Test Drives

Lexus RX 450h F Sport 2015 Review: Flying Hybrid

Portland, Oregon – 
Okay, tell us all about this new RX. It looks bitey…
You’ve read our review of the 2.0-litre turbo-powered RX, and learnt everything that’s new about the car too. Here’s the range topper of the new RX lineup: The 450h hybrid in F Sport trim. 

The package adds familiar changes: F Sport body kit, a blacked-out grille, F Sport badges both outside and in, exclusive red seat colour and so on. More importantly it also adds Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which itself is tuned for sportier spring and damper rates – you can opt for AVS on non-F Sport cars too. The driver also gets an active F Sport display with the large central binnacle inspired by the LFA supercar, plus an additional F Sport menu that displays G-force traces and lap times.

That sounds like it’s capable. How much power does it have? 
The new RX 450h soldiers on with ‘just’ 313bhp, which is admittedly modest compared to cars like the BMW xDrive40e and Volvo XC90 T8. But Lexus (and Toyota) has always been more deliberate in its approach, the less likely to sacrifice reliability. 

The Hybrid Synergy Drive petrol-electric system is a familiar one, in its fundamentals anyway: An electric motor for the front wheels, a 3.5-litre V6 engine, an electric motor for the rear wheels for all-wheel drive capability, and a nickel metal hydride battery pack residing beneath the second row of seats.

Ah but does it feel any different?
Like any other hybrid Lexus, you begin the drive in absolute silence, then shuffled along quietly and smoothly by the electric motors alone (there’s an EV mode button, as typical). Handover to the V6 engine is almost imperceptible, and the system builds power in a hushed, gradual swell. If anything, the hybrid experience makes the RX’s immense refinement even more noticeable.

But does it feel…better?
Surprisingly, yes. The engineering team tuned the hybrid system to deliver more torque from the electric motors earlier and quicker, for a more direct response overall, even in Eco mode. The brakes are also notably good, for a hybrid car, with plenty of feel and bite, and lack the sort of jerky ‘all or nothing’ response earlier hybrids have been plagued by.

New to Lexus is the Active Stabiliser System, which is incorporated into AVS, with what Lexus terms ‘roll skyhook control’. Cleverly, it uses the active nature of the AVS and adds a prediction to what the car is going to do, for example enter a right hand turn, then the dampers are activated to counter the resulting forces before the car’s actually turned in.

So you’re saying it can tap dance?
It sure can, and impressively so. You’ve already read of the tidier handling of the RX – AVS adds a significant improvement on top of that. The RX 450h F Sport handles in an uncanny fashion, entering corners extremely flat and with almost no bodily disturbance, whether from the road surface or the car’s own momentum.

The drive mode switch is still present on the dash – Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+, the latter which activates the more aggressive setting for the dampers. There’s also a new addition ‘Customise’ (sic) mode, which lets you mix and match component behaviours, although the feature was not present on the pre-production test units when we drove them.

If it sounds like the new RX 450h F Sport is a lean, mean, corner-carving machine, that actually isn’t far from the truth. With the car’s improved steering feel and crazily-composed cornering behaviour, it’s come a huge way from the lazy-but-relaxed nature it used to have, the old hybrid most of all

Is there a catch?
Well the only F Sport models for the RX in Singapore (when it arrives in Q4) will be the 200t and 350, not the hybrid, which will only come in luxury trim. But since the hybrid F Sport has a bit of a busy ride quality (especially in the back, perhaps due to the battery weight), that means the F Sport treatment applied to regular gasoline models should have good results indeed.

Lexus RX 450h F Sport

Engine 3,456cc, 24V, V6
Power 263hp at 6000rpm
Torque 335Nm at 4600rpm
Electric Motor(s) 167hp front, 68hp rear
Battery Pack Capacity not quoted/NiMh
System Power 313hp
Gearbox CVT
Top Speed 200km/h
0-100kmh 7.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.7L/100km
CO2 131g/km

Price TBC
Availability Q4 2015

Also Consider: BMW X5 xDrive40e, Volvo XC90 T8

For more information flip to the CarBuyer Guide

about the author

Derryn Wong
Has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. Is particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.