Review: Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015)


Refined and cossetting. Strong performance from hybrid powerplant. Superbly engineered and well built. Low CO2 for a large 4x4 along with good fuel economy.

Not involving to drive. Bland interior lacks the style of other premium SUVs. Ride can be unsettled on 19-inch whees or larger.

Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015): At A Glance

Lexus isn't afraid to do things differently as the RX 450h shows. Not only does it look very different from other 4x4s, but as the 'h' in the name suggests, this is a hybrid model. It combines a V6 petrol engine with an electric motor to keep CO2 emissions low at 148g/km and also makes it exempt from the central London congestion charge. Unlike the previous RX model, there is no standard petrol version and as with all the big Lexus models, there's no diesel choice either.

That's pretty surprising given that the most popular models of nearly all large 4x4s are diesels and even the likes of the Porsche Cayenne now offer a more economical oil burner option. But while the RX 450h uses a 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit, the advanced hybrid drive system (along with clever systems such as exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and exhaust heat recovery) means it's capable of averaging a claimed 44.8mpg - considerably better than a BMW X5 XDrive 30d which does a claimed 38.2mpg on the combined cycle.

The fact that CO2 emissions are below 160g/km is good news for business users too as it means the RX450 has a writing down allowance of 20% - something no other 4x4 of this size can equal, even the hybrid versions of the Cayenne or the latest Volkswagen Touareg. And as we've come to expect from Lexus, the RX 450h is superbly engineered and feels strong and robust.

On the move it's powerful, quick and smooth plus it deals well with corners too thanks to precise steering and good body control. The only real criticism is the rather drab interior which lacks the panache and style of other premium SUVs and doesn't reflect the advanced technology of the rest of the car. The RX450h was revised in June 2012 with subtle exterior tweaks and new equipment as standard.

What does a Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015) cost?

List Price from £53,350
Buy new from £48,020
Contract hire from £545.98 per month

Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4770–4890 mm
Width 1885–1895 mm
Height 1685–1715 mm
Wheelbase 2740–2790 mm

Full specifications

Given that this is one of the most technologically advanced cars on the road and packed with technology, the interior is a bit of a let down. Yes it's very well made and feels like it will last, but there's little in the way of style and it seems drab compared to other 4x4s at this price tag. Compare it to a Range Rover Sport for instance - which has a distinctive and top-end feel to its cabin - and the RX 450h doesn't seem like it's in the same class.

There are some old fashioned features too such as the traditional automatic gearlever (where most premium makes have replaced this with something more modern) and a foot-operated parking brake where you'd expect it to be electric. Then there's the rather dated digital clock display on the central console and some rather odd-looking wood trim.

However there plenty of positives about the interior. Thanks to electric adjustment in the seat and steering column, it's easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and the raised position gives a great view out. The seats are comfortable too, although some drivers may find they lack somewhat in side support. And those in the back get plenty of leg and head space so it's great for carrying passengers on long journeys. Leather upholstery is standard on all models as is dual-zone climate control and heated seats, so you get plenty for our money.

SE-I models and above get sat nav as standard (it's optional in the SE but on a car like this it's something used buyers will expect so worth getting) which comes with a new system called Remote Touch control. It's Lexus's equivalent to BMW's iDrive system and works on the same basic principles as a computer mouse. It's designed to be quick and intuitive to use, with icons presented on the central multi-display screen that give access to adjust the audio, navigation, ventilation, phone and set-up systems.

However, it seems overcomplicated and requires quite a lot of attention, which can take your attention away from the road. This is quite ironic considering that up until recently, Lexus sat nav system wouldn't allow you to enter a destination unless you were stationary. Another problem is that when you're on the move, bumps and jolts make it hard to move the mouse.

Standard equipment from launch (July 2009)

SE is the entry-level grade and gets features including leather upholstery, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, a nine-speaker sound system with six-CD changer, 18-inch alloy wheels, 10 airbags, HID headlamps, a rear parking monitor and automatic windscreen wipers. The Lexus Navigation System and premium ICE package are available as options.

SE-I models add the Remote Touch control, an electrically operated tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, Lexus Navigation System, 12-speaker audio system and 19-inch alloy wheels. Options include a sunroof, premium ICE package, DAB audio and interior wood inserts.

The SE-L version comes with air suspension, semi-aniline leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, LED headlamps, illuminated front scuff plates, smart keyless entry and push-button start, side view camera, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio with six-DVD changer and DAB module for digital radio reception. Options include the Wood Package, sunroof and premium ICE.

The SE-L Premier model adds Lexus's Pre-Crash Safety system and Adaptive Cruise Control, sunroof, and Head-Up Display, with the Wood Package optionally available.

Child seats that fit a Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015) like to drive?

Unlike mild hybrids, which use supplementary electric motor power simply to boost the performance of the petrol engine, the RX 450h is actually full hybrid, capable of operating in both petrol and electric modes alone, or in a combination of both. So essentially it combines the fuel efficiency and reduced emissions of a 'series' hybrid with the acceleration benefits of a parallel hybrid.

The RX 450h's total power output is 295bhp, giving it an impressive 0 to 62mph acceleration time of 7.8 seconds and it certainly feels very quick when you plant your right foot. The CVT automatic gearbox (which comes as standard - there's no manual option) can take some getting used to though. It's actually better if you accelerate gently - if you're aggressive on or when coming off the pedal, the Lexus tends to pitch a little. Going flat out also highlights the RX 450h's other weakness, the lack of grip. Despite being four-wheel drive, all that torque makes the Lexus feel a little light on its toes and it can feel like it's struggling to transfer all that power to the road, especially in the wet.

The actual engine is a 3.5-litre petrol unit that's based on that used in the RX 350, but has been adapted specifically for use in a hybrid. It produces a maximum 246bhp along with 317Nm of torque and also features three Lexus hybrid 'firsts' to optimise the fuel efficiency - Atkinson Cycle, Cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Exhaust Heat Recovery (EHR).

As a result the RX 450h has one of the lowest claimed fuel economy figures of any large 4x4s with an average of 44.8mpg while emissions are just 148g/km of CO2. There are three driving modes - Eco, EV and Snow. EV mode allows the car to be driven under electric power alone, with minimal noise and zero CO2 and NOx exhaust emissions, up to 25mph. Ideal in town or when in slow moving traffic.

On more demanding roads, the RX 450h feels very surefooted. There's little in the way of steering 'feel', due mainly to the fact it has electric power steering which although weights up at higher speeds, still feels pretty lifeless. But it's positive and sharp in corners and certainly gives you plenty of confidence. It's also particularly stable and quiet at higher speeds and this refinement makes the RX 450h a great long distance car which effortlessly covers motorway miles.

The ride can seem a little unsettled over rough surfaces. Ironically it's better on the SE and SE-I models which come with standard suspension, including a double wishbone rear suspension set-up. The top SE-L and SE-L Premier models come with electronically controlled air suspension which surprisingly isn't quite as forgiving.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
450h 45 mpg 7.7–7.8 s 127–145 g/km

Real MPG average for a Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

26–41 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Lexus RX 450h (2009 – 2015)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

I have bad hips and a bad back - what's the best car to offer me back support?

I have a small estate which was comfortable enough when I purchased it. Recently I have found my back and hips disagreeable - a medical issue. The car is not helping in the slightest. I am offered little support by the driver's seat and find that I cannot extend my legs properly. The car is an automatic. I would like to stick to automatic if I can - using a clutch in traffic will cause me a lot of bother with my hip. I'm 6ft4 and slim. I'm looking for a used car that is as economic as possible, easy to get in and out of and supports my legs and back properly when I am driving. I am in my early thirties. I would like something which is relatively stylish. I guess I want 'my cake and eat it'. It may be that I have to compromise. I have looked at various SUV option and keep coming back to the RX450h. Owner reviews claim that the seat support is good and the MPG is as good as it gets for a car of this size and within my price range. Given my circumstances, where should I be focusing my search? My budget is £8-12k.
An SUV sounds like the right move for you. An RX450h is a left-field choice but a very good one. It's a comfortable and reliable car that doesn't have the strong brand image of German rivals, making it surprisingly affordable. Provided it's been serviced regularly, I'd happily buy one with more than 100k on the clock. I'd question if it suits your driving, though - hybrids are at their best around town, so if you cover a lot of motorway miles consider a diesel instead. Alternatively, I'd perhaps recommend a smaller (and newer) crossover SUV. Something like a Kia Sportage ought to be comfortable but you'll get a much newer one for your money.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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