Lexus RX450h Sports (2009) review: Lexus RX450h Sports (2009)

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Excellent fuel economy. Well sorted hybrid system. Plush. Spacious.

The Bad Not much fun to drive. Looks like the old model, but less elegantly rendered.

The Bottom Line It's neither pleasing on the eye nor much fun to drive, but the RX450h scores big points for its hatchback-like efficiency and plush, spacious interior.

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Exterior design

When we reviewed the petrol-run RX350 in 2009, we opined that the previous generation model was a better looking beast. After having spent some significant time with the RX450h, our opinion hasn't changed. The current RX bears the old model's general shape, but seems to have been wrought with a thicker, less elegant brush with a bunch of fussy elements added in for good measure.

That said, our RX hybrid came dressed in black and that non-hue does much to hide many of the car's stylistic sins. Although it's only 4cm larger in any given direction, the new car looks significantly bigger. With its black body work, tinted windows and chrome highlights, the RX has an almost gangster feel to it.

The tailgate weighs as much as a small bank vault and is thankfully powered, allowing it to open and close on its own. Behind it is a plentiful amount of boot space, which can be extended via the fold-down rear seats. Shame then that there's a dearth of decent luggage hooks to hold shopping in place.

Xenon headlights that follow your steering are fitted on both the Prestige and Sports hybrid RXes; the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury model gets even more advanced LED headlights. LED brake lights, powered folding wing mirrors, roof rails and lovely 18-inch alloy wheels are standard on the Sports model.

Interior design

The waterfall dash from the previous generation RX , that we were rather partial to, has been binned, a victim of the new Remote Touch system. Mounted vertically on the dashboard, the gear lever looks rather awkward but falls nicely to hand. We really do wish that Lexus would do away with its foot-operated parking brake, though.

While the black interior doesn't really reach out and grab the optic nerve, the leather seems to be the same rich stuff used in the IS250 . Every seating position, except maybe the rear pew's central position, has ample room, even with the front seats pushed all the way back. One could conceivably fit a platoon of giants inside the RX without too many issues.

The front seats are big and comfy, but you do need to be of a certain width to gain much cornering support. Both front seats offer electric adjustment, while the rear seats slide, recline and flip down via a handy set of levers located in both the seat base and also in the boot. Do be prepared to let out a Thomas Muster grunt when lifting them back up again — they're heavy buggers.

Ghastly walnut trim blights various parts of the interior, including the steering wheel, centre console, shift lever and electric window controls. Bright Optitron instruments — with OLED backlighting no less — provide a welcome distraction.

Features

With in-car gadgets the order of this decade, the RX offers three 12V outlets. One's in the boot, the other two hide underneath a false floor in the centre console bin. This is also where the 3.5mm auxiliary jack lives, so it's a great way to keep iPod, phone and other chargers out of sight. It can make car hopping and impromptu use a bit of a pain though, and there's still no USB slot to be found.

Standard equipment on the Sports includes dual-zone climate control with vents for the rear seats, parking sensors front and rear, rain-sensing wipers, moon roof, heated electric front seats with three memory settings, keyless entry and keyless start, electric folding wing mirrors and automatic xenon headlights.

Safety gear includes eight airbags, ABS, traction control and stability control. The hybrid RX's radar-guided cruise control not only keeps a safe distance between the RX and the car in front, but is also a handy way of ensuring that you don't get snapped by speed cameras.

Entertainment and navigation

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Where to Buy

Lexus RX450h Sports (2009)

Part Number: CNETLexus RX450h Sports (2009)

Typical Price: $96,900.00

See manufacturer website for availability.