Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The RX L uses a combination of petrol and electric power, which makes a great deal of sense in town. At low speeds, the RX L remains virtually silent, thanks to the wonders of electric propulsion; it delivers a serenity that can’t be replicated by conventionally powered cars, no matter how many layers of sound deadening and double-glazing they have.
Unlike the mild-hybrid Audi Q7 and plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 T8, the RX L is a conventional self-charging hybrid. There's a small battery that can support electric-only running in small bursts, such as when manoeuvring in a car park or queuing in stop-start traffic, but the electric motor doesn’t have the power to keep up with traffic on its own – you’ll need to use the petrol engine at anything beyond a crawl.
Unfortunately, the 308bhp total power output seems healthy on paper but, with a 0-62mph time of 8.0secs, the RX L is slower than any comparable rival. Its cruising credentials are tarnished, too, by its CVT gearbox.
Unlike a conventional ’box, it allows the revs to flare as you accelerate up to speed. While the accompanying drone is hardly unbearable, it makes the RX L a lot less refined than other luxury SUVs with smoother engines and conventional gearboxes, such as the BMW X5.
Those engine issues are a shame, because the RX L is otherwise a very relaxing car to drive long distances. Road and wind noise are fairly well contained, and its suspension is very much geared towards comfort. Takumi trim takes things further with adaptive suspension as standard; set to Comfort mode, it seemingly glides over big bumps. Expansion joints and small road imperfections pretty much cease to exist as far as the Lexus is concerned.
However, when it comes to handling, the RX L feels very similar to the standard RX. That is to say, it’s not much fun. In range-topping Takumi trim (the only version we’ve tested so far), the car feels reasonably composed and stable through corners, but there is quite a bit of body lean when you press on, and not a whole lot of grip. Its steering doesn’t offer much of a connection to the road, so if you’re looking for a luxury SUV that’s quick and agile, there are better options such as the BMW X5.