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.
Trim-wise, the RX came in a variety including Advance, SE, SE-L, SE-L Premier and F-Sport. Every model bar the base model got a decent sat-nav system (even if it is operated through the infuriating Remote Touch system), while top-spec cars got a stupendous Mark Levinson audio system and LED headlights. There’s even a head-up display on range-topping SE-L Premier models. The F-Sport trim featured a deeper, more vertical front bumper with a sporty mesh treatment, a more sophisticated damper arrangement and 19in alloy wheels.
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.
Its interior is lovely, though, and has enough high-class materials and clever details to make the car feel suitably expensive. A typical SUV seating position has the driver sitting high on soft, flat-cushioned chairs that offer a very broad range of adjustability. Forward visibility is also good, although the clever side and rear cameras are welcome for judging the car’s bulbous shape in tight parking spots. Space front and rear is plentiful, if not extravagant.
Boot space with the rear seats up is just 496 litres. Even rivals with seven seats provide more room with the third row dropped, and despite the sliding rear seats that can fold 40/20/40 and also recline, some rivals are more practical.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Lexus RX 4x4?
What are the most common problems with a used Lexus RX 4x4?
Is a used Lexus RX 4x4 reliable?
The Lexus RX reliability record is, as discussed, very strong. Lexus vehicles are among the most reliable you can buy so there are no real concerns on this front.
Look for signs of over-enthusiastic use and check all non-engine electricals, such as the touch screen and sunroof/windows. You should have no issues with the hybrid power unit, as these seem to be bulletproof, with some owners having put over half a million miles on them with no adverse effects. As a consequence of this, don't be put off by high miles on a used RX450h. People bought them from new to keep a cap on fuel bills on big journeys, so a very low mileage car should attract caution, as it might well have had a harder life as a city car. Be warned, though, Lexus parts are expensive.
Lexus as a brand finished in first place in our most recent reliability survey.
What used Lexus RX 4x4 will I get for my budget?
Prices for the RX start at around £8000 for a clean car with an average mileage for the year. Condition is king at this age, so check the mileage and history carefully. We’d look for as late a car as you can afford. You’ll need in excess of £10,000 to £12,000 for a good 2010/2011 model, and between £12,000 and £14,000 for 2013/2014 cars. Expect to pay a little more for the run-out 2015/2016 models.
How much does it cost to run a Lexus RX 4x4?
The RX is capable of achieving pretty good figures on paper, with a claimed 44.8mpg under the older NEDC tests, although in the real world you’ll be hard-pushed to see more than 30mpg. The reality of the fuel savings, however, will depend very much on how you drive.
The good news is that the RX’s emissions are reasonably low, at least by the standards of the day. With CO2 emissions of 145g/km, the RX is significantly greener than most diesel-fuelled large SUVs, even some launched since this car was on the market, with commensurately low tax bills.
Servicing at Lexus centres won't be cheap though and it doesn't offer a fixed price servicing option on a car of this age. The best idea might be to find an independent specialist who will be able to look after your car at a more reasonable price.
Which used Lexus RX 4x4 should I buy?
There is only the petrol-electric hybrid engine in this 450h model. We’d shop for whichever trim you can afford on a car in good condition, but everything above Advance has a sat-nav, so even the popular SE is well equipped.
Our favourite Lexus RX: RX 450h SE
What alternatives should I consider to a used Lexus RX 4x4?
The BMW X5 that ran from 2013 to 2018 was one of BMW’s largest and most expensive models, so it carried certain expectations of luxury and performance - certainly more so than the ability to do serious off-roading. For an SUV that excels in daily use, however, the X5 was a formidable machine. Part of its high appeal is because it's one of the more saloon-like SUVs to drive.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is big, butch and bold, and has never been a car for the shy and retiring. This is the third generation of the SUV – a car that has always tried to satisfy the desires of those after a rugged and capable off-road machine as well as a large and luxurious SUV, a car that can cut it in the valleys of Cornwall and the heights of Chelsea. Think of it as a German Range Rover.
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