The RX L uses a combination of petrol and electric power, which makes a great deal of sense in town. At low speeds, the RX L remains virtually silent, thanks to the wonders of electric propulsion; it delivers a serenity that can’t be replicated by conventionally powered cars, no matter how many layers of sound deadening and double-glazing they have.
Unlike its rival hybrid SUVs – the BMW X5 xDrive40e and Volvo XC90 T8 – the RX L is not a plug-in hybrid. It gives you a small battery that can support electric-only running in small bursts, such as when maneuvering in a car park or queuing in stop-start traffic. The electric motor certainly doesn’t have the power to keep up with traffic on its own – you’ll need to use the petrol engine at anything beyond a crawl.
Unfortunately, two issues tarnish the RX L’s cruising credentials. Firstly, Its 3.5-litre V6 is coarser than you’d expect a six-cylinder petrol motor in a luxury car to be; and second,
There’s the small matter of its CVT gearbox. Unlike a conventional ’box, it allows the revs to flare as you accelerate up to speed. While the accompanying drone is hardly unbearable, it makes the RX L a lot less refined than other luxury SUVs with smoother engines and conventional gearboxes such as the BMW X5.
Those engine issues are a shame, because the RX L is otherwise a very relaxing car to drive long distances. Road and wind noise are at fairly well contained, and its suspension is very much geared towards comfort, gliding over big bumps – expansion joints or small road imperfections pretty much cease to exist as far as the Lexus is concerned.
However, when it comes to handling, the RX L feels very similar to the standard RX. That is to say, it’s not much fun. In range-topping Takumi trim (the only version we’ve tested so far), the car feels reasonably composed and stable through corners, but there is quite a bit of body lean when you press on, and not a whole lot of grip. Its steering doesn’t offer much of a connection to the road, so if you’re looking for a luxury SUV that’s quick and agile, there are better options such as the BMW X5.