As the luxury crossover that started the craze over twenty years ago, the RX450h has big shoes fill, especially in F-Sport AWD guise. It certainly looks the part, but is it all flash and no dash? Likely, though that’s probably not going to keep you from buying one as the RX450h F-Sport proves yet again that Lexus really knows how to make the ultimate people mover. Read on to see why it still sets the bar for what a luxury crossover entails.
Out of Spec Score: 69/100
Alright, I get it. Lexus’s current design language isn’t for everyone, with most criticisms being pointed at the massive grills. That said, I think the 2021 RX450h F-Sport takes a step that’s certainly in the right direction, massive grill and all. Let’s start with the grill actually. Compared to the pre facelift version, it flows much better and is actually a lot more refined, especially when all black in F-Sport guise. I’m not sure if I don’t hate it or if I am just used to it at this point. Either way, it flows well with the aggressive headlights and an aggressive front lip that could actually fool you into believing the RX450h in F-Sport trim has some sporting potential.
I actually really like the overall silhouette of the RX, and while it does have some funky lines that tread very close to erring on the side of ‘over designed’, it works really well as the fundamentals of a good looking crossover are all there, especially in this 450h F-Sport spec. Other F-Sport bits that help the pseudo ‘sports’ aspect include a different front bumper and mesh grill, small wing on the trunk, a more aggressive rear valence. I may be an outlier, but I actually really like it, and think that in F-Sport trim specifically it looks good, dare I say it, good. As controversial as it may be, I score the RX450H F-Sport a 7 out of 10 for styling. Perhaps we will add a comment section so you can argue about it amongst yourselves if I am delusional or there is some merit to this score
One thing a Lexus typically exudes is no nonsense luxury, and the RX450H in F-Sport guise certainly continues to accentuate that motif. A mix of premium black NuLuxe synthetic leather and scored aluminum make the RX450h F-Sport’s interior a grandeur place to spend time. A driver oriented center console wrapped in scored aluminum is home to conventional buttons for both audio, heating, and air conditioning controls. It looks posh but is still ergonomic. Housed above the center console is a 12.3 inch infotainment system for the F-Sport that offers great pixel quality and is easy to navigate.
If you don’t want to use the touchscreen function (it is a bit out of the way) there is the option for a haptic touchpad on the center console as well, though I found this more difficult to use than the touchscreen.
The best part about the whole thing? The analog clock on the center console. Timely jokes aside, it embodies everything you expect from an RX; simple and elegant luxury that is no nonsense, earning it a score of 7 out of 10.
The sporting potential of the RX450h F-Sport stops with the name and slightly modified looks, as the F-Sport isn’t actually that sporty, which is to be expected. In total, the hybrid drivetrain makes 308 horsepower, though only 247 pound feet of torque through a CVT transmission. Internal combustion comes courtesy of a 3.5L direct injection V6, and on our particular F-Sport, all wheels are powered. Frankly, it felt pretty slow, though power delivery was smooth and that’s what the RX is known for. I can’t help but wonder however, how much quicker are some of its German rivals such as the X3 xDrive30e and Audi Q5 PHEV? The RX450h F-Sport has enough power to move out of its own way, but frankly at this price point, it’s not enough, especially as a hybrid.
Find yourself approaching a corner and not all is lost, despite a smooth ride the RX450h F-Sport with the handling package performs okay for what it is supposed to be, a soft luxury crossover. Steering is light and numb in typical Lexus fashion, though the sport tuned dampers don’t allow for much body roll and are firm yet not overbearing in sport mode which does inspire a bit more confidence. Braking was about what you would expect, though nothing to write home about or earn it any points back. Overall I score the RX450h F-Sport at a 4 out of 10 score for performance, which is unlikely to bother any potential buyers.
Alas, a category more geared towards the RX. One of the best bits about the RX in general is how easy of a vehicle it is to live with, and while it’s not a truck or a van, the way you can just get in and go in both comfort and style commands respect. The RX450h F-Sport certainly abides by the same norm. Ingress and egress are extremely easy, which is a massive bonus for older potential buyers who the RX is generally geared towards. Cargo space is a bit lacking at only 18 cubic feet, though split folding seats do help on runs to Costco or Sam’s Club. AWD makes getting around in light snow and inclement weather less of an issue, though the standard issue all-season tires which are low profile are not likely to hold up well to larger amounts of snow.
A surprising fact about the RX450h is that it actually has a towing capacity of 3,500lbs which is still enough to haul some stuff. What I like about the RX450h F-Sport however is how easy it is to just get in and go. It’s no nonsense, doesn’t require a ton of knowledge to work the infotainment system, set cabin temperature, and so forth. If it had a bit more cargo space I would have scored it a 7 out of 10, but it lacks the space of all of its rivals such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Acura MDX.
It may be time to replace the age old saying “it rides like a Cadillac” with “it rides like a Lexus”, as Lexus has become a pinnacle of comfort in the last few decades. Even with its ‘sports’ dampers and larger 20 inch wheels, the RX450h F-Sport continues to uphold Lexus’s status as the king of comfort. Road imperfections are almost non-existent, and even large potholes or bumps don’t jar the chassis. Noise and NVH are non-existent as well, it’s easy to see why so many older buyers love this car, it’s so comfortable! Both long distance highway driving and city driving are a low stress treat in the RX.
Heated and ventilated seats offer plenty of support while also being comfortable, further adding to the experience, as does a heated steering wheel, though I must say the wheel isn’t totally heated, and depending on where you keep your hands when you drive, may not benefit you. It should also be noted that the rear seats are extremely comfortable, in fact, one of my passengers fell asleep while riding in the back after a simple lunch trip! It’s a quiet, comfortable, and stylish place to be, overall I give high marks to the RX450h F-Sport for comfort, as reflected by its 8.5 out of 10 score.
One of my favorite bits about this RX is that it doesn’t need a ton of tech to be a great daily driver, though that doesn’t mean it’s not there. A 12 speaker Mark Levinson sound system offers crisp sound that rewards both driver and occupants with rich highs, full mids, and deep bass. I listened to plenty of Thievery Corporation in my time with the RX450h F-Sport and found it to be absolutely fantastic, even if just a step down from some of the offerings of its German rivals. In addition to the sound system, the infotainment system and haptic touchpad system offer plenty of control and the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, in addition to a few more apps I will explain in the next section. The RX450h F-Sport offers wireless charging, and a total of six USB ports for charging and media control. Though it doesn’t have any crazy out of this world tech, everything you need is there, plus a bit more if you’re analog like me, earning it a score of 7 out of 10.
Connected Services 8.5/10
Lexus offers potential buyers a fair bit of connected services with the purchase of a RX450h F-Sport, all done through the ‘Lexus App’. To start, it gives owners the option to do all of the basics such as remote start or lock your vehicle, set cabin temperature, check vehicle status and location, and so forth. All useful stuff, though nothing out of the ordinary by today’s standards. Move a little bit deeper however, and you’re treated to a bit more tech, as its App Suite feature gives you the ability to use the Amazon Alexa feature to play music, order whatever you just forgot on your Target trip, and many other apps. Another feature is Lexus Safety Connect, and while a feature you likely will hope to never have to use, good to have nonetheless. Features for this include stolen vehicle locator, emergency enhanced roadside assistance, SOS button, and an automatic collision notification system among other things. Other bits include service connect, destination assist, and in car WiFi.
Another feature that helps the RX450h F-Sport earn high marks is the ability to perform over the air updates! Avid readers will know that this is something which I believe is an absolute necessity, especially on vehicles where so much of their tech revolves around apps which are updated regularly. Most of the updates are for the infotainment system, but in this case that is what needs it most. These help the ol’ Lexus earn a 8.5 out of 10 score. Not too bad for a vehicle geared towards an older group of buyers.
Active Safety 7/10
In typical Lexus fashion, there have been no compromises made to safety with the RX450h F-Sport, and Lexus ‘Safety System +2.0’ is included as standard. This includes a fair amount of active safety features that I want to focus on. Fortunately I didn’t have to test the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, but it’s there should you ever be in an unfortunate situation and need it.
Lane tracing assist works well on the interstate and highway, though I found the lane keeping assist to be a bit over ambitious in terms of the corrections it makes to keep you driving ‘straight’. Road sign assist alerts you of traffic lights, stop signs, speed limits, and things of that nature, which is especially useful if you’re not familiar with where you are traveling. All-speed radar assisted cruise control rounds off active safety, which I found to be useful and not overly ambitious to slow you down, helping the RX earn an active safety score of 7 out of 10.
While pricing for the RX450h F-Sport AWD starts at $60,175, selecting the handling package and few other bits push that closer to $70,000 which is a lot of money. Especially true when comparing how it stacks up to some of its PHEV German rivals. The BMW X3 xDrive30e starts at just under $57,000 though in typical German fashion can shoot up to $70,000 with options quicker than its more impressive 0-60 time.
Alternatively, the Audi Q5 PHEV starts at $52,995 and is also quicker and equally equipped in terms of luxury, though again options are likely to push that number north in German fashion. While it doesn’t stack up to its German rivals, who are both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles versus a regular hybrid, I don’t think that will bother potential RX450h F-Sport buyers much, as it’s likely not their first RX, and the brand loyalty with Lexus is exceptional. That being said, I must objectively score this category, and I give it a 5 out of 10 for value.
Editors Influence 8/10
Historically, it’s been easy to draw comparisons between the RX and its German rivals, though I have always thought that the RX is a vehicle that is in a class of its own so to speak. It doesn’t try to impress with performance numbers or anything like that. It’s always been a no-nonsense daily driver that impresses with build quality, comfort, reliability, and a posh interior. Arguably, it’s the vehicle that started the sports crossover trend in the first place over twenty years ago, and the fact you still see so many of them on the road is not only a testament to their reliability, but how successful they have alway been. The latest version to me is the best looking since the original RX300 and RX330. It finally looks the part, and the interior is a place that makes otherwise undesirable drives pleasant.
Were I speccing one for myself, I would probably have it without the extra $3,000 handling package, though I do think that the F-Sport looks substantially better than the regular RX450h and would spec that option. I would imagine potential buyers would take this route as well. The RX continues to set the ‘bar’ so to speak with what a premium crossover SUV should entail, and while it’s not the best at any one category, the overall fit and finish leaves you with an extremely polished and easy to live with product that no one else has quite been able to match in almost 20 years, and the RX450h F-Sport showcases that perfectly.
For those not concerned with performance that don’t mind paying a premium for a vehicle that looks the part, has an interior that is fantastic, and is as low stress to drive and own as possible while still having hybrid technology, the RX450h F-Sport is the perfect prospect. I score it a 8 out of 10 for editors influence for being perfect at what it’s made to do.