2020 Lexus RX 450hL: handsome, plush, pricey

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With several exterior design changes including a polarizing paint color choice, the 2020 Lexus RX 450hL stands out on the omnipresent highway sea of sport utility vehicles. It’s a smooth cruiser with some drawbacks.

A six or seven-passenger midsize hybrid, the RX 450hL comes with three rows of seating and all-wheel drive. It’s operated by a 3.5-liter V6 that coordinates with two front-mounted electric motor-generators. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) propels the front wheels; a third electric motor powers the rear wheels. Total horsepower is 308 and the 0-60 mph standard is accomplished in 6.8 seconds.

The 2020 Lexus RX 450hL is an upscale hybrid SUV with a few shortcomings and a hefty price.
The 2020 Lexus RX 450hL is an upscale hybrid SUV with a few shortcomings and a hefty price.

The base 2020 Lexus RX 450hL and Luxury are the only trim levels. Standard equipment on the base model includes a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa are all compatible

Lexus luxury begins with the premium package, including wood interior trim and a sunroof. Rear side sunshades, auto-dimming, power-folding side mirrors, heated wood steering wheel and perforated-leather seating surfaces all help define the brand’s upscale reputation.

2020 Lexus RX 450hL: several improvements

Further comfort and top-line stuff include a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and a 12.3-inch integrated navigation system. Individual options include a color head-up display, a blind-spot monitor with a surround-view parking camera system and a panoramic roof.

With SUV competition always strong, Lexus tweaked the RX 450hL this year with a new bumper and restyled headlights. The result is a more upscale appearance. The ride has also improved with updated handling stability and overall comfort, always a signature Lexus trait. Steering is nimble, providing the SUV with a non-SUV feel.

Another way the Lexus distinguishes itself is the exterior paint choice of Nori Green Pearl. About 75 percent of cars sold every year are black, white, gray or silver. Dark, bright metallic green is near the bottom of the popularity list.

One observer didn’t like the Lexus in its flamboyance, an odd reminder of his disdain for his green military attire of yesteryear. Another onlooker called the car beautiful. Give Lexus color consultants credit for their non-conformity.

The driver-technology relationship isn’t perfect. The navigation system readouts and various functions are intuitive via the touchscreen. But the console-located trackpad — a too often automotive curse — only enhances potential distracted driving.

The hybrid system in the 2020 Lexus RX 450hL works seamlessly with the vehicle’s Smart Stop technology. The system reduces engine power when the vehicle is stopped at intersections and stoplights and resumes when the brake pedal is released. The RX 450hL is rated at 29 miles per hour in city driving, 28 mph on the freeway. Shouldn’t such an advanced system achieve better numbers?

Three-row luxury SUV space widely varies. The Lexus RX 450hL set-up isn’t the vehicle’s strong point. Second and third-rowing adjust and configure easily for good overall cargo space with both rows down. But the third-row accommodations are only optimal for petite passengers.

As a cargo hauler, the SUV doesn’t fare much better. The 2020 RX 450hL has 18 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat, a result outdone by smaller, less expensive choices. Maximum cargo space is 56 feet, another not-too-impressive tally.

With its overall quality, the RX lineup is the carmaker’s best-selling SUV and all are priced in accordance with the brand’s luxury status. The 2020 RX 450hL has an MSRP of $50,460. Optional equipment, the 20-inch dark silver alloy wheels to the color head-up display and the top-line exterior lighting to wood ornamentation, add more than $12,000 with taxes.

The RX lineup’s popularity has resulted in more than 100,000 sales yearly since 2013. But with a price of nearly $64,000, the RX 450hL should have fewer shortcomings.

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