Updated: Mar 31, 2022
Black in place of chrome. A large, angry visage. The 2022 Lexus RX 450h AWD F SPORT looks like it wants to destroy the world. In fact, it is helping to save it.
The Lexus RX revolutionized the world 23 years ago when it first arrived. It was among the first car-based crossovers, was a pioneer in the idea of a luxury crossover, and exhibited a design language unlike that of any vehicle. Two years into my career as an automotive journalist, I called it "the lunar rover". Lexus has sold so many since, the styling evolving gradually over a quarter-century, that it's hard to think of it as in any way unusual now. Special, yes. Strange, no.
The "save the world" part is under the hood. The "h" in "RX 450h" stands for "hybrid". There's been a hybrid version of the RX since the 2006 model year. Lexus' audacity of putting the type of powerplant that had been mostly associated with the Prius into a luxury crossover paid off. Hundreds of thousands have been sold, and each one means a little less gasoline burned, a little less pollution in the air.
The 2022 Lexus RX 450h uses Lexus' tried-and-true combination of a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and an electric motor. The result is a combined 306 horsepower---11 more than the non-hybrid RX 350. A continually variable transmission (CVT) replaces the eight-speed automatic in the RX 450h. And the only way to get all-wheel drive in an RX is to go to the RX 450h hybrid. There are no AWD RX 350s and no front-wheel drive RX 450s.
Those 11 extra horses are more than offset by the weight of the batteries, the all-wheel drive and the CVT. Zero to 60 runs come in the mid-to-upper seven second range, compared to the low sevens for the gasoline model. The F SPORT trim is a suspension and appearance package--- no go-fast performance bits. There is front and rear performance damping, an adaptable suspension and sport steering, allowing for better handling, And you get 20-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, an F SPORT shift knob, badges, bumpers, grille, seats, gauges, scuff plates, aluminum trim, ambient lighting, memory for the driver's seat and outside mirror, stainless steel rear door garnish, a tilt and slide moonroof and heated and ventilated front seats. But the selling point of this hybrid is fuel economy. The RX 350 is no slouch in that department, with an EPA-estimated 20 city/27 highway, but the city number leaps to 31 mpg with the hybrid. That's because the RX 450h uses pure electric power a lot in city driving. On the highway, not so much---which is why the hybrid's highway number bumps up only a single mile per gallon to 28.
Beyond the hybrid and the F SPORT trim discussed above, the 2022 Lexus RX 450h AWD F SPORT doesn't stray from the standard RX formula: Room for five people and their things in comfort, with a healthy feature content. The base price of the one we tested was $53,820. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the other standard content not mentioned so far is a nine-speaker Lexus multimedia system (including a CD player) with an eight-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and Lexus' Enform Safety Connect Suite.
Our test vehicle also had extra cost options including a wireless charger ($200), premium triple-beam dynamic auto-leveling LED headlamps, front LED turn signals and headlamp washers ($1,675), a navigation system including a 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium sound system and upgraded 12.3-inch touchscreen ($3,365), a power liftgate with kick sensor ($150) and a panoramic view monitor with intuitive parking assist and rear cross-traffic braking ($1,365). With $1,075 delivery processing and handling fee, the as-tested price of the 2022 Lexus RX 450h AWD F SPORT is $61,650.
That's only $2,045 more than the 2021 Lexus RX 350 F SPORT I reviewed in April, and that extra two grand and change buys both all-wheel drive and an 11 mile per gallon bump in city fuel efficiency that will pay dividends over the life of the vehicle. The 2022 Lexus RX 450h AWD F SPORT more than makes a case for itself.