More Than Just Numbers: 2017 Lexus RX 450h F SPORT
Hybrids are a hot commodity in the Toyota/Lexus brand. After all, they’ve seemed to crack the code that certain automakers can’t hack. So then it was no surprise that when Lexus gave their ever so popular RX crossover a complete redesigned in 2016, their hybrid version, RX450h made a comeback tour. And now for the first time, Lexus is offering this hybrid in an F SPORT trim.
F it Up
Opting up for the F SPORT trim tacks on an extra $3410 to its $53,035 base price. The F SPORT is only available in all-wheel drive form and comes with a host of appearance features that certainly stands out at the Nordstrom’s valet stand. It also upgrades the standard RX450h to incorporate adaptive variable suspension as well as a SPORT + on the drive select. While the SPORT + is there to provide a pleasurable, enhanced driving experienced, adjustments made to the throttle mapping and changing the gauges to a sportatious illumination didn’t really do much for us. And considering its clientele, it’ll be used as much as the steering wheel paddle shifters – once to see what it is and then never used again.
Much like the non-hybrid variants, the F SPORT doesn’t enhance the hybrids performance numbers. Much like the standard hybrid we tested in the later part of 2016, this F SPORT uses the same 3.5-liter V-6 harmonizing with an electric motor to produce a net horsepower rating nearing the 308 range. To help move along this 5000lb crossover, the hybrid system uses a continuous variable transmission in lieu of the standard six-speed found in the non-hybrid version that can make this hybrid pretty spry reaching sixty mph in around about 7-seconds.
Supposedly, engaging SPORT + was to alter the electric steering, but we never really noticed quite the difference between Normal, Sport and SPORT +. It did indicate a sportier side than the non-f-sport RX Hybrid utilizing that adaptive variable suspension that seemed to help maintain body control when the going got tough. Even with 20-inch F SPORT wheels, the Lexus maintained that plush Lexus-ie ride quality that we love so much.
Not As Seen On TV
Don’t believe everything you see or hear. Even though the rated EPA mpg claims over 30 mpg in this hippopotamus of a crossover, don’t forget, there’s a lot of weight packed into this thing and fuel economy is going to vary. Around town during our daily jaunts of dry cleaner runs, office duties and torturous off site meetings, we managed to average 26 MPG in the city – not quite the 31 MPG the EPA had suggested. During our 250 mile highway run however, we did manage to for see 28 MPG. Additional drive modes between Sport, Eco and Normal can swede the verdict on MPG; however, depending on how you want your RX to perform, we found it best just left in Normal.
The hybrid system in the RX450h works fairly well, even considering its weight. Electric mode activates at low range speeds allowing us to save those extra sips of fuel. The transition between gas and electric was noticeably harsh in our tester, however, it is summer here in the desert and the heat can be a bit brutal on our cars, thus never called for a worry.
The Finer Side of Premium
There is a fine line between premium and luxury – the interior territory of the RX is teetering that slackline. The high quality of the fit and finish throughout the cabin is like indulging in a chunk of Teuscher – you just don’t want it to ever end. There is hardly any noticeable use of plastics and the richness of the finishes have a bravura display of exquisiteness. The added F SPORT trim brings in sport enhanced heated and cooled front seats that are more comfortable than business class on British Airways and complaints never got filed by the commodious rear leg room.
Tech is never short of any surprises either with an enormous 12.3” high-definition display that’s controlled through the mouse like puck. Not to mention the the rockin’ Mark Levinson Premium Sound System and all greatest safety gear found behind the RX450h with adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane keep assist with departure alert.
It’s a tough sale in this era to quantify a $4000 price jump on a crossover that only sees a few MPG’s more than its non-hybrid sibling, which is also available in an F SPORT variant. But for those that want to see more than just numbers, the justification between the two will have to be your deciding factor.