2021 Toyota Venza vs. 2020 Lexus RX 450h: Compare Crossover SUVs

2020 Lexus RX

The 2021 Toyota Venza is reborn as a hybrid crossover. With six Lexus or Toyota hybrids to choose from, we pitted the new Venza’s luxury-leaning interior against the 2020 Lexus RX450h to see how premium trims have narrowed the gap on premium brands.  

Is the Venza better for the money? Is the 2020 Lexus RX 450h worth it? 

Our ratings suggest not, with a dead draw of 6.5 out of 10 for each. Once safety and fuel economy ratings are final, the Venza likely will get the advantage. Another number might matter more: The 2021 Venza costs $33,645 in base LE trim and tips $40,975 in top Limited trim. The 2020 RX 450h starts at $47,825 and the F Sport trim or the larger 450h L with a cramped third row exceeds $51,500. But like The Drifters’ little red book, these crossover SUVs are more than a number.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza XLE

2021 Toyota Venza XLE

2017 Lexus RX 450h, Catskill Mountains, NY, Feb 2017

2017 Lexus RX 450h, Catskill Mountains, NY, Feb 2017

2016 Lexus RX 450h

2016 Lexus RX 450h

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is also a worthy comparison for hybrid crossover shoppers, but the Venza eschews the RAV4’s rugged woodsman look as a more refined and unassuming suburbanite. With smooth lines, a coupe-like roof, and rounded wheel arches, the Venza looks less like the old Venza wagonette and more like a smaller, subtler 2020 Toyota Highlander. The integrated roof spoiler is the only element that looks like the RX 450h, which shed its eggy past for a brash, almost assertive design marked by a distinctive spindle grille. The broad grille and squared wheel arches give it a more truck-like bod, but the body creases, air intakes and angles upon angles mark it as distinctive if not polarizing.  

The interiors tell a similar story. Both are fronted by a large touchscreen that is better integrated into the tiered dash of the RX. On the Venza, it’s mounted on the edge of the dash, like Mt. Touchmore. There’s a lot going on in the cabin of the RX with layers cascading to a center stack with clear audio and climate controls. The Venza has a tiered look too, but it’s more streamlined with a nifty storage hood below the controls. The touch-capacitive climate and menu controls are something new for Toyota but not necessarily better. They look clean, but some click feedback would improve its functionality. Despite that, Venza has the edge. 

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2020 Lexus RX

2020 Lexus RX

2020 Lexus RX

2020 Lexus RX

 

The 2021 Venza rides like the RX used to, so soft and quiet it’s sleepy. Similar to the RAV4 Hybrid, a 2.5-liter inline-4 with three electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery pack combine to make 219-horsepower with all-wheel drive in the Venza. Driven casually, it stays in EV mode until about 20 mph, then motors and engine work seamlessly until highway cruising. The Venza is built for comfort and efficiency not speed. Official EPA ratings are not in yet, but in our drives we averaged more than 40 mpg combined. 

The Lexus RX 450h offers more grunt, with a 3.5-liter V-6 paired with two electric motors to make 308 hp combined, and all-wheel drive. It’s as soft and quiet as the Venza, but gets going quicker and moves with more assurance. It can tow up to 3,500 pounds. There’s added cost at the pump for the larger RX; it has an EPA-rated 31 mpg city, 28 highway, 30 combined. The RX outperforms the Venza, but for efficiency the smaller Venza is the way to go. 

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza XLE

2021 Toyota Venza XLE

2020 Lexus RX

2020 Lexus RX

2020 Lexus RX

2020 Lexus RX

The RX 450h is about six inches longer than the Venza, which is about six inches longer than the RAV4 Hybrid. Wider and taller, the RX is roomier, and the 450h L model at the top of the line wedges in a two-seat third row to be used sparingly. Front leg room is greater in the RX, but other than that, the specs line up. The RX barely edges out the Venza in cargo volume with the 60/40-split seats folded down at 56.3 cubic feet to 55.1 cubes in the Venza. The sloping roofline trims the head room in the RX and enables the Venza to have more cargo room with the seats up, at 28.8 cubic feet to 18.4 cubic feet in RX. 

The standard feature set is surprisingly similar, highlighted by comprehensive safety systems including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, LED headlights, LED taillights, and road-sign recognition. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Alexa compatibility, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, power drivers’ seats, 18-inch wheels, and hands-free power liftgate complete the shared standard equipment.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2019 Lexus RX

2019 Lexus RX

2019 Lexus RX

2019 Lexus RX

The 2020 Lexus RX has more options and creature comforts, as expected by the price. Heated and cooled front synthetic leather seats, panoramic roof, native navigation, and power-folding rear seats come standard. The F Sport trim features exterior flourishes and interior flair with bolstered sport seats, aluminum pedals, and distinct accent stitching. The RX 450h L means larger, and adds that way-too-tight third row. Semi-aniline perforated leather seats, and walnut, bamboo, or open pore wood trim with aluminum accents make for luxurious options.

Offered in LE, XLE, and Limited trims, the Venza aspires to Lexus-like luxury in the Limited trim, with a 12.3-inch touchscreen, JBL audio system, a surround-view camera system, synthetic leather upholstery, and options such as a 10.0-inch head-up display and sunroof. 

The Venza has a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty and a 10-year/150,000-mile hybrid battery warranty. Lexus does it one better with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty. 

The $7,000 question between the top 2021 Toyota Venza Limited and the base 2020 Lexus RX 450h comes down to less about creature comforts and more about a style that varies from subtle to assertive. The Venza’s superior efficiency is appealing.

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