Hybrid Efficiency in a Premium SUV
Lexus knows its loyal owners want improvements, but nothing too radical. So when they are ready to get their next car, the Lexus RX 450h F Sport will certainly not disappoint, and in many ways impress them with the changes from their previous model. What won’t change is the ownership experience that begins at the dealership. Clean Fleet Report recently had the opportunity to drive the 2022 Lexus RX 450h F Sport AWD and came away reminded why more than 50% of Lexus owners return to the brand.
Refined dual motivation
The all-wheel drive 2022 Lexus RX 450h is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive, a parallel hybrid system. In the parallel hybrid system the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself or they can power the car together.
The system comprises a 3.5-liter V6 engine that runs on 95 octane and three motors that produce a total 308 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid portion consists of three electric motor generators, MG1, MG2 and MGR. MG 1 starts the gasoline engine and charges the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, while MG2 drives the front wheels and regenerates the battery during braking and coasting, and MGR drives the rear wheels and also regenerates the battery.
The power gets to all four wheels via an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters. The EPA rates fuel economy at 31 mpg city/28 highway/30 combined. In 380 miles of mixed driving through Southern California, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 31.2 mpg. The RX 450h tips the scales at 4,740 pounds, so topping the EPA estimate in a freeway-oriented driving environment is an achievement. Fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report represents the reviewer’s driving experience. Your numbers may differ.
Road Trip/In-Town Worthy
The Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive system ran smooth and quiet with no noticeable transitions between the gasoline and electric drive systems.
Set your “mode” for your situation
There are four driver-selectable settings of EV, Eco, Sport and Sport+. For everyday around-town driving and once up-to-speed on the highway, the performance from Eco was fine. However, load the RX 450h with five passengers plus their gear and the need for more power will become apparent. Paddle shifters, on the gearless CVT have limited practical value, so it is best to sit back and let the RX 450h do its thing.
- EV runs solely on electricity for about a half mile and/or only up-to 25 miles per hour.
- Eco prioritizes fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and reducing the air conditioning output.
- Sport and Sport+ sharpen the “shift” points, throttle response and steering feel. Selecting Sport mode will get you to 0–60 in about 7.2 seconds, which is certainly quick enough for anyone.
The ride was smooth on the highway and around town with hardly any thumps, bumps or other road imperfections transmitting shakes and jolts into the cabin. The unibody design, which Lexus says has increased “rigidity through additional spot welds and adhesives,” has an independent front and rear suspension, giving the RX 450h a car-like, comfortable ride. The F Sport package includes an adapted variable suspension that utilizes an array of sensors to monitor G-forces and automatically adjust the suspension dampers to improve performance.
Smooth & snazzy sailing
The electric power steering provided good road feel and, when attacking a corner with zest, the body lean was manageable. Clean Fleet Report’s RX 450h F Sport came with 20-inch wheels and Bridgestone Ecopia low rolling resistance 235/55 all-season tires, which gripped well and also provided a smooth ride on Southern California’s grooved concrete freeways. Overall the RX 450h was pleasant to drive, very predictable in its handling, but not sporty. The low 0.33 coefficient of drag (Cd) helped reduce wind noise and increase fuel economy.
Stopping was straight, with strong brakes and excellent pedal feel. The 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with ventilated discs were part of the regenerative charging system, an energy recovery process taking the usually wasted friction and heat from braking or coasting, and converting kinetic energy into stored energy. The process of using and restoring electricity to the battery can be watched in real time on dash gauges. Completing the stopping suite was brake assist, electronic brake distribution and vehicle stability control.
Well Put Together Interior
Sliding into the RX 450h the interior immediately produces a feeling of a place you want to be. The F Sport package came with black perforated NuLuxe-trimmed seats with white top stitching. This synthetic leather is eco-friendly in its manufacturing process, and is smooth and soft to the touch. The comfortable heated, power adjustable and ventilated front seats offer good support, helped by the power lumbar adjustments. There was no challenge finding a comfortable seating position with the power tilt and telescopic steering column. We also liked the center armrest’s correct height—and that it had a large storage area. Cup holders are throughout the cabin.
Where you want to be
The second-row seats are a bit higher than the front seats, offering a good view out the windshield. They slide and recline, are softly padded, and are designed for three adults. The backseat passengers had ample head and leg room, and get power ports, reading lamps, and air vents. Storage is good with the rear seat up, but expansive when the unique 40/20/40 split rear seat is folded flat. Access to the storage area, through a power lift gate with a kick sensor, has a convenient low lift-over load height.
The dash layout is simple and linear except for the color display screen, which erupts from the center dash. The straight-forward gauges, with black faces and white numbers, were easy on the eyes, and the controls were within reach for all drivers. Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs for the radio and climate controls, so Lexus earned our praise. The combination of wood, brushed aluminum, soft materials, the digital clock and the Lexus monogrammed carpets gave the RX 450h cabin a very upscale look and feel.
The heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio, voice command and telephone controls. Our RX 450h came with the upgrade Mark Levinson by Harman 835-watt sound system, which included a 12.3-inch, high-resolution split screen color display, handling navigation and the panoramic-view backup camera. The 15 speakers cleanly and clearly pumped-out tunes from SiriusXM and AM/FM/HD/CD, with connectivity through dynamic voice command, Bluetooth streaming audio, and hands-free telephone and messaging with Siri Eyes Free. The audio system is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. A wide array of features are available through the Lexus Enform App Suite, including a 4GB WiFi for a trial period.
Additional features are a very helpful color head-up display, LED ambient lighting, power and heated auto-dimming outside mirrors with memory, dual zone automatic climate control, power moonroof, carpeted floor mats with white trim, power tilt and telescoping steering column, first aid kit, rear shelf tonneau cover, day/night rearview mirror with Homelink, start/stop and de-icing, rain-sensing front wipers.
The 2022 RX 450h has the signature Lexus spindle grille with triple beam L-shaped LED headlights and LED daytime running lights and fog lamps. The hood sweeps up-to the laid-back windshield and onto a rail-equipped roof with a shark fin antenna that all ends with a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch glass and window wiper. The shelf-like LED rear tail lights continue the L-shape design cue. The 20-inch split, 5-spoke dark silver alloy wheels looked sharp against our RX 450h painted in Grecian Water, which is one of eleven exterior color options.
Safety and Convenience
The RX 450h is equipped with a full suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including active and passive safety features of 10 air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer. The centerpiece is the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 with a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, dynamic cruise control with lane tracing assist and several other warning features.
What the “L”
The rear view camera and the blind spot monitor work in-conjunction with the rear cross traffic alert and intuitive braking. When backing from a blind parking spot—and a car, bicycle or pedestrian suddenly appears behind the RX 450h—the brakes are applied instantly. This valuable safety feature comes on fast, and if not prepared, it can be a bit of a shocker the first time it is experienced.
The 2022 RX 450h earned a Four Star (out of a possible five stars) safety rating by the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded it as a Top Safety Pick.
Pricing and Warranties
2022 RX 450h AWD base price, including the mandatory $1,075 delivery, processing and handling fee is $49,870, and the F Sport is $54,800. Clean Fleet Report’s 2022 RX 450h F Sport AWD, with $7,355 in options, had a total price of $62,155.
The 2022 RX 450h AWD comes with these warranties.
- Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
- Powertrain – Six yeard/70,000 miles
- Corrosion/Perforation – Six years/Unlimited miles
- Hybrid Components – Eight years/100,000 miles
- Hybrid Battery – 10 years/150,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance – 24/7 – 365 days
- Emergency Lodging – If disabled 100 miles from home
- Maintenance – First and second scheduled services
Observations: 2022 Lexus RX 450h F Sport AWD
Current Lexus owners will be very satisfied with the 2022 RX 450h F Sport AWD. The evolution of this fine SUV over the years has made it one of the best in its class. Lexus owners get into the brand usually as their first luxury car, and stay loyal by getting a possibly bigger or more expensive model year after year. Recognized and known for affordable luxury, the RX 450h continues to impress.
Movin’ on up
For those new to Lexus, a couple of myths need to be dispelled. First, that a Lexus is just a Toyota with a higher price tag. (It isn’t!). Second, that the price of a Lexus can’t possibly match its value (It can and does!).
Lexus has been known to say it is where “luxury goes green,” which is fair and accurate. The sharp design, impressive interior room with quality materials, smooth and fuel-efficient hybrid power and safety systems are traits of the RX 450h.
Lexus has engineered the RX 450h with reduced noise, vibration, and harshness, making for a pleasurable driving experience. The comprehensive warranty is appealing, as is the respected Lexus dealer experience—from shopping, purchase and service—that is held in high regard in the automotive industry.
A bit about that Lexus dealer. If you have never shopped for a premium or luxury car, it is different. Lexus will tell you it is the owner experience begins at the dealership and continues through your many years of driving one of its cars. Speak to a Lexus owner, they will tell you all about how they are treated.
The RX 450h is a step-up from most crossover SUVs. So, when you are searching for the right SUV and have determined you deserve a bit more of a premium experience, then consider the RX 450h. You will not be disappointed.
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Story and photos by John Faulkner.
Our history with the RX through the years:
Road Test: 2020 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid
Road Test: 2019 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Road Test: 2019 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid
News: 2018 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid
In 2016 we were so taken by that year’s RX that three staffers had to take a closer look:
Road Test: 2016 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid
Road Test: 2016 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid
Road Test: 2016 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid
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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John Faulkner is Road Test Editor at Clean Fleet Report. He has more than 30 years’ experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent’s 1950 Studebaker. He is a journalist member of the Motor Press Guild.