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The longer Lexus RX L joins the CAR daily driver fleet

Published: 07 February 2019

► Lexus RX L long-term test
► We live with new 2019 RX450h
► Long wheelbase with seven seats 

Month 1 of our Lexus RX450h L long-term test: the introduction

The new Lexus RX L ticks lots of in-vogue boxes: from its crossover silhouette to its seven-seat multi-practical package; from the design-chic Lexus premium badge to its bang-on-trend electrified hybrid powertrain. It’s a wonder you don’t see more Lexus petrol-electric cars on the road (brand sales were 13 times smaller than BMW’s or Mercedes’ last year), as it seems to answer a lot of questions that modern car buyers ask of a vehicle.

I’ve been one of those drivers who got away. I’ve never lived with a Lexus for an extended period in 21 years of road testing. Now’s the time to put that right. Having attended the global launch of the newly stretched RX450h L in Switzerland last summer, I was rather taken by the peculiarly styled SUV. I know its limitations (what on first acquaintance seems like a hopeless infotainment system not designed for Western European fingers or sensibilities), but was still won over by a deeper, more fundamental quality.

I like this. While other manufacturers chase sporting dynamism over all else, following faddish trends or pursuing pointless Nordschleife lap times, I’ve long admired Lexus’s devotion to a simpler objective: to build distinctive cars of the utmost quality, powered by unerringly modish petrol-electric hybrid powertrains with pampering interiors and a focus on outright quality – of cabin materials, mechanical and electronic reliability and dealer service. 

Lexus RX L interior: a comfy cabin

Isn’t that a laudable objective? It’s barely changed in the brand’s three decades on this planet and I must confess to worrying a little whenever new managers come along and profess a desire to add sporting intent to the Lexus lexicon. Cars like the fizzy LC coupe and LFA supercar are all well and good, but this sensible RX is surely where the brand’s centre of gravity lies. 

The RX L’s additional 110mm length is enough to make this the brand’s first seven-seater in Europe. We’ll be testing that third row of seats with family duties and school runs, while the enlarged boot stretches to a cavernous 966 litres in five-seater mode (or 495 with seven seats in place). It’s a huge space. As a dad of two with a new dog, I like this.

Ours comes in Premier spec, which means it’s absolutely loaded. Only two options are fitted (metallic paint and electric sunroof), taking the price to £63,635. The bronzed Sonic Titanium paintwork is so far doing a fantastic job of looking bright and resisting the winter smear. Whatever your take on the chiselled, pointy styling, it’s certainly distinctive.

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Lexus RX 400h: the original petrol-electric hybrid SUV

First impressions are that this will be a comfy, reliable, pampering and roomy six months. Isn’t that what family transport should be? But there are a lot of questions to be answered – which is exactly what the CAR long-term test procedure is designed for. Can a petrol-electric hybrid SUV prove economical in the real world (Lexus quotes 47.1mpg combined economy and 138g/km of CO2)? Is there enough dynamism to go with the luxury and practicality? Can I possibly learn to live with – let alone like – the joystick-operated infotainment? In short, should you consider a Lexus ahead of similar products from the Germans or Brits?

I suspect 2019 is going to be rather relaxing, laid-back and Lexusy. I find this strangely calming. My blood pressure is receding even as I write about it.

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Lexus RX450hL Premier

Price £61,995
As tested £63,635
Engine 3456cc 24v V6 petrol, 259bhp @ 6000rpm, 247lb ft @ 4600rpm, plus 165bhp/247lb ft (front) and 68bhp/103lb ft (rear) electric motors  
Transmission CVT, all-wheel drive  
Performance 8.0sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 138g/km CO2  
Miles this month 120  
Total 352  
Our mpg tbc  
Official mpg 47.1  
Fuel this month n/a
Extra costs None

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