Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Lexus RX's 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine (the only option) drives the front wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox and is paired with two electric motors.
One motor helps out the engine while the other is fitted to the rear axle to give you four-wheel drive, with a combined power output of 308bhp. That's more than a diesel-powered Audi Q7 50 TDI, but because the Q7 has more low-rev urgency, it feels stronger on the road than the RX.
You probably won't buy this RX for its performance, then, but you might be tempted by its comfy ride. All but entry-level models get Lexus’s adaptive suspension, which can be stiffened or softened to suit your mood.
Left in the soft Normal mode, the RX absorbs bumps well, particularly small road imperfections that can make some rival SUVs fidget constantly. Bigger obstacles, such as speed humps, are dealt with without you being jostled around unnecessarily, but certain sharp-edged bumps send a shudder through the interior, which you wouldn't get in a Q7 with air suspension.
Unfortunately, even if you switch to the firmest Sport+ mode, there's considerable body lean and overall grip levels aren’t that impressive compared to rivals. The Q7, BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 all handle more tidily, even if none is truly fun in the way the smaller Porsche Macan is. The F Sport version of the RX has specifically tuned suspension to make it more agile, but the changes don't make a great deal of difference.
The RX makes a very relaxing motorway cruiser, though, with little wind noise save from a quiet rustle around the base of the screen. The dominant noise at motorway speeds is road noise, but it's no louder than in big-wheeled rivals such as the Mercedes GLE.
As for the noise from under the bonnet, the RX will run almost silently for short periods on battery power alone when driven gently, and the changeover between electric and petrol power is hardly noticeable. The engine is hushed when pootling around at low speeds, and while the revs do soar when put your foot down harder, it's nowhere near as raucous as previous versions of the RX.
The regenerative brakes, which recover energy that would otherwise be lost when braking to recharge the battery, are not so well-mannered. They’re quite grabby, which makes it difficult to slow your progress smoothly. You’ll notice the difference if you’ve just driven an SUV with conventional brakes.
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