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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review: 2021 Lexus RX 450h

Believe it or not, the Lexus RX is my idea of the “perfect car.” This is the one I’d get if I was monied enough, or if I won the lottery. It is, for me, the ideal entry for the one-car garage contest, considering the Philippine setting. It successfully meets all my criteria: it looks classy (but not flashy), it’s roomy (but not bulky), it’s efficient (but still punchy), and best of all, it’s a Lexus, so the build is bulletproof.

The original Lexus RX started as a rather frumpy looking thing, but the latest one is anything but. The current generation, having first debuted in 2015, is long in the tooth. It was designed during a time when Lexus designers thought adding random angles, and slapping on a big grille would make their cars look aggressive (spoiler alert: they don’t). A refresh four years later cleaned things up a bit, but it still won’t be mistaken for a runaway knockout.

What the Lexus RX lacks in head-turning looks though, it makes up for in build quality. It is simply peerless. The Deep Blue Mica paint is aptly named with its deep luster and shine. Panel gaps are consistently small, and the doors open with a nice, weighty feel. More than the spindle grille, this quiet attention to detail makes it truly desirable in my mind.

The same can be said with the interior: it is unquestionably luxurious. All the controls are slick and well-damped, while details such as the soft leather-trimmed door pulls go a long way to lift the ambience. It must be said though that I’m not a big fan of the Rich Cream semi-aniline leather (I’m pretty sure it’ll be pain to keep clean), so thankfully Lexus offers a choice of five other colors (my personal favorite being Ocher).

The seats are downright comfortable, and finding the best driving position is easy thanks to the Lexus RX’s wide range of seat and wheel adjustments. As an added bonus, everything that can be fitted with electric motors has been fitted with one (including seat cushion extenders). This makes recalling the desired seating position as easy as one button thanks to the three-setting memory function for both front occupants.

Despite its button-filled center console, everything is easy to use and understand. Well, everything but the recurring villain of every Lexus interior: the laptop-style touchpad. Thankfully, the large 12.3-inch screen can be operated by touch. And if you want by-pass everything altogether, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. There’s even a wireless charging port located just in front of the shifter. Sadly, for all the display’s wow factor, the rear camera’s still pretty low-rent.

Compared to other premium mid-sized SUVs, the Lexus RX is purely a five-seater (there’s the RX L, which is a model on its own). That said, unless you really need to ferry around more than four friends, you’re hardly going to struggle for space in this version. As it is, there’s plenty of room up front, and the interior layout (and color scheme) promotes an enjoyable airy feel. Plus, it’s got a reasonable amount of cubby holes including a smartphone holder than can easily swallow an iPhone 8.

There’s also room for three adults in the back, thanks to the absence of any hump on the floor, and the second row can even be reclined, electronically for additional comfort.

Because this particular Lexus RX is the RX 450h, the sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries does eat into the cargo room. The end result is a loading bay that’s smaller and shallower than what its exterior size suggests. However, 453 liters is still pretty good for the weekly grocery run (or a round of golf). Plus, the rear seats can be slid forwards or back to either increase passenger leg room or luggage space, or be dropped altogether using buttons in the cargo hold. Oh, and at least it’s got a proper spare tire, as opposed to a can of sealant.

Based on specs alone, the Lexus RX 450h reads like a sporty SUV thanks to its combine 308 horsepower output. In reality though, it’s a quiet and capable cruiser, making it suitable for Philippine roads.

The Lexus Synergy Drive, as the system is called, combines a normally-aspirated 259-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that drives the front wheels with a pair of two electric motors: a 165-horsepower one that helps the gasoline engine, and another 67-horsepower one that’s fitted to the rear axle to give you all-wheel drive.

It can’t match the low-end urgency of traditional diesels, but on its own, it feels faster than what its 2,210-kilogram curb weight suggests. As with any full self-charging hybrid, the Lexus RX 450h can run on battery power alone for short periods of time when driven gently. Those times are best to sample the 15-seater Mark Levinson surround sound system, which is frankly, the best in the business.

And even if it does need to change from volts to octane, the switch is imperceptible. The V6 engine is nicely hushed, and even as the revs soar, it does so in a mild manner thanks to all that sound deadening. As the speeds pick up, there’s very little by way of unwanted noise, save perhaps for the road noise, which is to be expected on anything running 20-inch wheels and tires.

The drivetrain’s genteel nature tells you what to expect with the rest of the Lexus RX 450h’s handling package. It’s downright cushy. Driven even on C5’s nefarious truck lane, it absorbs each and every imperfection. It can even deal with bigger obstacles like speed bumps with poise. Naturally, it rarely excites when it comes to driver involvement, but even so it’s predictable and tidy. Oh, and the regenerative brakes, at least, feel natural.

Priced at P 5,238,000, this premium mid-sized SUV already represents more than half of my total net worth. This means I’m not exactly the target market for this (yet). But for those who’re in the market for such an SUV, the Lexus RX 450h is well-loaded. Perhaps the most glaring omission is the lack of Lexus Safety Sense; it’s a missed opportunity to come up with the full package.

This being the first time I’ve actually driven the Lexus RX, there’s always a danger that it’ll fall prey to the adage, “never meet your heroes.” The 2021 Lexus RX manages to avoid that. It lives up to every single of my expectations, and then some. This is one hero I’ve glad to have met, and it’s a vehicle whose appeal I understood quickly. And if you really want to know, yes, it’s still the front-runner in my dream one-car garage. I guess it’s time to mine those bitcoins.

2021 Lexus RX 450h

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Ownership 2021 Lexus RX 450h
Year Introduced 2015 (Refreshed: 2019)
Vehicle Classification Mid-sized SUV
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Mid-sized SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection, Atkinson Cycle
Layout / # of Cylinders V6
BHP @ rpm 259 @ 6,000 (308, combined)
Nm @ rpm 335 Nm @ 4,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 14.08 km/L @ 28 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,890
Width (mm) 1,895
Height (mm) 1,685
Wheelbase (mm) 2,790
Curb Weight (kg) 2,210
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050 235/55 R 20 (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 10
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2,
3-pt ELR x 1
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED)
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Power
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic, Electric Adjust
Steering Wheel Material Leather/Wood
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 10-way, Ventilated
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 10-way, Ventilated
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40, Sliding, Electric Fold
Sunroof Yes
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Dual w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB x 4
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 15, Mark Levinson
Steering Controls Yes


  1. How's the fuel-efficiency rating?

  2. CVT?? Eww. Plus a battery that costs hundred thousands to replace? That sucks.

  3. whats wrong with modern CVT? also cost of battery even 100K + is nothing to those who can afford to buy this.

    1. Don't feed the troll. He's been trolling almost every single article.

    2. Its jarring seeing a cheap cost saving transmission be put in a 5M vehicle. And the battery is not 100k+. You're looking at around 300k to 400k a battery.


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