What's the used Lexus RX 4x4 like?
By the time this third-generation Lexus RX was launched in 2009, its reputation for solidity and reliability went before it. The previous two models had established a reputation for high build quality that had meant consistently high placings in a number of reliability and customer satisfaction surveys and, to cash in on then what was a mere twinkle in the Green Party’s eye, the second-gen model also featured a hybrid version launched in 2005, which carried over into this newer car.
Indeed it was this petrol-electric hybrid that was the mainstay of this third-gen car’s range because by this time Lexus had turned its back on diesel-powered cars. It means the RX450h actually has quite a complicated system working away underneath its sober cab-forward styling. At the front is a 246bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, mated to a CVT automatic gearbox and assisted by an electric motor rated at 165bhp. These two between them drive the front wheels, while at the rear is a second 67bhp electric motor that powers the rear wheels when it senses the extra power is needed. In fact, maximum power when all three are working together (the petrol engine and the two electric motors) is 295bhp.
On the road, the RX responds more than quick enough for most people’s needs. Be gentle on the throttle when pulling away and the RX450h will move off under electric power only, and with sufficient juice in the batteries and a gentle foot it calls on the petrol motor only when speeds exceed 30mph. Ask for a more urgent getaway and the petrol motor kicks in earlier, and if you extend the throttle fully the rear motor lends a hand to give a turn of speed beyond what you could normally expect of a 3.5-litre V6 hauling a 2.1-tonne car.
Other than boosting performance and fuel economy, the electric motors also allow hushed progress at slow speeds, but even with the petrol motor working the RX450h is impressively quiet. Only under prolonged full throttle, with the CVT transmission holding the engine at high revs, does the RX sound stressed.
Its forte is long-distance cruising, where it is stable (the air suspension automatically lowers at speed) and rides comfortably. What it isn’t, though, is particularly enjoyable to drive briskly, mostly because the electric steering is devoid of feel. Grip levels aren’t especially high from the eco tyres, either. But this shortcoming is unlikely to trouble many owners.
Its low-speed ride might be more of a cause for concern, though. Ridges and manhole covers are more readily felt than they should be. Admittedly, the intrusions are well insulated from the interior structure and the seats, so a jolt rarely becomes jarring, but the fact that the movement happens so quickly makes the RX feel unsettled.