Fierce and Frugal: The 2016 Lexus RX 450h

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus RX 450h
The 2016 Lexus RX 450h.
This is the year that Lexus' styling evolution, emphasizing emotion and performance, makes its way to the venerable RX crossover line.  That includes the hybrid RX 450h, which now sports a look that suggests Darth Vader far more than Ed Begley, Jr.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus RX 450h
2016 Lexus RX 450h.
It remains to be seen how well the new look goes over with the RX's traditional customer base (upscale women over 40), but what can't be seen has had some attention as well.  The 3.5-liter V6 hybrid powerplant has been completely re-engineered and now produces 308 horsepower instead of last year's 295, and boosts the EPA fuel economy estimate from 30 city/28 highway in the 2015 model to 31 city/30 highway.

The base price has gone up, as well, and is now $52,235.  But, as with all Lexuses, you get a lot for your money. See the standard features here.

Interior view of 2016 Lexus RX 450h
2016 Lexus RX 450h interior.
The interior of the RX450h is all-new as well, and like the outside, is more angular than what it replaces.  It is a good look, and it moves the automatic transmission shifter down from its position halfway up the dashboard, where it has been since the first RX model in 1999.

As nearly always, Lexus' press fleet people added optional equipment to our test vehicle, including a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and panoramic view mirror ($800); a color heads-up display ($600); the Lexus Safety System with triple-beam LED headlamps ($2,250); a touch-free power rear door ($200); a 12.3-inch navigation system combined with a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system ($1,510) and a heated leather steering wheel ($150).

With $940 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price came to $58,685...which, despite the boost in base price, was only $300 more than the last-gen RX 450h we reviewed a year and a half ago (though that one had rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats, bamboo interior trim and intuitive parking assist).

In short, the RX 450h is what it always has been---a supremely capable and comfortable luxury crossover that sips fuel compared to its gasoline-powered counterpart...now with more power and a somewhat meaner demeanor.