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Review: 2016 Lexus RX 450h – Smooth, Refined Luxury SUV


This post originally appeared on Tundraheadquarters.com.

The more I drive luxury vehicles, specifically SUVs, like the 2016 Lexus RX 450h, the more I am convinced there is no other luxury SUV on the market which combines a smooth powertrain and a refined luxury interior so well. Lexus 350 RX and 450h SUVs, for me, are just at another level.

Review: 2016 Lexus RX 450h - Smooth, Refined Luxury SUV

The new exterior is much sharper and styled than previous models.

Newly redesigned and updated for this year, the 2016 Lexus RX 450h features some radical exterior styling differences, a new interior and a revised hybrid powertrain. It builds on the past success of the best-selling RX lineup of vehicles which arguably turned Lexus from an afterthought into a household name.

New 2016 Lexus RX 450h Exterior/Interior

Review: 2016 Lexus RX 450h - Smooth, Refined Luxury SUV

The styling is definitely more polarizing than in previous models.

Last year, I got my first taste of the new 2016 Lexus RX 450h styling in Raleigh, South Carolina last year. This new styling is much sharper than the previous generation and after a week driving it around, I’m still pretty mixed.

Something I said back then in November, I think can be repeated.

“I’m concerned the styling is going to polarize people and I’m not sold on the entertainment and technology feature improvements.”

I still feel the same. The technology works just fine after getting the hang of it, but the learning curve could be easier.

Also, I would love to see some sort of navigation on the front screens for the rear-seat DVD systems. Having to pull over to start a movie for my kids, who are young enough to not know how to use the remote, is aggravating. Plus, with the rear-seat DVD system being operated solely by remote control, I wonder what happens WHEN the remote control gets lost or broken. Note, I didn’t say “If.” I have kids and it is really just a matter of when not if!

Review: 2016 Lexus RX 450h - Smooth, Refined Luxury SUV

A nicely designed and laid out interior.

Back to the interior and exterior. I have absolutely no gripes on the interior quality as to materials and seat comfort. The driver’s position, while feeling a bit more like a cockpit than I prefer, is pretty good and the button/knob layout is well within reach for most people. Oh and by the way, the auto heated and cooled seat option is pretty cool. Typically, I forget to turn this own and having the vehicle turn them on automatically is handy.

The Powertrain!

Review: 2016 Lexus RX 450h - Smooth, Refined Luxury SUV

This engine and powertrain is simply impressive.

While I maybe mixed on the exterior and interior styling, I’m absolutely certain I LOVE this powertrain. It is smooth, powerful and even fun (gasp for a hybrid). This is one of those vehicles you could drive all day and still enjoy it.

Also note, while my test model didn’t have the F Sport package, I’ve driven it and the previously mentioned event. It is quite impressive.

The combination of the re-engineered 3.5L direct-injection V6 hybrid engine combined with the Lexus Hybrid Drive system produces 308 HP @ 6,000 RPMs and 248 lb-ft. of torque at 4,600 RPMs. This literally puts you back in the seat when you want it to and is smooth off the line when you don’t.

Lexus says they reshaped the intake ports and combustion chambers inside the cylinders to improve combustion and it does just that.

It is mated to an electroncially-controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) which includes a “hybrid front transaxle with new features including a transmission oil cooler for motor cooling, a pre-loaded differential for performance and enhanced control.” The transmission oil cooler is new to me and is an interesting idea to keep the engine cooler and thus reduce heat to improve fuel economy.

Review: 2016 Lexus RX 450h - Smooth, Refined Luxury SUV

Even though it is a hybrid, there is still plenty of cargo room.

For AWD models, like my test model and all hybrids, the rear transaxle has an electric motor with a “reduction drive, features a new three-shaft configuration and aluminum case and cover to reduce weight.” Again, more smart upgrades.

Finally, the Power Control unit and HV Engine Control Unit (ECU) have both been redesigned to improve energy efficiency, driver experience, a lighter and more efficient electric water pump and a smaller hybrid battery.

These changes all add up to a hybrid SUV which returns an EPA-estimated 30/28/30 city/highway/combined for AWD (non-hybrid AWD is 19/26/22 city/highway/combined MPG). Really good in my opinion.

Review: 2016 Lexus RX 450h - Smooth, Refined Luxury SUV

While the front is a bit much, the rear wraps very nicely.

For all of this luxury and performance, buyers will see a starting MSRP of $53,635. My test model came in at $64,610 after a variety of optional packages and a $940 destination fee. One of the things prospective buyers will have to weight is a pretty substantial price difference. The non-hybrid RX 350 starts at $44,420 in AWD while the hybrid starts at $53,035. Interestingly, the price gap is less when considering F Sport models with the RX 350 at $50,320 and the RX 450h at $56,645. The F Sport price difference is going to make a tough decision for many buyers.

Model: 2016 Lexus RX 450h AWD

Engine: 3.5L V6 + Electric Drive Motors w/Lexus Hybrid Drive

Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable


  • All-Weather Perfomance – $1,400
  • Cold Weather Package – $315
  • Power Folding Heated Rear Seats – $840
  • Color Heads-Up Display – $600
  • Lexus Safety System w/ Triple Beam LED Headlamps – $2,250
  • Touch-Free Power Rear Door – $200
  • Luxury Package (semi-aniline leather-trimmed seats, wood and leather heated steering wheel, 20″ alloy wheels w/color inserts, rear door sunshades, LED ambient illumination, LED illuminated door seals, stainless rear door garnish and rear bumper protector, 4-way power lumbar support for driver and passenger) – $3,125
  • Panoramic Moonroof – $500
  • 12.3″ Navigation System – $1,510
  • Dual-Screen Rear-Seat Entertainment System – $2,095

Price as Tested: $64,610 + $940 Delivery, Processing and Handling Fee


Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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