Test Drive: Lexus surprises with 2019 RX450hL

If we’ve ever driven a quieter, smoother-riding car — sedan or crossover — than the 2019 Lexus RX450hL, its identity has slipped from the old memory bank. Frankly, we didn’t know it was possible to achieve this level of refinement in a vehicle that’s part station wagon and part sport-utility vehicle. Of course, if such a car could be built, it’s not surprising that Lexus built it.

The Japanese automaker, Toyota’s premium brand, boasts a full range of luxury features, peerless interior materials quality, and smooth, nearly silent performance. It’s also quite fuel-efficient, considering its two-ton bulk: 29 mpg city, 28 highway, thanks to its gasoline-electric hybrid system. We averaged just short of 28 mpg in mostly highway driving and would expect to do a little better once the engine is broken in.

2019 Lexus RX450hL AWD Lux

The RX line is Lexus’ midsize crossover entry, ranging in price from $43,670 for the base, non-hybrid RX350 to $50,820 for the extended-length, hybrid 450hL. Our Matador Red Mica test car carried a substantially higher sticker price of $63,683, thanks to the addition of virtually every available option package. As such, it had every bell and whistle most drivers could think of — indeed, more than we could explore thoroughly during a week-long test drive.

What did we like best about the RX450hL? Without a doubt, its ride quality and silent interior. The sensation of being pampered was virtually constant. Yet unlike other luxury crossovers we’ve driven, this one is compact enough to spare drivers the fear factor of excessive bulk. It also handles more competently than we expected, given its maker’s evident focus on comfort.

Lexus also managed to control the impulse to show off the bells and whistles with a vast, sweeping array of buttons and switches. Most of the controls were fairly intuitive. The only one that gave us trouble was the joystick that controlled the audio, navigation and other systems. It seemed jumpy and overeager, as if it knew, or thought it knew, our intentions before we did. We suspect, however, that most drivers will acquire a higher degree of control over the joystick than we could in seven days.

Not surprisingly, the RX series competes in a crowded luxury-crossover field that includes the Infiniti QX60, Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Cadillac XT5, BMW 5 Series, Audi Q7, Jaguar F-Pace, Range Rover and Lincoln Nautilus. The European models tend to be more athletic than the Lexus, and some are more off-road capable. But none that we’ve driven coddled us the way the RX450hL did.

The 2018 RX450hL, similar to the 2019 model, was rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2019 model earned four of a possible five stars in government crash tests, and a five-star rating for side-impact crashes.

Lexus RX models have exceeded sales of 100,000 units for each of the past six years, and appear to be headed for a seventh year in 2019.

2019 Lexus RX450hL AWD Lux

Price: $63,683

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 with hybrid drive, 308 horsepower, 247 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: continuously variable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,905 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear

Ground clearance: 7.9 in.

Wheels: 20-in. Superchrome alloy wheels with color inserts

Tires: 235/55R20

Seating capacity: 6

Luggage capacity: 7.5 cu. ft.

Cargo capacity, third-row seat lowered: 16.3 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 55.9 cu. ft.

Maximum towing capacity: 2,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 17.2 gal.

Fuel economy: 29 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.