Road Test: 2018 Lexus RX 450hL

For those who thought the Lexus RX was a tad short on people or cargo room, there’s good news. People will now be able to enjoy more space thanks to the new three-row Lexus RX 450hL and L (non-hybrid).

The RX created the luxury crossover segment 20 years ago and has reigned supreme as the most popular luxury utility vehicle on the market. The 2018 RX 350L and RX 450hL models retain their stylish figures, but now offer the choice of six or seven-passenger capability, or simply more overall cargo room.

With the RX L models, Lexus drivers will now have the option of a third row without compromising the sleek styling and easy maneuverability that they have long valued. By modifying the vehicle packaging, Lexus designers and engineers extended the body length 4.3 inches at the rear and used a steeper tailgate window angle than on the two-row models – ensuring good headroom for third-row passengers.

The standard seven-seat version uses a 40/20/40 split bench-type second row seat. Access to the third row is made with the touch of a lever that slides and folds the second seat forward. The available six-seat configuration features second-row captain’s chairs that make third-row ingress/egress easier with a walk-through between the two chairs.

Lexus designed the third row of the RX 450hL to offer the same comfort and luxury as in the middle row. The positioning of the second row is slightly higher than the third row, creating more foot room for rear passengers. Standard leather-trimmed upholstery is standard for the first and second rows, in the choice of Black, Stratus Gray, Parchment or Noble Brown.

A tri-zone climate control system gives third-row passengers separate heating and air conditioning vents, a nice touch for added comfort.

When it comes time to move stuff, power-folding feature of the third row seat makes it easy, as does the power tailgate. With the third row folded, the cargo area becomes expansive and the perfect companion for trips to the garden nursery or hardware store.

As we stated, the RX 450hL is simply a longer version of the RX we all know and love. The dramatic mix of sharp creases and curves  are shown off well in the Autumn Shimmer paint, and the signature spindle grille is set off by the elegant chrome-plated surround and luxurious LED headlights that use three unique L-shaped elements per side. The headlights are incredibly bright, featuring automatic high beams and cornering lights.

The blacked-out C-pillars create a floating-roof effect that we’re seeing in more crossovers and like a lot. The spindle theme repeats at the rear, with L-shaped LED taillights enveloping the tailgate and wrapping into the rear fenders. The 20-inch wheel designs enhance the powerful-looking stance of the RX 450hL.

Lexus is also trying what Infiniti tried a few years ago; the paint features a scratch-resistant self-restoring coat, using a high-performance macromolecular polymer. It won’t repair deep scratches, but you can most likely say goodbye fine swirls in the clear coat!

Standard Lexus Safety System+ includes pedestrian detection, lane keeping, and full-speed radar cruise. The radar cruise and lane keeping work beautifully, probably our favorite application to date in a Lexus vehicle.

Blind spot monitor, intuitive parking assist, rear cross-traffic braking, and the panoramic view monitor are optional and worked well during our testing.

Under the hood is where this luxury crossovers magic happens. Pairing our favorite powertrain, the 3.5L V6, to two electric motor-generators, the RX 450hL produces 308 combined system horsepower for strong acceleration and passing performance. It sounds fantastic doing it too.

The hybrid AWD system is unique. Instead of transfer gears and a driveshaft to the rear wheels like nearly every other AWD vehicle, engineers installed an independent rear electric motor to drive the back wheels when needed to help maintain optimal traction.

On the road, the RX 450hL rides smooth as silk. Some might find the ride too isolating, but when comfort is paramount for everyone onboard, this is the best crossover out there.

The steering is light yet secure, and body lean is controlled, making this an excellent suburban or highway cruiser, but definitely not a canyon carver.

EPA fuel economy numbers are 31 mpg city, 28 highway, 30 combined, and we easily averaged 31 in a week of mixed driving.

The large, power adjustable form-fitting seats, richly finished wood trim, and even the detailing of the analog clock just blends together to create a Lexus sanctuary of relaxation.

The full-color Heads-Up Display (HUD) system projects key information ahead of the driver on the windshield to help so that eyes can remain on the road.

Our test vehicle featured the navigation package with a audiophile-quality mobile sound 835-watt, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Advanced Clari-Fi™ compressed music restoration technology instills new life into digital music files.

The large 12.3-inch high-resolution infotainment display offers a full-screen navigation map with 3D graphics, or it can split the screen to show audio, climate controls, or the hybrid power system. Interfacing is completed through the mouse-like Remote Touch Interface.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered for 2018 RX vehicles and as of publishing, will not be available for 2019 models.

All RX models do offer Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect complimentary for the first 10 years of vehicle ownership though, an excellent benefit that used to only be a one-year trial.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 10
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 10
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 8
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 9
Infotainment 8
Crash-Avoidance 9
Total Score 93

Make: Lexus
Model: RX
Trim Level: 450hL
Engine: 3.5L V6
Transmission: CVT
Options: Nav/Mark Levinson, Luxury, Panoramic View, Triple Beam Headlights, HUD, Ventilated Front/Heated Rear Seats

Base Price: $50,620
As-Tested Price: $63,940

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