Who Is The Lexus RX 500h F Sport For, Exactly?

By automotive-mag.com 7 Min Read

The letter F looms over Lexus like a dark cloud. It used to stand for something—V-8 power, a raucous soundtrack, and gobsmacking luxury. These days, it’s unclear exactly what Lexus wants to do with the letter F and where its performance division is ultimately headed.

The new IS 500 F Sport is a prime example. What should have been an IS F successor instead comes with tempered expectations and a clunky name. That way they don’t have to explain to grubby-handed journalists and internet trolls why it isn’t as dynamic as a BMW M3. (For the record, the IS 500 F Sport is fantastic despite its flaws and I love it).

The same goes for the RX 500h F Sport, technically the first RX to ever get a performance makeover, not counting the F Sport visual packages before it. This could have been a full-bore RX F with tons of power and some modest suspension tuning—and we probably would have sung its praises from now until eternity. Instead, it’s a warmed-over crossover with minor performance upgrades. Still nice, but nothing that moves the needle.

Quick Specs 2024 Lexus RX500h F Sport Performance
Engine Turbocharged 2.4-Liter Four-Cylinder Hybrid
Output 366 Horsepower / 406 Pound-feet
0-60 MPH 5.5 Seconds
Base Price $63,800
As-Tested Price $72,595

It starts with the powertrain. This RX has a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors making a modest 366 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. It has 91 more horses than the next-best RX and more power and torque than the competitive Acura MDX Type S. But it’s more than 100 horsepower down on the IS with the same name. I know that asking Lexus to shove a V-8 underhood here is unreasonable, but a so-called F Performance model with a four-cylinder just feels wrong, let alone a hybrid.

To its credit, the RX 500h isn’t slow. It reaches 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and the immediate torque brought on by the two electric motors gives it excellent shove off the line. Impressive for something that weighs 4,793 pounds.

Torque peaks at 2,000 RPM and the two electric motors work in perfect harmony with the gas motor—there’s no low-end clunkiness. One of those motors is shoehorned between the engine and the transmission while the other sits on the rear axle. The six-speed automatic is pretty seamless, too.

Pros: Quick Acceleration, Great Fuel Economy, Upscale Interior

The letter “h” means the RX 500h is as efficient as it is quick. The luxury SUV returns 27 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway, and 27 combined. That’s second only to the standard RX Hybrid in the range.

Dynamically the RX doesn’t do much to convince me it deserves the F Sport badge. It uses the same Toyota GA-K architecture found on everything from the Camry to the smaller NX, but its hefty curb weight and complicated construction make it a dawg in corners.

The steering feels unresponsive and the suspension is still too soft even with the adaptive dampers in Sport mode (which requires digging into the touchscreen). That will probably appease the majority of RX shoppers but it won’t be welcoming to enthusiasts. The standard Goodyear Eagle Touring tires don’t have enough grip, either, for when you really want to hammer this thing in the corners.

2024 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance Review
2024 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance Review

But this is still a Lexus RX. So beyond a few performance drawbacks, it’s still an excellent everyday SUV. Keep it in Normal mode and you still get that spicy acceleration matched with a super soft suspension and low-effort steering. The cabin is quiet; Barely any wind or tire noise from the outside comes in.

As with any Lexus interior, it’s a sublime place to sit. Bolstered red leather seats with Alcantara inserts and an F Sport logo embossed into the headrests give this RX an extra air of sportiness. They’re also great to sit in. These seats have excellent lumbar support, heating and cooling, and still enough bolstering to keep you contained.

A subtle spritz of Alcantara covers the door panels, otherwise, everything within reach is the highest-quality leather Lexus offers. Even the aluminum trim pieces on the shift knob and in the center console feel hearty.

2024 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance Review

Cons: Bland In Corners, Confusing Name, Very Pricey

The 500h comes standard with the smaller 9.8-inch touchscreen, for some reason, but a $2,265 option package adds the 14.0-inch screen. Regardless, the Lexus infotainment system is still crisp, clean, and easy to use. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to a smartphone interface on any production car these days.

Then there’s the bad tech. Constant beeps and bongs bug me while I’m driving, telling me to sit in a position where the car can see my face and not to take my eyes off the road for longer than a split second. The good news is you can dig into the infotainment system to shut some of them off.

The bad news is that the RX 500h is priced like a performance vehicle—even though it’s not. The luxury SUV starts at $63,800 with destination and this one has a bevy of options bringing the as-tested price to an eye-watering $72,595. For a Lexus RX.

2024 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance Review
2024 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance Review

The priciest option is the Mark Levinson sound system, which adds the 14.0-inch touchscreen and a cloud-based navigation system for a cool $2,265. Other add-ons include triple-beam headlights for $1,565, heated and ventilated rear seats for $1,230, and a panoramic sunroof for $500.

The RX 500h F Sport is a confusing beast. It is quick and comfy and does exactly what you want a Lexus to do. But it doesn’t move the needle far enough in the direction to be able to share a name with the V-8—powered IS 500 F Sport. I’m not sure who the ideal buyer for the RX 500h is.

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