High school football, particularly in Georgia, is an onslaught to the senses. There is the intense, humid summer heat that seemingly broils players and fans alike. The smell of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers permeates the air so greatly you can practically taste them, and the sights of freshly polished helmets flash across the bright green of the turf. There is the feel of your backside being roasted by the metal bleachers in hot weather, and the chill they send up your spine when the weather turns cooler late in the season.
Football Fridays also come with a pervasive and seemingly inescapable noise. The booming voice of the house announcer, the cheers and yelps of the fans, the rhythmic banging of the drumline and soaring sounds of the band.
Only when you get away from the blitz to the senses do you realize how relentless they were, especially the noise. And a great way to escape is by cozying up in the cabin of the 2019 Lexus RX 450h.
I knew the Lexus was quiet from driving it around a few days, but I didn’t realize just how separated you are from the outside world until I sat down in the 450 during halftime of a recent high school football game. After my ears had been attacked for well over an hour by the sounds of the game, the Lexus was eerily quiet. Even with the band’s halftime performance taking place just a few hundred yards away, only the pounding of the drums was perceptible.
The crypt-like quiet extends to the road, where the 450 cocoons passengers from outside noise.
It is no surprise that the Lexus is more supple than stadiums bleachers. Hell, sitting in a bucket full of razors and lime juice would be. But the 450 is also cushy in the automotive world.
The seats are all-day comfortable and accentuate the 450’s relaxed ride, which irons out the bumps and lumps of the road with ease. With its smooth and quiet ride, 450 drivers should only venture out for a drive after their morning coffee, lest they fall asleep behind the wheel.
The cabin is a nice place to be, fitting the Lexus designation of luxury with soft leather and high-quality feel to interior materials, and it provides ample room to relax in the spacious front seats and accommodating rear.
There is a fly in the ointment, however, and that is Lexus’ infotainment controls. Though the 450h does not come with the touchpad I disdained in the 2019 ES 350 (bit.ly/2lT2AfO), the SUV instead opts for a kind-of-computer-mouse for selections. In short, it is frustrating to use, it takes the driver’s eyes off the road and audibly “bings” and clicks whenever the cursor is moved, which is annoying.
The 450h comes standard ($45,750) with 10-way adjustable front seats, a rear center armrest, foldable outside mirrors, 18-inch aluminum wheels, navigation, Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0, and Safety System+, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning with steer assist and automatic high-beam headlights.
Stand-alone options include heated and ventilated front seats, a panoramic moonroof, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a color head-up display, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, added safety features and other amenities.
My 450h came with the F Sport Package (models start at $50,350) that adds to the aggressive appearance of the SUV with 20-inch wheels and exterior styling upgrades to the fascia and bumpers. The package also includes a tuned suspension, upgraded rear dampers, heated and ventilated leather-trimmed front seats and other add-ons.
But do not let the “sport” in F Sport fool you. While more than adequate for the daily drive, the 450h is not for thrashing undulating roads. However, it accentuates the comfortable cabin with smooth power delivery and a supple ride.
The hybrid system pairs a 3.5-liter V6 with two, 650-volt electric motors. In lieu of a driveshaft, the rear electric motor independently powers the rear wheels. In all, the system puts out 308 horsepower to an electrically controlled continuously variable transmission.
While it will not blow the doors of the competition in the luxury compact SUV market, the 450’s hybrid system is silky and serene while getting the Lexus up to speed.
Drivers can select from several driving modes, including environmentally friendly Eco to Sport S+ in F Sport models. In Sport mode, drivers get a quicker throttle responses and more accurate steering feel while Sport+ stiffens the suspension. Even in its sport modes, the 450 is still prone to lean while cornering and can be wobbly with quick direction changes. Like its powertrain, the Lexus is far better suited for a relaxed jaunt.
The 450 can go on electric power alone, but only so in crawling traffic — give the throttle the tiniest of pushes and the V6 will step in. However, the hybrid system still nets a respectable 30 combined MPG.
For those seeking a well-appointed luxury SUV with a supple, quiet and comfortable ride, the 450h delivers on all fronts. While it does miss the mark on its sport designation for performance, it provides plenty enough for everyday driving and does so with its fuel-efficient, smooth hybrid system.
And, it just happens to be a really nice place to escape to during halftime of a high school football game.