Cons: Rear seats not for tall adults, expensive with options, strong rivals
Demand for large seven-seater SUVs is at an all-time high and Lexus is the latest premium brand to enter the space with the new RX 450hL. Previously, the RX has only been available in five seat guise, however the RX-L is stretched by 110mm to make room for a new third row of seats, and it has a taller tailgate for increased headroom in the rear seats. The RX 450hL should prove enticing to family buyers seeking a luxurious seven-seater SUV, and its rivals include the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90 amongst others. We flew to Switzerland for the international launch of the RX 450hL, to see how It compares with its rivals and if it can prove popular here in Ireland.
What is it like?
The Lexus RX is one of the most recognisable premium SUVs on the market right now with its distinctive front grille and sculpted side lines. Although the RX-L is 110m longer than the standard RX, it is difficult to tell the difference from the outside. Styling at the rear is more upright than the conventional RX and it has a lot of road presence, with large 20-inch alloy wheels included in base Luxury specification. Subtle badges show it is hybrid-powered too, and it is in fact the only self-charging hybrid seven-seater in the premium SUV space right now.
The RX-L is a haven of luxury inside and the cabin is dressed in high quality leather upholstery and soft touch materials. The third row of seats can be accessed with a single handle, and the middle row slides forwards and backwards with up to 150mm of travel. Space in the third row is good with plenty of room for two children, however tall adults will find head and leg room is rather restricted. Interestingly, the third row has climate control, two USB ports for charging tablets and a pair of cup holders for extra comfort. The tailgate is electric and we stowed several travel bags in the boot during our two-day drive with the third row of seats in place. The seats fold down electrically with the touch of a button for storing large items, and there is enough room to ferry five adults and two children in absolute comfort on long journeys.
The RX-L is available with a sole petrol-electric hybrid powertrain from launch. The RX450hL mates a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine to a pair of electric motors for a combined output of 313 horsepower, and it can sprint from 0-100km/h in eight seconds. The hybrid system works particularly well around town, with seamless transitions from petrol to electric power and smooth shifts courtesy of the CVT automatic transmission. The RX 450hL delivers good performance at motorway speeds to with lots of grunt for overtaking. We covered approximately 300 kilometres of driving through the rolling Swiss Alps and achieved 7.5l/100km in economy during the test, while annual motor tax is rated at €270.
Out on the road, the RX-L is very relaxing to drive thanks to the hush of the hybrid system. Despite added bulk and length due to the seven seats, it doesn’t feel any more cumbersome to drive than the regular RX, and it corners well on twisty roads. Although we didn’t drive the RX-L off road during our test, we suspect it is better-suited to urban terrain, while it isn’t as engaging to drive as some of its German rivals. The suspension is cosseting and cabin noise is minimal at motorway speeds however, even with the large 20-inch alloy wheels fitted. The RX-L features Lexus’ Safety Sense+ driver aids as standard, along with 10 airbags throughout the cabin and even in the third row.
Prices for the Lexus RX 450hL Luxury start from €82,450 in Ireland. As standard, it is generously-equipped with 20-inch wheels, intelligent parking sensors, Lexus’ safety sense system, three zone climate control, electric and ventilated front seats, electric steering wheel adjustment, leather upholstery, and Lexus’ 12.3-inch infotainment system. The top specification Premium model gains upgraded wheels, adaptive suspension, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, semi aniline leather, a Mark Levinson sound system, a heads-up display, adaptive headlights and rear sunshades, however prices in this specification start from €92,550.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The Lexus RX450hL offers all of the luxury and comfort of the hugely popular RX, with added seven-seat versatility. Few seven-seater SUVs offer as much comfort in the rearmost seats, while it is one of few hybrid options in the Luxury SUV class too. That said, the RX-L isn’t the most practical of large SUVs, and adults won’t find the third row particularly spacious on long journeys. There are few better ways to ferry seven people in comfort and luxury however, and for this reason it's one to shortlist.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Lexus RX 450hL
Prices from: €82,450
Annual Road Tax: €570
Engine: 3456cc six-cylinder petrol and electric hybrid powertrai