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In-depth reviews

Lexus RX SUV - Engines, drive & performance

Rear-wheel-steering makes the RX nimble around town, but it isn’t engaging to drive on a twisty road

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

The Lexus RX shares its underpinnings with the smaller Lexus NX; that car was set up primarily for comfort and the larger RX is no different. The steering rack is incredibly light and doesn’t exactly give much feedback on a twisty road. Regardless, flick the drive mode switch into ‘Sport’ and the RX can still provide a modest amount of fun when asked to.

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Lexus offers the RX with optional four-wheel-steering to make the two-tonne behemoth feel a lot more manageable around tight city streets. Standard on high-spec cars, this system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of those at the front at low speeds to reduce the size of the turning circle. The result is a car that feels much more manoeuvrable than you’d expect.

This is the best-handling RX so far, but there are some downsides to its extra rigidity. While the Lexus is still comfortable most of the time, the suspension can crash through some bumps.

Lexus RX SUV hybrid engines

The RX engine range kicks off with the 350h; this produces 247bhp from its 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol hybrid engine and electric motor system. For such an economical powertrain, the 350h’s performance offers nothing to complain about. Getting from 0-62mph takes eight seconds, though this feels even quicker thanks to the instant torque from the electric motor.

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Like before, however, anything more than gentle acceleration causes the petrol engine to kick in, with an audible drone that’s at odds with the RX’s character. It’s far happier at a gentle pace, where the petrol engine settles down and the CVT automatic gearbox provides a relaxed feel.

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Next up is the plug-in hybrid RX 450h+ which uses the same 2.5-litre motor as the 350h. However, thanks to a more powerful electric motor, overall output is increased to 304bhp (with an impressive 572Nm of pulling power), which cuts the 0-62mph time down to just 6.5 seconds.

Lexus expects the RX 450h+ to be the most popular version in the UK, and we found it pays to learn to adapt to how the powertrain works best. With an e-CVT automatic gearbox, hard acceleration tends to lead to a flare of engine revs and a bit of a drone from the engine. More progressive acceleration results in very smooth acceleration, with no gaps required for gear changes. Instant torque from the electric motors helps the RX feel quick around town, and silent running in EV mode suits the Lexus’ relaxing nature.

The range-topping RX 500h is the fastest and most dynamic model in the range. Its 2.4-litre turbocharged engine and rear-mounted electric motor produce a muscular 366bhp, getting the car from 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds. While this can’t keep up with M-badged variants of the BMW X5, it should be more than enough power for most people and it’s the only version fitted with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Choosing the 500h also nets you a couple of mechanical upgrades as part of the F Sport package; this comprises a sportier bodykit as well as a firmer suspension setup and better brakes. In reality, the difference over the 450h+ is subtle, but body lean is better kept under control and the large brakes feel powerful without being too grabby. Power comes in a smooth surge, but the automatic gearbox is left to do its own thing, with the paddles not proving particularly responsive for manual shifts.

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