The RX is already a great luxury car, but a few tiny changes could make it better.
We recently spent a week with the 2016 Lexus RX450h. Through the first six months of 2016, the RX was the top selling luxury car in the US with 49,412 units sold since January. And after driving the RX, it's easy to see why so many people purchased one. That said, the RX, like any car, is not without its faults. So in order to provide a balanced view, we decided to compile a list of our favorite features and things that we might change on the hybrid crossover.
Our Favorites: 1) The first thing that made us fall in love with the RX was its amazing convenience. Lexus cars are designed in such a way that the little things that normally irritate you in a car disappear. This is done with a few specific features. First, in order to enter the car, you can simply leave the key in your pocket. This makes entering and exiting the car simple, but honestly, a Corolla will do this as well. The Lexus sets itself apart when you push the start button: following which the seat slides forward and the wheel moves closer to you. When you shut the car off, the seat slides back, and the steering wheel rises to make ingress and egress as simple as possible.
For "big-boned" buyers, this feature is a must have. Lexus has nailed the feeling of luxury here. The RX welcomes you into the interior like a trusty butler welcomes you into a millionaire's mansion. Everything is automatic including the seats which automatically know whether to apply heat or ventilation. 2) Once inside the RX, you can feast your eyes on our second favorite feature, the wonderful materials. Almost everything that you touch in the RX has a feeling of quality. The leather is supple, and all of the armrests are nicely padded. Even the stereo knob feels like it's made of a dense metal that belongs on an expensive stereo system from the 1980s.
3) and 4) The interior quality is not the only standout feature in the RX. The three and four slots on our list are filled by the RX's Panoramic View Monitor and Color Head Up Display. The Panoramic View Monitor makes parking easy by piecing together images from cameras that are mounted around the vehicle. Basically, parking the RX is like driving a car in a video game. The car can be viewed from a top-down perspective while every obstacle in your path is also brought into sharp focus. The Head Up Display is another cool feature. The display shows information such as speed, RPM, speed limit, and radio stations on the windshield. Basically, you never have to look away from the road.
5) My final favorite feature is the Mark Levinson Premium Audio System. If you're not an "audio snob" you may not care much about having an upgraded stereo. However, the Levinson system in our RX450h included 15 speakers, and came with the larger 12-inch navigation package for $1,510. Compared to the expensive systems in many German cars, the Levinson system sounds fantastic and represents an absolute bargain. Although we loved these features in the RX, there were also a few minor things that we might change to make the car absolutely perfect.
Things We Might Change: 1) One small issue that we had with the RX was the bouncy suspension at slow speed. This is actually more of a complaint about all SUVs than the RX specifically. In comparison, the Lexus ES sedan more compliant at slow speeds, whereas the tall suspension in the RX caused it to bounce around. 2) Another, slightly bigger issue that we had with our particular RX, was the hybrid system. In our full review, we said that the gas-engined RX350 would probably be the car we would buy. The hybrid RX costs around $10,000 more than a regular RX, and we weren't that impressed with the car's electric driving capabilities.
You can drive the RX450h on electric power alone, but only at slow speeds when the battery is charged up. You really can't get away with driving the car at normal speeds without relying on the engine. Adding more electric range would make much more sense in our eyes. 3) and 4) Another improvement we would make on the RX is to the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. We loved most of the safety features on the RX like the blind-spot monitoring and the around-view camera. However, the lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise were not the best. The Adaptive cruise control was fine, but the system doesn't work to a complete stop.
While great on the highway, unlike more advanced systems from say Tesla or Mercedes, you can't use it in stop-and-go traffic. The lane keep assist was mostly fine, but kept buzzing the steering wheel when we were driving on a tight back road. Lane-keep assist is not a bad idea, but it only seemed to kick in when it didn't really need to. 5) For our final change, we wanted to talk about the continuously variable transmission. Like all CVTs, the RX's transmission seemed a bit sluggish. When you need to accelerate in the RX450h, the 308 horsepower is delivered in a very weird way thanks to the CVT. However, a week with the car revealed why a CVT is actually a fine choice.
The RX450h is an uncompromised luxury car. Some luxury cars pretend to be sporty, which ruins the luxury feel. The RX is unapologetic in its level of comfort and the CVT is very smooth. We kept it on the list because the automatic transmission in the standard car is also extremely comfortable, but offers a better feel of quick shifts when you need to pass someone. It's no surprise that the Lexus RX had a few faults. All cars have at least a few. However, we can clearly see why the RX outsold other luxury car like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class so far in 2016. SUVs are dominating US sales, and the RX is an ideal model to lead the SUV charge.