Proffit at the Wheel: 2022 Lexus RX450h F Sport

Truth be told, I only had a few opportunities to drive the 2022 Lexus RX450h F Sport during my trip to Indianapolis for the December Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show. The first look at the gorgeous Grecian water on black SUV was one of amazement that Lexus okayed this bright and carefree blue color for such a businesslike conveyance. 

I picked up the Lexus in Chicago, as is my custom, and drove down I-65 at otherworldly speeds, after lurching through the Windy City’s rush-hour traffic. Jousting around the 18-wheelers and civilian vehicles, the RX450h felt like it merited the F Sport designation for its joyful demeanor. Much of that is due to the running gear, of course, and the fact that Lexus is, thanks to its longterm use of hybrid technology, able to bring the joy of driving to a hybrid machine.

This Lexus connotes a different direction for this manufacturer, manifested in its style. For one thing, most Lexus road-going vehicles are sedate-looking, invested with staid colors and stately design cues. At first glance this color, Grecian Water, told a different story. A bright hue of blue, it’s spritely and brings out the design cues that imbue this 2022 Lexus RX450h F Sport with the promise of fun motoring, even with hybridization and with a curb weight of 4740 pounds. BTW, it’ll tow 3,500 pounds when requested. 

The front fascia is neat with Lexus’ exaggerated chrome-rimmed black egg-crate grille and forward-learning headlights. Running lights are at the base of the front end, while a distinctive crease begins atop the front wheel well and flows to the rear. Window openings are chrome-rimmed, while the privacy glass at the rear doors and through to the backlight enunciates the RX450h’s powerful looks. F Sport insignias are in front of the driver’s and passenger’s doors while the hybrid nomenclature is at the base of the rear doors. There’s a small winglet at the rear and clean lines continue at the hatch, where the model name and F Sport badges reside. 

Lexus equips the RX450h F Sport with a 3.5 liter V6 engine and continuously variable automatic transmission, together with the firm’s Lexus Hybrid Drive. The engine emits 308 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 247 lb-ft of torque at 4,800. A tach is only available when this Lexus is in sport mode, which wasn’t on the docket in the cold, windy conditions  encountered both directions. Paddle shifters enable quick changes while on the road and allow the driver to take charge at whim.

Strut and double wishbone suspensions are more than competent to keep the RX planted on its all-wheel-drive chassis, while rack and pinion electric-assisted power steering is light with only slight vagueness on-center, something that could be attributable to the conditions. Multi-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels lie on 235/55R rubber that gave confidence over the road, as did all the running gear of this machine.

The haul to Indy took place past sunset and this Lexus’ triple beam auto-leveling LED lighting ($1975), with adaptive front lights, is more than adequate for proper vision. And from the driver’s seat, everything worked and worked well. Lexus is known for its luxury and, over the past decade for performance, as well. 

It’s true one can’t expect great performance from a vehicle if you’re not comfortable inside, and that’s a message Lexus received and flew with. Both the driver and front seat passenger are treated to full power leather heated and cooled front seats ($640), while rear occupants can be pleased with directional air vents. The driver’s seat retracts upon shutoff and returns to the set position when the power button is engaged.  Everything necessary is right there in front of the driver, including – in this car – the color head-up display that allows one to fully keep those eyes on the road ($600). 

With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it’s always time for good music, and with the Mark Levinson system’s 15 speakers around this well-insulated cabin, entertainment is always available. That’s part of the Navigation system package ($3365) that also enables the 12.3-inch touch screen, Lexus Enform dynamic navigation voice command destination assist, which is 4G dependent. Lexus included a wireless charger at the base of the central stack ($200). There’s also a wonderful cold weather package of windshield/wiper de-icer and fast-response interior heater for $200, both used during this trip.

To properly place this Lexus RX450h F Sport in a parking spot, there’s a panoramic view monitor with intuitive parking assist and rear cross traffic braking ($1365), something unused during this trip because the driver is a parking wizard who always backs into a space. The lovely tilt-slide moonroof is accompanied by aluminum roof rails ($1350), and other add-ons include the power rear door with kick sensor (very handy at $150), door edge guards for $140, a hatch cargo net ($75), mudguards for $170 and running boards ($650) that make it easy for this shortie to climb in and out.

The starting price of this Lexus, including destination is $52,575. With all of the options noted above, the total price is $63,455. It might behoove Lexus, whose clientele likely wants every last bit of this laundry list, to include some of these items in the initial price and only add in some extra items. I don’t think the RX450h F Sport would be properly outfitted if any of these items were left off the order list.

The F Sport designation fort this SUV includes the 20-inch alloy rims, an F Sport steering wheel, shift knob, the badges, bumpers grille, sets, scuff pads, LED ambient illumination, aluminum trim, front and rear performance dampers, memory for the driver’s seat, steering wheel, outside mirrors and stainless steel rear door guards. They definitely add panache to this road-going and off-road-capable (to a degree) vehicle.

My experience with this car, which had just over 3,000 miles on the clock, was definitely a fine one. I used the kick-ability to get in and out of the hatch and it was nice to have a cover for valuables. The digital speedometer is directly in front of the driver and the RX runs on electric power under 40mph – if you don’t pound the loud pedal. The central info center between the two front seats is familiar and easy to use. It was simple to pair the phone. This RX has the cruise control on a separate stalk which, while older technology, is exceptionally easy to use. At the base of the center stack there are two USB and a single 12-volt plugs.

The steering wheel’s audio and phone controls on the left and information system, following distance and lane departure to the right are also familiar to anyone who’s driven any recent Lexus product. To the lower left of the dash one accesses the auto high beam controls, the hatch, head-up display and fuel cap release. Speaking of fuel, the RX450h F Sport is rated to return 31/28/30 mpg from its 17.2-gallon tank using premium fuel; this driver never did that well, traveling between these two cities at, um, higher-than-average speeds. Range should be over 500 miles for a responsible driver. The 16-cubic-foot hatch area can be extended by folding the rear seats, giving it 32.7 cubic-feet availability.

Somehow, the weather felt less dreary in this particular 2022 Lexus RX450h F Sport, due as much to its liveliness as its delicious exterior. Easy to snick in and out of traffic and to cruise unhindered by wind, rain, ice but without snow (thankfully), the RX is modern, efficient, safe and secure. It was the perfect partner for this particular road trip. Try it and it’ll probably follow you home like the willing puppy it is.

words and photos by Anne Proffit

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