If a comfortable quiet ride is your number-one priority the 2021 Lexus RX 450h F Sport should be toward the very top of your shopping list. If you enjoy occasional spirited driving on backroads, this is probably not the car for you. One word to describe the Lexus RX: plush.
I spent a week with the top-of-the-line 2021 Lexus RX 450h F Sport, in a color called “Grecian Water.” A beautiful bright blue color, also available on the IS sedan and NX 300h crossover.
There are now 6-variants of the Lexus RX. Starting with the RX 350 powered by a 3.5L V6 making 295 hp then the 350 F Sport, which has sportier styling and suspension. Next up in the line up comes the 350L (“L” is for long), which gives you a tiny 3rd row with power-folding rear seats and 6 or 7 passenger configurations.
If you’d like the hybrid, you have the same 3-tiers, but in the 450h series. Physically the 350 and 450 are the same sizes. All-wheel-drive is optional on the 350 but standard on the 450. The major difference is the 450 has a hybrid powertrain. Power bumps up to 308 hp. Fuel economy is up by 6 mpg in the hybrid, making it 29.5 mpg combined versus the 350’s 23.5 mpg combined. For 12,000-miles of driving that’s a difference of 104-gallons of gas.
Light Feel, Heavy Vehicle
At 4,740 lbs the RX is by no means light. Yet it feels like moving a feather. The steering wheel can easily be moved with one hand. Even just a finger at slow speeds. The electric motors mean that torque is available from a standstill and power is sent to all 4-wheels through 3-motors. Peppy is a good word to describe it. The feeling is more like moving a beetle than a bus.
Lexus F Sport: Better Looks, Less Comfort
The Lexus F-Sport package on the RX series is mainly aesthetic. I find it to be the best-looking RX, especially from the front three-quarter angle. However, the F-Sport seats are very highly bolstered, which made them feel too narrow after only about 45-minutes of driving. Having highly bolstered seats is not at all necessary in a car that you’ll never take the race track or push through the canyons at speed.
Technically you could drive the RX fairly hard on a windy road, but you just wouldn’t want to. There’s no excitement produced by any part of the car. The powertrain can never send more power to the rear wheels than the front, so oversteer won’t happen and the hybrid V6 won’t make exciting noises like you might want in a performance machine.
It Nearly Drives Itself
What you will want to do behind the wheel of the 2021 Lexus RX 450h F Sport is relax, turn up the music and let it handle most of the driving for you. This is the fifth 2021 Toyota/Lexus vehicle I’ve driven/reviewed. It is the best in terms of lane-keeping assist. It works well about 90% of the time. If you don’t trust lane-keeping assist, you can definitely trust the radar cruise control.
Lane-keep assist struggles when lane markings get weird. On one section of Interstate-5 in a construction zone, the lanes were a bit squiggly and the RX found that difficult to keep up with. I also found that if the lane divider markings were not identical on both sides of the vehicle, it had an issue staying in the lane.
Radar cruise control worked really well and the car was smooth with stopping and starting. I do wish that it would resume automatically in traffic. If the car reaches 0 mph, you must tap the accelerator or click a button on the steering wheel to resume radar cruise. On the drive from San Diego to Los Angeles, there were 2-instances of leaving the lane while Lexus Lane Keep Assist was active, other than that it was a peaceful ride.
The 2021 Lexus RX Experience
If you stay in eco-mode, 30 mpg is not hard to achieve. But sport mode does drink up more gas than expected. This led me to a combined 26 mpg throughout the week, over about 400 miles of mixed driving.
Even in Eco mode I never found myself wishing for more power, although the throttle response is very soft in this mode. Eco Mode is nice for smooth acceleration and being fuel-efficient, but doesn’t match the aggressive F Sport looks.
Steering it is also very light all the time, which makes the RX super easy to maneuver in tight spots around town. The interior also feels plenty spacious, but the RX doesn’t feel big on the road.
Second-row passengers get reclining seats, which makes the Lexus RX wonderful for road trips. I got picked up in a Lexus RX the last time I ordered an Uber. It was wonderful. Tons of legroom and the seats are plush.
So You Want One: 2021 Lexus RX
The 2021 Lexus RX is an easy to drive comfortable vehicle with plenty of space, economy, and pep to make for a great everyday vehicle that also works well on long trips. Now, which one to buy (350, 450h, an L model of F Sport trim)?
The main difference between the 350 and 450 is the hybrid system. The hybrid makes the car more alive with quicker acceleration and on the opposite side, a quieter rider. All that, and better fuel economy to boot.
If you don’t need/want to pay for all-wheel-drive, the 350 is your only option. All 450s come with AWD as standard. The cost difference between an RX 350 F Sport AWD and RX 450h F Sport AWD is just $1,250. At $4 a gallon -remember it requires premium fuel- that’s $416 in yearly savings (assuming 12,000 mi/yr). In 3-years that price difference will pay itself off, and you’ll enjoy the extra power the entire time you’re behind the wheel.
If you find the trunk space adequate and have no need for tiny third-row seats, get the regular length. If you’d like a larger trunk the extended “L” version might be worth it. The L version will add $3,500 to the price tag. But you can’t get the “L” with F Sport.
When it comes to the F Sport option, unless you love the looks you can skip it. The seats definitely put form over function in the F Sport. For long road trips these seats aren’t ideal. Having adaptive sports suspension is nice, but again, this isn’t a sports car, so it seems a bit silly to option it this way.
A base RX 350 will set you back about $45,000, while a highly optioned RX 450h F Sport (like our tester) will run you about $51,000. When you look at the competition, those are actually really impressive prices for what you’re getting.
Overall, if you’re looking for a plush ride to fit your family for years to come go test drive an RX. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how competent and comfortable this luxury crossover really is.
To configure and price your own 2021 Lexus RX click HERE.