RX 450h: The all-weather Lexus

Many drivers have concerns about staying mobile during difficult weather conditions. In previous posts we have recommended the fitment of winter tyres as an affordable way of increasing grip and improving road safety. But in this post we wanted to examine some of the technologies found in the RX 450h luxury crossover and how they work together to keep owners going, whatever the weather.

It’s important to understand that the RX 450h is a road-biased sports utility vehicle. However, its raised ride height and electric four-wheel drive system does afford it a measure of functionality on unpaved terrain as well as increased tenacity on slippery roads.

RX 450h: The all-weather Lexus snow

From the very outset the RX 450h was designed to cope with adverse weather. For instance, the petrol motor makes use of an exhaust heat recovery system to warm the coolant at start-up. This reduces the time the engine takes to warm up, which then allows it to be shut off earlier for longer electric motor operation. In tests conducted at -5°C, engine shut-off occurred more than 15 minutes earlier than in the previous generation car, leading to a 30 per cent improvement in cold weather fuel efficiency.

RX 450h: The all-weather Lexus energy monitor

With regards to the Lexus Hybrid Drive setup, the RX 450h is unique in having the rear wheels driven by a second, mechanically independent electric motor to provide ‘intelligent’ electric four-wheel drive. This computer-controlled system constantly monitors the levels of available grip and uses this information to apportion torque from the front and rear electric motors to their respective axles.

In most circumstances the RX 450h is front-wheel drive but when slippage is detected the rear electric motor is engaged and it becomes four-wheel drive. This takes place under hard acceleration (both from standstill and through the gears), when driving through bends and whenever the front wheels lose traction.

Performance and drivability is further enhanced with Snow mode, one of four selectable driving modes. Engaging this modulates use of the accelerator pedal and improves stability when pulling away on snow or other slippery road surfaces. Pedal inputs are automatically adjusted to reduce driving torque and minimise wheel spin; but should the front wheels lose grip, the rear electric motor engages to improve traction.

RX 450h: The all-weather Lexus ford

In addition, the RX 450h Premier driver has a choice of four vehicle height settings thanks to electronically controlled air suspension run from a compressor hidden behind the rear bumper. The highest setting improves ground clearance by 30mm to overcome obstacles such as fords (see image above), keeping the car’s underbelly from sustaining unnecessary damage. It also increases the car’s approach and departure angles to 29.2 and 24.8 degrees respectively. Interestingly, the air in the compressor is dehumidified to prevent the system freezing in cold weather.

All of which makes the RX 450h the car that will get you to places other Lexus models cannot reach!


  1. I would like to know what experiences other drivers have when using the RX450h for towing? The tow ball limit of 80kg seems low compared to the size of the car, any comments. What are your views on the tolerance of this limit, 10% higher nose weight is acceptable or not?

    1. Hi John
      Thanks for the post.
      The reason for the towing capacity of the RX 450h is due to the hybrid system operation, so while it can tow it may not be comparable to vehicles of a similar size. We would not recommend towing outside of the tolerances quoted or increasing the nose weight because of this. Hope this helps

      1. Are you able to explain why the rx450h in Australia has a 150kg nose weight compared to UK’s 80kg when both cars have identical hybrid power trains? So far nobody has been able to explain this anomaly.

    1. Hi Cathy
      This is not an option we offer in the UK, but if you are emailing us from Canada then you will need to check this with Lexus Canada as specifications across the globe will vary depending upon the specific needs of the country in which they are being sold. We will not know the spec of Canadian models here but this link will help put you in touch with them so they can advise you further. http://www.lexus.ca/lexus/en
      Hope this helps.

  2. Hi. I purchased my RX450 in October 2013. I really enjoy driving it! But there’s just one thing I don’t understand. Does anyone else find it odd that when you roll the windows down the water doesn’t wash away like with any of athe other cars I’ve had in the past. Like when it has rained or is misty outside in the morning and for visibility you roll the windows down to wash away the water. But for some reason this car doesn’t seem to do that.
    Does anyone else have this issue? Please let me know

    1. Hi Sonia,
      Thanks for your post and we’re glad to hear you’re enjoying your RX 450.
      What you have mentioned is a normal characteristic of most our vehicles, the seal is not designed to clear the window, this is as a result of the curvature of the glass. Because of this unfortunately nothing can be done to change it.
      Hope this helps.

  3. got an 18 plate Lexus RX450H, its a very nice place to be except in the snow… traction is horrific, there doesn’t appear to be a snow mode either. Bring back my Volvo XC70, all is forgiven. We do love driving the Lexus although the gearbox is kinda strange….

    1. is it equally poor with snow tyres; i have just purchased a 16 plate RX450h after owning a range rover sport for several years. the Range never let me down even with summer tyres on; it cut through snow like a butter through knife.

  4. I’m in the process of purchasing a pre owned 2012 Lexus rx 450 hybrid. How can I tell if It is 2 wheel or all wheel drive? If It is equipped with a tow package would this indicate it being the all wheel drive model?

    1. Hi Swain,

      Thank you for contacting us. If you could please provide a registration number, we will be able to assist you further.


  5. I have a 2019 model RX450h. Is it feasible to fit wider tyres? The current size is 235/55/R20. I have in mind 255/55/R20 possibly all-weather tyres. Would the wider tyres cause a problem with the 8in. rims? I would appreciate your advice. Thanks.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment. Lexus cannot officially recommend fitting wider tyres to the alloy wheels on your RX. We recommend contacting your Lexus centre if you’d like to discuss different tyre options. Many thanks, and we wish you many happy miles in your RX.

  6. My 2003 GS300 had a little pop-out tray for my car park change (and a place for my sunglasses!). I bought an RX450H to replace it, and now it seems I have nowhere to put my change.
    Maybe it could be an aftermarket part.
    Perhaps I should make one to go in the single cup holder, as my wife won’t let anyone drink in my car!

    1. Hi Neil,

      Thank you for getting in touch. It’s great to hear you’re driving the RX450h, you can find the glasses holder fitted in the roof lighting panel however, we don’t currently have a change accessory.


  7. Thank you, I have now found the little tray that fits in the top of the centre console, it’ll do. The previous owner had put it in the bottom, so it was hidden under the big container.

    In case anyone is interested, there is an RX series 3 change tray pattern on Thingverse for a tray to be 3D printed. I make no assertion as to its accuracy, fit, whatever.

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