Lexus’ answer to BMW’s M Sport and Audi’s S line models is the RX 450h F Sport. Is it a convincing alternative? 

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The RX F Sport 

What is the Lexus RX 450h F Sport?

This is Lexus’ next generation model of the RX 450h, and it’s got something to shout about. The new F Sport is not the only sporty 4×4 to hit the UK roads, but it certainly grabs lots of attention.

Super SUVs are seen as slightly controversial – can there really be such a thing as a sporty 4×4 that weighs 2205kg? Well, it certainly hasn’t stopped them selling in increasingly large numbers to a unique customer base. And that explains why Lexus presented the RX 450h F Sport.

Following on from the standard RX 450h, Lexus unleashed the F Sport SUV which promised to provide a noticeable improvements, with sharper, more dynamic performance and overall styling with a newer, more contemporary trim. Featuring an automatic gearbox with four-wheel drive, the Lexus hybrid powertrain combines and switches between a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and an on board electric motor, depending on driving style and conditions.

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The fiery red dash display 

What is it like to drive?

Instead of a rev-counter, the dash displays how ‘green’ you’re driving in at any given time. When the needle is in the Hybrid Eco section, this is where the petrol engine automatically stops and restarts when required. When the needle hovers in the charge section, this indicates that the energy is being recovered via regenerative braking.

Essentially, if you move off gently the RX is in full electric mode, and when driving through town, the RX will run purely on electric power. But when you ask for it, the swift 4×4 supports the petrol engine to seamlessly deliver you with extra power. And assuming the power indicator on the dash needs no explanation; we can move onto that all important button and unleash Sport Mode.

Its 3.5-litre V6 is certainly quick with a noticeable amount of torque at 247lb ft, and in Sport mode the F Sport really does come into its own. From a driver’s perspective, the experience is quite entertaining; the instrument panel switches from a relaxed hybrid blue to a deep fiery red, throttle responses sharpen and when given the right foot instruction, you can feel the 295bhp’s worth of acceleration.

When engaged, Sport mode modifies the steering and throttle settings and provides less-intrusive operation of traction control. Even under hard acceleration, the CVT automatic gearbox does hold the revs high, so the growling V6 can be heard, adding to the overall Sport sensation. To put it out there, the F Sport is a success.

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On board Energy Monitor 

Performance

Lexus claim the F Sport can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and go on to reach a top speed of 124mph. Although impressive, these figures produced by the 3.5-litre petrol engine do sound slightly average. But don’t be fooled, because the F Sport can easily put a smile on your face when you feel that V6 push you back into your seat. And that is unexpected.

On the other hand, the F Sport claims it will average at 44.8mpg and has a confirmed CO2 figure of 145g/km, making it one of the most tax-efficient 4x4s available. But when it comes to reality, in mixed travelling conditions and even at a steady pace on the motorway, the F Sport struggled to achieve an average fuel consumption of anything above 39mpg.

For drivers who prefer to be shifting up and down through the gears, the automatic gearbox may be somewhat unappealing. Like any luxury 4×4, they’re designed for you to sit back and enjoy the journey, while the RX does the work for you. The engine is mated to a CVT automatic gearbox which provides seamless and not to mention, instant gear changes. In Eco Mode, the F Sport is exactly what you would expect; smooth, precise and easy to work with.

But in Sport, although gear changes remain sharp, the F Sport doesn’t seem to offer anything new. It’s easy to expect more. But that’s all for the negatives, and the F Sport does come equipped with the S drive option; pop the RX into Sport and work through the gears with the centre shift leaver, and the RX will deliver responsive power when you want it; you’re completely in control.

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Testing the F Sport’s 4×4 strengths 

Ride and Handling

Sport mode also sharpens the steering and stiffens stability, but there are still noticeable sensations of body roll and the steering feels a little on the light side. Therefore, the RX does lack the sense of grip and control. The traction control is a little less intrusive in corners, allowing you to squeeze as much power as you can, and the new lateral damper system is designed to provide further stability and driver comfort by absorbing even the smallest vibrations.

The F Sport shows surprising precision when it comes to ride and agility, remaining composed along any country lane or road. But nevertheless, it does remain unsettled and a little on the firm side. Due to the stiffer suspension, potholes and poor surfaces are more apparent in the cabin than you would expect from a luxury 4×4, especially at low speeds. If you’re wondering about the ride environment, when powered by battery alone, the RX is extremely quiet, and it remains that way when you up the pace. Journeys are practically undisturbed and remain peaceful very with little wind or tyre noise; even on the motorway.

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Well-equipped interior and centre console 

Interior

The F Sport version of the RX is certainly the best-looking hybrid 4×4 Lexus is yet to build. Starting off inside, the F follows the traditional element of standard Lexus luxury combined with a spacious, well-built cabin. There is a huge amount of legroom for passengers, both in the back and in the front, and the boot is perfectly satisfactory. You never need to worry about finding a comfortable driving position either because, not only does the RX come with fully adjustable heated electric leather seats, the driver is also able to programme three of their preferred driving positions in its memory.

The F Sport is very well equipped. All entry-level SE models come with keyless entry, climate control and Bluetooth, while the F Sport also comes with the extras  from the luxury trim and Sport package, which includes front and rear parking sensors with an on board reversing camera, LED headlights, satnav upgraded stereo and extra detailing. The multifunctional steering wheel means it’s easy to navigate through the menus and select available driving options, and the modern trim which includes those distinctive aluminium pedals, adds to the whole sporty theme.

The centre console is easy to function and the infotainment screen is just the right size; although the remote touch control pad can be a little tricky to use when selecting various navigation or in-car setup menus, especially when you’re on the move. A feature that is available on the infotainment screen and dash display is the Energy Monitor. This indicates the flow of energy between the engine, the battery and the wheels, allowing you to monitor where the RX is sending its power during travel.

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Sport trim and ‘spindle’ grill look menacing 

Design and Exterior

The RX certainly looks menacing. All RX models are now fitted with the new look ‘spindle’ grill and the F Sport comes with 19 inch darkened alloy wheels as standard. The Sport model also has a newly designed and prominent front bumper with detailed styling on the grilles and air intakes. It’s certainly unique.

The aluminium styling coupled with the new daytime running LED headlights and built in fogs enhance the visual appearance, making the RX recognisable and even more attractive on the road.

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19inch smoked alloy wheels come as standard

Buying and owning

At a price of £51,995, the RX 450h F Sport does have a lot to offer. Equally easy to drive as it is to play with, the hybrid-powered AWD F Sport essentially combines eco friendly and luxury motoring with sporty characteristics. It does have its faults, but the RX 450h F Sport is good all-rounder and it’s sure to surprise you.

Quick facts

  • Price £51,995
  • 0-62mph 7.8 seconds
  • Power 295bhp
  • Torque 247lb ft
  • Top Speed 124mph
  • Economy 44.8mpg
  • CO2 145g/km
  • Kerb weight 2205kg
  • Engine V6 3456cc petrol engine plus electric motor – Lexus hybrid drive technology
  • Gearbox CVT with AWD
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