Midsize Premium SUV Standard Setter
The 2019 Lexus RX 450h doesn’t need to try too hard, as it is just fine the way it is. Since the current version of the RX 450h hasn’t changed much since its 2016 debut, Lexus must think the same way. The right size, excellent fuel economy, an abundance of safety technology and a compelling entry price make this midsize premium SUV a leader in its category.
The Most Powerful RX
The 2019 RX 450h all-wheel drive (AWD) is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive system of a gasoline-powered 3.5L-liter V6 engine, augmented with front and rear 123-kilowatt electric motors. This combination produces 308 total system horsepower through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
The Dynamic Torque Control AWD system electronically adjusts from the normal front-wheel drive mode to all-wheel drive. This activates the rear wheels when there is heavy acceleration or tire slippage is detected, as in driving on ice and snow. Through multiple sensors it actively measures speed, steering angle and other factors to govern the torque distribution to the rear wheels. All transitions were seamless and completely unnoticeable, whether on curvy roads or the open highway.
To maximize fuel economy, the Lexus Hybrid Drive automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric motor and gasoline engine and gasoline-only engine power. These transitions can be monitored by viewing dash gauges. Fuel economy for the 2019 RX 450h is rated at 31 city/28 highway/30 combined miles per gallon. Running on regular unleaded and driving 929 mostly highway miles, we averaged 31.1 mpg. With the 17.2-gallon tank, driving distance could have been 530 miles before needing a refill.
The nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery is charged through the regenerative charging system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. This process is also viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.
Driving Experience: On the Road
As would be anticipated for a 4,740-pound five-passenger SUV, the RX 450h has a controlled and smooth ride. It found its comfort zone when going down the road with authority and confidence. The steering was a bit on the light side, but certainly nothing that compromised any of the ride and handling attributes. Road feedback and feel was good, with the cabin isolated from common road imperfections. Wind noise was non-existent, partially due to the low 0.34 coefficient of drag, created through exterior aerodynamic design elements that Lexus says offer “a dramatic mix of sharp creases and curves.”
The RX 450h has five driver-selectable drive modes of EV, Normal, Eco, Sport and Sport S. Opting for the latter two drive modes, we achieved 0-60 times of around 7.2 seconds. The acceleration was smooth, with seamless oomph thanks to the combination of the V6 and twin electric motors.
Standard on the RX 450h are 18-inch alloy wheels with a grey finish, mounted with 235/65R Michelin Premier LTX all-season tires. Spirited cornering revealed little understeer and moderate body lean, while always remembering this is not marketed as a sporty vehicle. We did not take the RX 450h off-road, but with 8.2-inches of ground clearance you should be fine just in case you get stuck off the pavement.
Stopping comes from an electronically controlled regenerative brake system with power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The stops were straight and consistent, but the brakes could be touchy and grabby if cut-off in traffic.
When driving a hybrid, I like the option to select EV, especially around town, forcing the car to run solely on electric power. The RX 450h has this option, but the driving range in pure electric mode is short; the slightest accelerator pedal pressure kicked-in the gasoline engine. Also, the Ni-MH battery depletes quickly and replenishes slowly.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The focal point of all Lexus models is their signature spindle grill, which allows no middle-ground when it comes to liking or not liking it. I like it, especially when framed with chrome-plated surrounds and Bi-LED headlights. The RX 450h features smooth surfaces with both soft lines and cut edges. The roofline, with a floating effect, has chrome rails that end at a spoiler over the rear hatch window. Clean Fleet Report’s RX 450h had the optional panoramic power moonroof—that really was panoramic.
There are very few chrome bits and pieces, and what is there is found on the large front grill, accenting the side windows and on the rear lower fascia. Be sure to look for the blue “h” on the rear deck as this is the only way to tell the RX 450h is electrified.
Driving Experience: Interior
If you can imagine an interior feature or treatment that should be on a premium car, Lexus packed it into the posh and comfortable RX 450h. Clean Fleet Report’s test car came with the Premium Package option, that added leather-trimmed seats as an upgrade from the standard NuLuxe synthetic leather. The heated and ventilated front seats are 10-way power with lumbar support. Second row passengers get climate controls and folding armrests with cup holders, and a 60/40 folding and reclining bench seat.
Gauges, including the hybrid management system, are in easy sight and the controls are in easy reach, including those for the dual-zone automatic temperature system. The heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel contains audio telephone and voice controls. The full color head-up display is very handy; it’s a technology that should be standard on all cars.
The Lexus infotainment system includes the Enform service for the first 10 years. The 12-speaker system provides excellent sound to deliver SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM with MP3 playback capability. Dual USB ports with iPod connectivity, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and hands-free phone capability complete the system. All this is viewed through a 12.3-inch, high-resolution touch-screen.
I found the sound system interface to be needlessly cumbersome, compared to many other easier-to-use systems we experience at Clean Fleet Report. The joystick-like knob caused too much eyes-off-the-road when going from function to function. It became a distraction and a safety issue when in tight city traffic.
The 2019 Lexus RX 450h is well-equipped with active and passive safety features including 10 air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rear view camera, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and lane departure alert with steering wheel and lane keep assist.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2019 Lexus RX 450h AWD has a MSRP of $45,995. Clean Fleet Report’s total price, including $10,175 in options, came to $56,170. Pricing excludes the $1,025 delivery fee.
The 2019 RX 450h comes with these warranties:
- Basic Four years/50,000 miles
- Powertrain Six years/70,000 miles
- Hybrid Eight years/100,000 miles
- Maintenance One year/10,000 miles
- Corrosion Six years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Four years/Unlimited miles
The 2019 Lexus RX 450h has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is their highest safety rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated it at a Top Safety Pick.
Observations: 2019 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid AWD
The 2019 Lexus RX 450h AWD only comes in one base trim level, making it easy to customize with options and packages. The fuel economy and performance make spending time in the comfortable, well-appointed interior a pleasant thought.
This version of the RX 450h debuted in 2016 and has had small tweaks over the past few years. The entry price for a well-equipped hybrid midsize SUV, at under $46,000, is very attractive. When visiting your Lexus dealer, request to speak with a Lexus factory trained specialist that will explain the hybrid technology in detail.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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