2015 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid Crossover SUV Review

By Arison Knapp on August 28, 2015

2015 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid Crossover SUV Review

by Arison Knapp

The 2015 Lexus RX Hybrid Crossover SUV stands out on-road and online. It presents a pleasurable driving personality with pleasing production quality and eco-engineering. The “Crossover” dynamism of this Lexus is built on the pillars of being a luxury SUV with nimble sedan handling and light off-road ability. The impressive soothing silenced cabin, comfortable smooth ride and high fuel economy for its class is why I chose this ride.


The highly awarded RX Hybrid is in its final year of production for the current generation before a full redesign next year. Now eight years into this 2nd generation and one redesign three years ago, the RX Hybrid receives a small batch of contemporary updates throughout. Updates include more standard infotainment, safety and available options with a base MSRP of $48,560.

The 187.8 inch long four-door, five-passenger RX Hybrid has aged well. It still holds up and even surpasses other new hybrid luxury SUVs in many crucial areas. Lexus continues to hold the award for the best mileage, most spacious front legroom and the most luggage volume fitting up to 80.3 cubic feet of cargo which tops the class above the Audi Q5 Hybrid, Infiniti QX60 Hybrid and Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

Styling, Lighting and Wheels

Crossover SUVs today have styling cues and tricks to bring out an athletic image and this RX is one of them, one of the pioneers. The Lexus sport sedan body styling is true to form by actually being built on a sedan chassis.


Piercing the wind at the front end and grabbing my attention first is the beautifully cut, chrome lined hour-glass shaped blacked out grille and lower fascia. Connecting the grille to the soft arching fenders are new wide swept back dual-beam headlight clusters.  This year there’s an option of an HID lighting package where the cluster is lined with LEDs plus LED fog lamps. The lighting illuminated the roadway with safe solid coverage using a striking whitish-blue hue from all blended together. Two things I’m dissatisfied to find; the low beams aren’t equipped with active moving illumination for lighting through turns and the high beam is yellow halogen.


Rolling your eyes down past the angular but softly curved fenders, you’ll see new optional 19 inch wheels in a 5-spoke split spoke design. They are colored in a light alloy, dark machined graphite is also available. Advancing your vision up and past the new wheel you’ll notice the sharply creased character line right below the side windows that starts all the way at the headlights and works itself boldly to the rear tail lamps. Along with the character line also enhancing the side’s tight profile is a tucking in of the lower belly of the doors which looks fit and aerodynamically designed.

Locking in that sports character in the rear is the low sloping C-pillar which has a similar angle as the A-pillar brandishing a racy balanced design look. Visibility while driving was spot-on through the front and sides, however that thick rear C-pillar and dark tinted glass was difficult to see out to my blind spot even at twilight.


Platform and Propulsion

Beneath the Nebula Gray Pearl paint color shown in our WTR? photographs is a front-wheel drive bias unibody chassis which has been enhanced with reinforcements to achieve that Lexus strength and sound proofing. It really feels planted, tight and together piloting the RX thru its unique suspension setup that is unlike any its class.

Riding with four-wheel fully independent suspension it has a common well-performing MacPherson strut design in front.  Unexpected is a double-wishbone design in the rear. I was pleased with the response of the chassis and suspension maneuvering abilities through the power steering of the RX around the city and on highway. That shining star attribute is dimmed a bit by its non-alarming, non-engaging steering feedback. I would have liked more feel dialed into the steering to allow better placement of the vehicle at slow speed. Parking was a bit of a Helen Keller event.


Jetting this luxurious thoroughbred up to speed is Lexus’ Hybrid Synergy Drive system getting an outstandingly good 32 MPG city, 28 MPG highway for the front-wheel drive variant we are testing now. It combines a punchy naturally aspirated 3.5-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine and a 116-kilowatt electric drive motor mated to 288-volts of nickel metal hydride batteries all cycling through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nailing you and your cruising guests into the back of their leather seats is a combined 295 HP.  Independently; 245 HP and 234 lb-ft of torque from the engine and 115 HP from the motor. Flying you a solid 516-miles on a full 17.2 gallon gas tank isn’t the best distance in class but the day-to-day mileage is where this RX makes up.


The hybrid accelerator pedal is a bit slow to respond but when power kicks, it rips up to speed, it pours on the coals and whips this beast into traffic quickly. I never felt inadequate in any traffic at any speed. The powertrain and suspension gave me sufficient giddy-up and traction in most situations. There are four different driving modes; EV, Normal, Eco and Sport, to change how the vehicle handles and responds to inputs. Most drivers, I imagine will leave it in Normal. I had quality time working with the Eco decreasing power to save fuel and Sport mode that increases power and your driving experience. The EV mode is available once you have enough battery charge to tool around on full electric mode.


Researching a new car demands many areas of study including the operating costs, mileage, reliability and comfort but the most important area to examine is safety. First place to look is NHTSA which rates this SUV as a 5-star overall crash tested vehicle but it shows 4-stars for a frontal crash. IIHS rates it as a top contender with a Good rating however this SUV is on neither best picks list nevertheless it shows to be in the top percentile of safe vehicles on the road.


The RX is packed with safety standards such as ten airbags, Safety Connect services, electronic stability control, traction control with electronic limited slip differential effect, ABS with many features, Hill-Start Assist, tire pressure monitoring, back up camera, active front headrest and Smart Stop Technology. Optional safety features are just as important to order as standards tech like Pre-Collision System with Radar Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Intuitive Parking Assist with screen readout and a unique heads-up display shooting vehicle data onto the windscreen.

Our WTR? test RX Hybrid had close to 10,000 miles on it already so it was well broken in, in many areas, but the RX took too much leg power to stop. Not sure if it was the 4,500 lb vehicle weight that keeps the RX so composed on-road or bad brakes. I needed to think ahead to keep distance and maintain safe cruising all the time. The brakes were quick and felt smooth just not powerful. Also, speaking of brakes, there should be an electronic parking/emergency brake instead of the foot pedal brake. It does take away from opulence to see and work three pedals

In-Cabin Experience

Stepping into the RX Hybrid was a pleasure every time and where most of the design energy for this vehicle could be found. It has a ride height that is almost equal with my body for smooth ingress and egress out. No bending low or stepping up high, it was an even slide. After I was nestled in the wide and soft black leather supportive front seat I began to notice all of the standard and optional features.

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What stands out is the Premium Package’s matte finished bamboo inlays that are honestly some of the most relaxing inlays to glance at on the market. Its light coloring and non-glaring matte effect is great at brightening up the interior without blinding the passengers. Once settled-in I adjusted the 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate controls and power tilt wheel to my specs before moving on to tinker with other things. Such as the pretty white-lit OLED instrument gauge cluster and new for this year seven-inch infotainment display placed high on the center stack.


Now I’m setup properly in my seat with controls in good reach I see our RX Hybrid is optioned with the Navigation Package powered by Lexus’ Enform app suite operating system through the middle display, an over 300-watt 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, Premium Package and Comfort package. Besides the Bamboo inlays, the Premium Package also comes with a moonroof, heated side mirrors, power driver’s seat memory and those alloy colored roof rails. The Comfort Package was extremely nice to have through the hot days of summer with cooling and heated seating along with rain-sensing wipers.


Why This Ride?

• Supreme Interior Design
• Great fuel economy for class
• Comfortable Soft Leather Supportive Seating
• Well balanced chassis and suspension
• Best family trip Luxury Hybrid SUV top of class luggage volume
• Best time to buy before full redesign

Arison’s story began in rapidly evolving Seattle, Washington in the 1980’s. From a young age he gained his automotive experience working in the family business; our nation’s first and oldest personal automotive consulting and buyer’s service, AutoAdvisor Inc. Throughout working as a research car consultant he built a foundation of learning people and how cars can fit with their lives. That is his strong suit, the human to car interface. Over the last decade he harnessed his voice contributing to small print and national online news outlets reviewing cars. Today, his automotive passion has sprung into the love of all things involving motion from shoes to drones. He is an active member of the Motor Press Guild and is ready to share his expertise with WhyThisRide.

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