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2024 Lexus RX450h+

Mid-size Lexus crossover adds PHEV opportunity

Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, continues evolving an electrified lineup by fine tuning many of its most popular vehicles.

Parent company Toyota helped initiate the gas-hybrid revolution in the late 1990s with the introduction of the self-charging, gas-electric Prius. In 2024, Toyota/Lexus vehicles build from a  fifth-generation hybrid-electric platform, celebrating more advancements than most worldwide rivals.

The uber popular, two-row Lexus RX, a uni-body five-door crossover, is often credited with igniting the mid-size luxury crossover craze during its 1998 debut. Prior to its arrival, many five-door models chose a heavier body-on-frame structure; great for off-roading, but lacking a luxury feel or overall experience. Now enjoying its fifth generation, the RX350 gasoline variant underwent its latest next-generation redo in the 2023 model year based on the Toyota/Lexus GA-K platform, weighing in at approximately 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor thanks to a standard four-cylinder engine as the  bulkier V-6 variant sent into retirement.
 
Once RX paved the way, other mid-sized luxury imitators jumped on board, then larger incarnations showed up on dealer lots.  In 2018, RX offered an extended L version with additional cargo capacity and third-row seating, but that lasted only through 2022.  By the 2024 model year, Lexus introduced the all-new TX, a larger, three-row-from-the-ground up opportunity also built upon a uni-body, car-like platform. Now, RX concentrates on two-row, five-passenger comfort, while TX takes the next logical step forward into three-row Lexus luxury.

One notable distinction between the all-new, three-row TX and trend-setting RX, the larger (by about eight inches in length) TX may not completely fit into some of the smaller garages gracing area houses/townhouses, including this scribes.
 
In the 2024 model year, the RX family grows to include three motive opportunities including the debut of its first plug-in hybrid electric version (PHEV), the RX 450h+; the h suffix indicates hybrid while the + signifies plug. It joins the conventional gas-exclusive RX 350 and gas-electric RX 450h hybrid introduced in 2006, the first gas-electric hybrid in its segment. The low-volume RX 450h+ arrives in 2024 available in one trim level (Luxury) with plenty of available options, whereas the other two propulsion siblings offer multiple trims. While the plug-in technology is new to RX in 2024, it first appeared two years ago within the Lexus family under hood of the compact NX crossover.

Style wise, the smooth features gracing RX help distinguish it from harder edging seen throughout the Toyota crossover lineup. Identifying the visually appealing PHEV RX variant from other family members takes a keen eye and knowledge of where to look.  A second, squarish, swing-out door on the passenger rear fender opens to a port connecting up to electrical sources. Otherwise, this PHEV version remains virtually identical from a styling standpoint to gas and gas/hybrid versions.

The RX450h+ s naturally-aspirated (non-turbocharged), 2.5-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder gas engine produces 180 horsepower. This engine teams with three alternating current electric/traction motors for a combined 304 horsepower within a standard all-wheel drive format. The fuel tank accepts 14.5 gallons, about three gallons less than the RX350 gas-exclusive variant. Total range when fully charged/filled reaches a very stretch-full 540 miles of total driving. Drivers may countdown remaining electric and/or hybrid miles by a digital listing of both tucked into the lower right-hand corner of the highly digitized  instrument panel. When powering in EV mode, an icon illuminates nearby plus the words  EV Mode  spell out.

Flanking the square animation screen featuring a digital speedometer are two sizeable, back illuminated half-moon gauges; a right-end fuel gauge and left-end temperature gauge. The digital speedometer gets ensconced within a circular frame with three identifiers:  power, eco and charge indicating the current state of charge of the electric motor/generators.

The high-capacity, 18.1 kwh lithium-ion style battery pack cell contains 96 cells each producing 3.7 volts for a nominal battery total of 355.2 volts. This provides an impressive estimated 37 miles of pure electric driving prior to the gas engine seamlessly taking over, besting  mid-size PHEV competitors from Volvo, Audi and Lincoln and providing four more electric miles than its larger TX crossover PHEV counterpart.  If desired, a button allows drivers to switch between propulsions.

Dual propulsions send the RX450h+ from zero to 60 in 6.2 seconds according to Lexus time testers, one second faster than a gas-fired, all-wheel drive RX350.

Throughout its five generations, RX prioritizes luxury and quietness, and this plug-in hybrid follows through on this long-established job description. It s an easy vehicle to drive.  The ride promises a softer experience than mid-size crossovers from BMW or Mercedes-Benz with a touch more value when comparing bottom lines.

Pricing for the sole luxury trim starts at $68,730. With a $1,350 destination charge and options, the bottom line ended at $76,505. For comparison sake, a gas-electric hybrid RX350h (all-wheel drive comes standard) checks in at $51,800 and base, front-wheel drive RX350 starts at $49,950. The near $69,000 starting price qualifies this 2024 as the priciest RX to date since 1998, but on par with other Luxury-branded on sale PHEVs.

Notable factory options included a $500 power rear door hands-free kick sensor (which works as advertised, as some rival designs are not this sensitive to the kick) and $1,160 upgraded sound system. A $1,420 convenience package upgrades the in-dash screen with panoramic view camera and traffic assist monitor. The $500 premium paint (misty gray) upcharge offered little visual pizzaz for the investment. The remaining extras largely consisted of dealer addons.

Light brown wood-type highlights intersperse the dash, steering wheel and center console, one of three available interior color scheme options RX 450h+ offers.

Touch sensors inside the strap-like exterior grab bars electronically unlatch the door with ease and touch of grace.  Inside sensors work in the same fashion by a square, thumb-operated structure. This design also inhabits the larger all-new 2024 TX.

In front, a checkmark-like frosted structure serves as daytime running lights and  underscores optional triple beam  bejeweled LED headlamps ($1,565). This flanks the horizontally apposed Lexus Spindle Grille, which undergoes a mellowing of sorts. The narrow, waist-like portion, now higher up the structure, intersects with the headlight housing and upgrades with a depth-enhancing three-dimensional effect thanks to elongated diamond-like interior fill patterns.

Between front buckets one finds a console area with a small, electronic transmission knob traveling from R to N to D with a gentle push forward or back.  When shifting into park, this system requires a push of a  P  button/icon aft of the shift knob. A pair of inline beverage holders flank to the right. A flat, wireless Smartphone charger pad resides ahead with a small illuminating green light beaming when in charge.

The long, rectangular armrest/storage bin includes a nifty dual-hinged design allowing opening from both the left and right sides allowing shot-gun passengers equal access to what some folks refer to as the junk drawer of cars. At night, ambient pen-like lighting adorn the dash and available with multiple color selections and may soften and dim.

The standard,14-inch flat, multi-function touch screen jets up from the center region slightly beyond the dash top. The electronic, push-button start circle positions just to the screen s left, a direct access with the right arm/hand when needing to start/stop.  Too many rivals place this often-used tech piece lower down the dash where steering column interference comes into play.

Lexus smartly ditched the  Remote Touch Interface  requiring nerves of steel from the driver s right hand to maneuver a square-type fumble stick motivating an in-screen curser.  It s been replaced by a simpler  Lexus Interface  requiring a sense of touch, secondary steering wheel controls or voice commands, which were put to the test one evening.

The RX provided voiced directions through the standard in-screen navigation system to a desired Oak Brook Center restaurant after barking out the eateries name.  Onboard machine learning computed the address within seconds.

Built into the screen along the bottom portion: two twist dials controlling dual front-zone temperatures.  Fan direction operates from an always present touch-sensitive icon above the left twist dial. A nearby touch-sensitive in screen slide bar increases/decreases fan speed.   A small, centered-along-the-bottom on/off twist knob controls volume.  Flanking this knob, small rectangular push buttons for quickly summoning front/rear window defrosters.

Screen operation follows a user-friendly approach with a half-dozen vertical icons summoning maps, audio and settings requiring little time to master. Also gone from the previous fourth-generation, a circular analog dashboard clock with stately Roman numerals; an elegant touch missed probably only by me.

Second row backrests include a 40/20/40 split and power fold down into a semi-flat fashion onto cushions when extra cargo cubics get summoned.  Three adults can exist during short runs if traveling together with seats prone.

When refilling with charged electrons, Lexus utilizes an onboard J1772 socket located on the vehicle s rear passenger-side panel Every RX450h+ purchase includes a Level 1 charging cable stored conveniently under the cargo area's flat floor behind row three when not in use.

It's pistol-grip-like end fits snuggly into the circular socket while the other plugs into a conventional, standard-sized 120-volt household outlet. When connected, a red dashboard light blinks until the battery pack completes recharging. During our time together, the 120-volt outlet was the primary port charging the 37 miles of electric travel in less than 11 hours. No special equipment needs installation when utilizing a Level 1 charging cable.  

Since weather conditions cooperated with temperatures reaching the low 80s, (ideal setting for lithium-ion battery cells) estimated all-electric range ticked up to 39 miles after an 11-hour all-night charge. However, Karma has the last word; when and if outside temperatures fall back down below zero, estimated all-electric travel will dip below 35 miles as lithium-ion batteries remain sensitive to cold.

A 120-volt outlet typically supplies 1kw of power, a tiny amount in comparison to a more potent 220-volt outlet used for powering washing machines and home heating/cooling systems. Since PHEVs like the RX 450h+ include a 37-mile electrical range rather than the 350 miles found many pure EV designs, a 120-volt (Level 1) outlet is probably all one needs as a long overnight plug-in can recharge the onboard DC battery pack.

The national average for installing/purchasing a Level 2 (220 volt) wall-mounted charger is around $1,300.  Illinois offers rebates for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment or EVSE (the fancy, official description for Level 2 wall units) installation including the  'EV Charger and Installation Program' from Com Ed highlighted at the 2024 Chicago Auto Show.

A sizeable 6.6-kilowatt on-board charger (OBC) helps speed things along when utilizing a Level 2 wall charger. The higher its wattage, the faster the on-board charger can release charged electrons into the DC lithium-ion battery pack. These on-board chargers serve several important functions, including converting the alternating current supplied primarily from homes into direct current for storage into the battery pack while also acting as a gatekeeper preventing battery overload.

The RX450h+, as with most PHEVs, doesn t accept recharging from publicly available DC fast chargers useful when charging higher kilowatt hour EV battery packs. These higher-voltage ports bypass the vehicle's onboard chargers, sending direct current uninhibited into the DC battery pack and recharge the vehicle in less than an hour. Pricing, however, may be three times as much as at-home Level 2.  It's not a deal breaker since the RX450h+'s Level 2 charging takes place in under three hours.  

2024 Lexus RX 450h+

Price as tested: $76,505
Engine:  2.5-liter inline 4
Combined Horsepower: 304
Battery pack:  18.1 kwh
EV Range: 37 miles
Wheelbase: 112.20 inches
Length: 192.52 inches
Width: 75.59 inches
Height: 67.32 inches
Curb Weight: 4,750 pounds
Combined City/Highway Fuel Economy: 36 mpg