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.
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