The long and the short of the Lexus RX450hL

Seven seat SUVs are becoming a must for families even if you only have two or three children, especially once your kids have reached the ‘tween’ years and want to have friends over or if you have been “volunteered” to help out transporting the soccer team to the next game!

But with seven seats comes other compromises like how much room the third row occupants get or what the boot space is like with the third rows of seats in use. To help deal with this the Lexus have released a long (L) version of their RX SUV, the second largest SUV in the Lexus model range. I recently spent a week with the 450hL variant with the Sport Luxury pack, which has the bonus of also being a very fuel efficient hybrid with some added creature comforts.

The RX450hL is powered by a 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine that produces 230KW and 335Nm of torque. The combination of the petrol engine with the self-charging hybrid system means that the official combined fuel efficiency is just 6L/100km and for my week of driving the RX I averaged 8.8L/100km. This is considerably better than the other seven seat SUVs I have driven recently and one of the very positive aspects of this model.

There are four drive modes to choose from in the RX450hL Eco, Normal/Customise, Sport and Sport+, plus there is a full EV mode for low-speed driving. Regardless of which mode you drive in the ride is quiet and very pleasant and the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) offers smooth gear changes to add to the comfort offered by the RX.

The leather accented seats are nice to touch and front passengers get eight way power adjusted seats that are heated and cooled. Like most systems the heating works very well, but the cooling is not the best. With the Sport Luxury pack both the driver and passenger get three memory positions for their seats, which would be good if you are sharing your Lexus with your partner and a child who is learning to drive.

The Sport Luxury pack includes a 12.3 inch multimedia screen and a 15 Speaker Mark Levinson DVD Audio system with Clari-Fi and the sound produced by this is quite exceptional. Your audio source options include AM/FM radio, DAB, Disc, USB, iPod, Bluetooth and Aux and there are plenty of ports under the arm rest and at the front of the centre console to keep you connected to these and also at the front of the centre console is a wireless charging pad for compatible devices.

The multimedia screen is accessed via a toggle switch, which I found fiddly to use and I preferred the touch pad that was available on the other Lexus models that I had driven around the same time as the RX. Annoyingly you can’t enter a destination while moving and you can’t enter a destination using the voice control system either. You can only direct the system to ‘Go Home’ via voice control if you have ‘home’ programmed in already. The voice control does work well for making phone calls though.

I did like that you can control the tri-zone climate system from the front and you can also lock the system so that your children can’t mess with the settings from the third row control panel. I also liked the adjustable cup holder that could be pressed down for taller drinks or raised up for a cup of coffee. I’m not a fan of the ‘Bamboo’ wood trim, but this is a personal taste and other people may love it.

The second row of seats has two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat anchorage points, but most likely in reality you would only occupy the two outer seats so that the central arm rest can be folded down. The arm rest has the controls for the second row heated seats, a very small storage cubby, two USB port and two drink holders large enough for only slim drink bottles. Occupants also get manual blinds and with the third row of seats not in use and the second row pushed fully back there is enough room for two adults to comfortably sit in the second row. I liked that there was no transmission tunnel here and the mat can be removed for easy cleaning.    

The third row of seats has one rear tether child seat point and room wise with the second row of seats in a position that would allow children to comfortable sit in them (and adults uncomfortably) there really isn’t much room in the third row and even ‘tween’ sized children would struggle to fit back there comfortably. The third row of seats is definitely not suitable for adults due to a lack of leg and head room.

So this being said I would not envisage the third row being occupied on a permanent basis by one of your older children, but Lexus seem to think that they would be because they have put the rear passenger controls for the tri-zone climate system in the third row. The third row occupant can control airspeed, temperature and direction from the rear control panel. The air vents for the third row passengers are on the side of the vehicle and second row seat passengers get vents at the rear of the centre console and at the base of their seats. Third row passengers get drink holders, but no USB outlets.     

But like all seven seat SUVs careful consideration would need to be given to where child seats are placed in order to allow you to access the third row. This is because if a rigid (non-booster) seat is placed in either of the second row outer seats then you would not be able to move that seat to allow third row passengers to get in. The 40/20/40 split system of the second row of seats may help here if your child is small enough to get through the ’20’ gap between the two outer seats?

The boot depth with the third row of seats in use is about 50cm, so enough room for school bags or the sports kit or a small weekly shop, but not enough for these things and a pram as well. There is a 12V outlet in the boot and the third row of seats can be lowered and raised at the push of a button either from the boot or on the inside of the passenger side rear wheel arch. You do get a spare tyre and this is located under the rear of the car. With the third row of seats folded down the boot is very big and would easily accommodate a pram and the weekly shop.

Active safety features on all RX variants include Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Steering Assist, Pre-Collision Safety System with Pre-Collision Braking and All-speed Radar Active Cruise Control. Like the other Lexus models I drove I felt the lane keep assist technology was not as good as other systems I have used. Passive safety features include ten airbags and the overall ANCAP safety rating for the RX is five stars.

The Sport Luxury pack upgrades the standard rear view camera to a panoramic view system and this comes with rear guidelines and sensors. The driver gets a colour head up display and adaptive high beam with this pack, but I felt that this system did not work the best as I was flashed a couple of times by oncoming traffic.

All new Lexus models come with a four-year/100,000km warranty and during that period owners also get access to Lexus DriveCare a 24 hour roadside assistance program. When you get your Lexus serviced you can either receive a complimentary loan car if you drop your car off at the dealership or you can choose to have your Lexus picked up from your home or office and have it dropped back to you once the service is complete.

As tested the Lexus RX450hL with the Sports Luxury pack was $113,370 plus on-road costs. So if you are looking for a seven seat SUV with excellent fuel efficiency and plenty of safety and luxury inclusions you should visit your preferred Lexus Dealer and have a test drive with your family.

Pros Cons
Fuel efficient hybrid engine Minimal space for third row passengers
Great sound system Lane keep assist doesn’t work as well as some other manufacturers
Luxury inclusions Fiddly to use toggle switch

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.