Seven-seater version of beautifully built Lexus hybrid SUV
The Lexus RX L is a seven-seated version of the Lexus RX, a large SUV that's been offering buyers the choice of hybrid capability for 20 years.
Hybrid SUVs scything through big cities might be commonplace now, but it wasn't the case in the late nineties. Then Lexus came along with the original RX, changing the way posh city dwellers drive. Now people could choose a large car with an imposing seating position that was also kind to the environment.
The RX is equally as good away from tight city streets, and now it has another string to its bow - seven seats, in the form of this RX L.
The RXL goes toe-to-toe with the likes of the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport. It's pitched as a standalone model that sits alongside the five-door RX. Lexus reckons two thirds of customers will choose five seats, while one third will opt for seven.
Lexus RX 450hL: the seven-seater SUV
Only one variant is sold in the UK: the RX 450h L. The h in that name signifies that it’s the hybrid petrol-electric version. Other markets elsewhere in Europe offer a petrol-only powertrain, but it’s not available here.
The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is mated to an electric motor on each axle and the RX L constantly juggles between the power sources; there is an EV Mode button on the centre console that drivers can select if they want to whirr around town silently for ultimate eco-warrior status. Just be mindful that you can only drive for a couple of miles before the small battery will be depleted and the engine kicks in to take over.
Do I have to plug in my Lexus RX L?
No - it is not a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. Instead, the V6 petrol provides charge to the nickel metal hydride battery pack under the rear seats and this is why Lexus has started referring to the technology as a self-charging hybrid.
The system works well and there is little complication for drivers to tackle; merely slot the automatic transmission into D for Drive and set off. Electronics constantly shuffle the power supply, the only indication of what’s happening being the electronic display between the speedo and power supply dial.
Lexus RX 450hL prices and specs
With only a single engine available, the RX L price structure is very simple. UK prices start from just under £53,000, around £1,300 more expensive than the regular five-seat RX.
Choose from two trim levels: RX 450hL and Takumi.
RX 450hL 20-inch alloys, keyless entry, 12.3-inch infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric tailgate
Takumi (in addition to standard car) Heated/ventilated front seats, 360-degree camera, Mark Levinson Surround Sound System
Lexus RX L review: what's it like to drive?
It’s important to realise that the RX 450hL shares the same wheelbase as the regular RX - the underlying oily bits are the same and there is no change to the distance between the wheels. Instead, the extra space comes from an elongated rear end, stretched by 110mm.
So, it drives in a very similar fashion to the five-seat car. The Lexus RX L is now a long vehicle at precisely five metres and heavy at around 2.2 tonnes, but it never feels unwieldy. Although the parking sensors and cameras are really appreciated when squeezing into tight spaces.
On the road, the RX 450hL has a laid-back gait: this is an extremely relaxing car to drive, with impeccable refinement, whisper-quiet powertrain and little wind noise (double glazing helps here). At a cruise, it is extremely impressive.
However, that peace is disturbed somewhat if you go for an overtake or drive up a steep hill; the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearbox sends the revs soaring sky-high as the V6 engine wakes up and provides its thrust. In fairness, the powertrain is much better than earlier iterations and in day-to-day driving, it’s much more relaxed.
It is impressive how frequently the car runs on electric power alone; a green EV logo lights up in the dashboard and you simply cruise silently for long stretches in and out of town, virtual halo firmly intact above your head.
If you want a dynamic, more involving drive, we’d look at the more engaging BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport; the RX is somewhat detached and sterile, even in Sport mode. But we commend its focus on chilled-out comfort: it’s bang-on for the Lexus family character and SUV buyers favouring comfort and premium luxury over cornering prowess will love it.
Practicality and those seven seats
Lexus RX 450 hL rear-most seats are good enough for occasional useEnlarge0videoEnlarge41photo
Accommodation in the front and middle rows is generous. There is no transmission tunnel at all for the second row, meaning lots of space for feet. Headroom is plentiful too.
There is an impressive 150mm of fore-aft adjustment of the middle row, letting you juggle space for luggage and limbs. Crucially, it also means you can slide the bench forwards to ease entry to the third row (an easy, one-handed affair).
Seats six and seven fold up and down electrically and are best reserved for children or small adults on short journeys. Room for head and legs is tight, though competitive with the class norm, and there’s third-row climate control as standard so kids in the back can be as cool or hot as they wish.
Perhaps more impressive than back-row accommodation is luggage space: unlike some seven-seaters, the boot is a decent size at 495 litres when set up as a five-seater. Pop down both rows of rear seats and the cargo bay stretches to an echoing 966 litres. With all seven pews up, there is 176 litres worth of space in the boot.
Build quality is exceptional throughout; Lexus has interior quality licked and we have every reason to expect the RX L to be a safe and trouble-free long-term proposition.
Lexus RX 450hL emissions and running costs
This is one of the RX’s party tricks: its hybrid powertrain brings with it devilishly attractive tax and running cost advantages, especially if you’re a company car driver. There is no diesel option at all.
Claimed CO2 emissions start at 185g/km, rising to 186g/km for models with a sunroof. Fuel economy meanwhile is stated at 34.4mpg. In reality, we expect 40+mpg to be a feasible result in typical driving.
Be warned that service intervals are shorter than the German competition’s: you’ll have to visit your local Lexus dealership every 10,000 miles or annually. Insurance group rankings vary between group 41 and 43, depending on which spec level you plump for.
Lexus RX 450hL infotainment
The Lexus received an updated infotainment system in 2019 - something it desperately needed. The old one was outdated and fiddly becuase it used a mouse-operated multi-controller system.
Luckily, the new system is a lot easier. The 12.3-inch central touchscreen is methodical in design, while if you don't want to use that on the move there's a trackpad with haptic feedback like you'd find on a high-end phone.
It all works effortlessly, although there are lots and lots of options we suspect many people may not ever use, and it's still not as easy to use as traditional systems like you'll find in the BMW X5. At least the Lexus has physical buttons for the heating system - unlike the Volvo XC90.
Phone connectivity is also here with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which basically make the car's infotainment system work like your phone.