen-vehicle location services.

Optional are parking sensors, a blind-spot monitoring system and an adaptive cruise control system that includes a pre-collision warning and brake-priming system.

In Edmunds brake testing, the RX 450h came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is right around average for a midsize crossover.

In government crash tests, the front-wheel-drive RX 450h received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The AWD RX 450h fared a bit better, earning a perfect five stars for overall crash protection and side-impact protection, and four stars for frontal-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the RX the best possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. The RX's seat/head restraints also earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Pro: Excellent fuel economy; smooth ride; quiet and attractive cabin with high-quality materials; comfortable rear seating; generous standard features.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Lexus RX 450h delivers on its promise of impressive fuel economy, utility and luxury. For a hybrid luxury crossover SUV, it's a great choice.

Introduction: Launched more than a decade ago, the Lexus RX hybrid was initially a trailblazer, confounding those who believed luxury SUVs were by nature ravenous at the gas pump. Since then, the number of premium hybrid SUVs on the market has grown. But increased competition hasn't dulled the appeal of this Lexus, and the 2015 Lexus RX 450h is a top pick in what has become a more prolific segment.

The RX 450h succeeds because it delivers the key strengths one would hope to find in a luxury hybrid SUV: superlative mileage, refined performance, an accommodating cabin and a wealth of standard amenities. With an EPA combined rating of 30 mpg, this Lexus wallops the fuel economy of gas-only luxury crossovers and is among the most frugal choices in the premium hybrid SUV pool. With some hybrids, strong fuel economy comes at the expense of performance, but that isn't the case here. The RX is motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 teamed with electric motors and a battery pack, and this combination works to ensure that the crossover always feels adequately powered. Ride quality is plush, and the SUV superbly cocoons passengers from road imperfections. Topping it all off is a cabin that is spacious, quiet and impeccably appointed and decked out with a plethora of high-tech amenities.

Though its credentials are impressive, the Edmunds.com "B" rated RX 450h does have viable luxury hybrid SUV rivals. The Lexus lacks a third-row seat, and if this feature is a must-have for you, the Infiniti QX60 Hybrid will be a more suitable selection. The Audi Q5 Hybrid impresses with its finely crafted cabin, and the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid leaves the Lexus in the dust when it comes to acceleration. However, the RX 450h offers better fuel economy than all of these rivals, in addition to being one of the most affordable models in the segment. Its assets make it an easy choice for the shopper seeking a luxury crossover that's strong on features, fuel economy and value.

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