Expert Reviews

2020 Lexus RX 450h Review

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

When it comes to mid-size luxury crossovers, Lexus has been flying high thanks to the success of its RX, which debuted back in 1998.

There are still plenty of older RX models on the road and running strong, furthering Lexus’ image of bulletproof reliability. Today, the RX has plenty of rivals vying for sales in the burgeoning segment, but Lexus maintains its success through more than just its reputation.

The 2020 model has an updated design and a new infotainment system, and is packed full of convenience and safety features while maintaining a competitive price. The RX 450h hybrid model sweetens the deal with a fuel-friendly powertrain as well.

While other vehicles in the class boast gimmicks like gesture controls, ceramic coated knobs, bouncy suspension, and digital assistants that talk back to you, Lexus remains squarely focused on the basics, and it seems like the gas-electric RX has them pretty honed.

Power: 7/10

Although the powertrain in the RX 450h is smooth and plenty usable, it’s the one area I wish Lexus updated for 2020. The 3.5L V6 engine operates as expected, and is augmented by a pair of electric motors for combined output of 308 hp. Each electric motor helps power an axle, giving this RX 450h all-wheel drive. There’s a continuously variable transmission (CVT) at play here, helping optimize the powertrain’s efficiency. It doesn’t have the same oomph as other vehicles in its class, but it can get going with urgency. I’d wish for a bit more power to play with, but the Lexus features a quiet and unobtrusive powertrain that gets the job done.

Fuel Economy: 8.5/10

The advantage to the Lexus’ modest output is that it features fairly good fuel consumption. It’s rated to return 7.5 L/100 km in the city, 8.4 on the highway, and 7.9 combined. Our tester was wearing winter tires, and that impacted fuel economy a bit, as we saw around 9.0 L/100 km during our testing. This is still better than vehicles like the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid, and even some plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) operating in hybrid mode, like Volvo’s T8 powered SUVs (the XC90 and XC60).

Driving Feel: 7.5/10

What makes the Lexus RX 450h so good is its on-road manners, which are easy to get accustomed to. The vehicle is compliant with most inputs and rarely feels nervous, skittish, or floaty in motion. While the steering is a bit vague, with limited feedback, the chassis is firm enough to communicate how the vehicle is managing inclement weather like snow and slush.

This vehicle won’t plaster a smile on your face as it carves corners, nor will it leave a trail of burnt rubber between stop lights, but it will get you to and from destinations with ease. The CVT can feel a bit alien to those who are new to this type of automatic transmission. Everything else simply works.

Styling: 7.5/10

It’s been about five years since we were first introduced to the eye-catching design of the fourth-generation Lexus RX, and it’s fair to say that the styling looks decidedly less polarizing nowadays. Not only is the aggressive design in line with the rest of the Lexus lineup, but the big grille and narrow lights have become a common sight on many other vehicles. Fortunately, the chiselled body of the RX helps it stand out.

The interior looks a bit dated in places, and it’s clear that Lexus is playing it safe with the design of the RX’s cabin. Controls for the HVAC settings are clearly labelled and easy to find, and the red leather upholstery that’s part of the priciest F Sport package is a colourful treat for your eyes. However, anyone who has spent time in other Lexus vehicles – including the LC, LS, or even the ES – will recall those sedans sporting some exquisite wood and fabric trims and accents. Despite being a bestseller for the brand, the RX misses out on these unique appointments.

User Friendliness: 7.5/10

Examining the user-friendliness of the RX is a tricky subject. We’ll start with the perennial pain point: The infotainment system that’s operated via a console-mounted trackpad. While the 12-inch touchscreen is large and easy to glance at while driving, using the touchpad while in motion is a struggle. The good news is that for 2020 the vehicle gets support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which adds the helpful Google Assistant or Apple Siri voice recognition systems. If you’re going to drive an RX without using either smartphone system, be aware that it can be a frustrating affair.

Features: 8/10

Heated seats are a wonderful feature to greet you in winter weather, as is the heated steering wheel, but our RX 450h tester with the $7,900 Luxury Package has a few other goodies including ventilated seats up front, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, integrated garage door openers, and paddle shifters. There’s also a pretty comprehensive suite of safety features and driver assistance systems as well. A $13,800 Executive Package goes beyond the Luxury Package to include a head-up display, wireless phone charger, and an upgraded Mark Levinson audio system.

Safety: 8/10

Standard for all 2020 Lexus RX models is the Lexus Safety System 2.0, which includes features like pedestrian and bicycle detection collision warning, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control that can bring the SUV to a complete stop and resume driving in stop-and-go traffic, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Our tester also featured parking sensors found in the Premium Package. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the RX as a Top Safety Pick, which is the second-best rating handed out by the institute. The IIHS says the headlights aren’t the brightest and don’t provide much illumination in left-hand curves. Fortunately, high-beam assistance is available and handy in dimly lit conditions.

Comfort: 8/10

A luxury car should coddle you, both in terms of ride quality and appointments, and the Lexus doesn’t disappoint. The cabin is fairly serene, though the winter tires provide a slightly unpleasant soundtrack on dry roads. The seats are supportive and feature lumbar support as well as thigh support to ensure you don’t go numb on long trips. The rear seat is spacious too, and the seats slide forward and backwards for extra versatility.

Practicality: 7.5/10

Behind the second row of seats, you’ll find a maximum of 694 L of storage space, plenty for luggage, strollers, or a massive Costco grocery run. Two levers in the cargo area fold the rear seats, although they don’t fold flat and have a tiny incline. Once those are down there’s 1,580 L of space, which should help when moving bigger items. The liftover height is a bit too high, however, meaning you’ll really have to lift with your legs.

The Lexus has a few handy cubbies and storage pockets, leaving passengers with plenty of at-hand storage. I also appreciated the USB ports for charging devices.

Value: 8.5/10

The RX is solidly above average but doesn’t do anything exceptionally better than the competition. However, the price tag is attractive. The RX 450h starts at $58,800. Then there’s the $7,900 Luxury Package, bringing the total to $66,700 before freight and fees. The Luxury Package can be replaced with the $13,800 Executive Package, adding high-tech extras like a head-up display, wireless phone charger and an upgraded sound system.

The Lexus is more affordable than the Acura MDX, and better value than the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. The hybrid powertrain also adds value through less-frequent trips to the pump. Finally, the Lexus RX is noted as being one of the most reliable vehicles on the road. Ask any RX owner about their maintenance and service history and there’s a good chance they’ll express satisfaction. This is a major part of the appeal with this vehicle, and one that can’t be overlooked.

The Verdict

The Lexus RX proves, over time, to be a capable companion on the road. It’s easy to get comfortable with, is a well-suited size for families or couples, and is practical, fuel-friendly, and uniquely styled. The only criticisms I have are with its middling power output, its mundane interior styling, and the fussiness of the infotainment system, at least when you’re not using the smartphone compatibility. It’s an easy SUV to recommend and this trend continues into 2020.

Engine Displacement 3.5L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 308 hp @ 6,000 rpm combined
Peak Torque 257 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel Economy 7.5/8.4/7.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 694 / 1,580 L seats down
Model Tested 2020 Lexus RX 450h
Base Price $58,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,075
Price as Tested $68,875
Optional Equipment
$7,900 – Luxury Package, $7,900