Hybrid Luxury -- at a Price
The Lexus RX 400h was the first luxury SUV available as a hybrid and quickly became a hot seller in what could be considered Lexus’ most iconic line. So it’s safe to say there was a considerable amount of pressure on the company to revise the next-gen without alienating its buyers. The hybrid RX took 2009 off and was replaced by the new RX 450h in 2010. The new model arrives with the same significant updates and improvements as the new RX 350, including new sheetmetal, longer wheelbase, updated interior, and a body that’s wider, taller, and longer than before. The 450h also has a different nose than on the 350. In addition, the hybrid receives the 3.5-liter V-6 found in the RX 350, a step up from the 3.3-liter. The new engine plus electric motors (one in the front-drive model, two in the AWD) put out a combined 295 horsepower, where it was 268 in 2008.
The hybrid is surprisingly quick off the line and there is a lot of power across the rpm range. It weighs nearly 600 pounds more than the most recent RX 350 we tested, which was a front-driver, yet takes only 0.1 second longer to reach 60 mph (6.9 seconds versus 6.8). In longer distances, it’s actually faster than that 350, finishing the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 92.6 mph, as opposed to the 350’s 15.3 seconds at 91.4 mph. That extra weight wasn’t a problem when braking, either. The 450h takes less distance to stop from 60 mph-137 feet as opposed to the 350’s 138. Its front/rear weight balance is also better, thanks to the rear electric motor, with a 56/44 ratio compared with the RX 350’s 58/42.
The new V-6 and motors work together to provide an impressive amount of low-end torque, and the CVT does a fine job, but when it comes right down to it, this vehicle is more highway cruiser than engaging driver’s car. The Lexus feels heavy in turns, steering is too light, and there isn’t enough of a sense of connection with the road.
There are a lot of new gadgets and gizmos in this generation of the RX, and Lexus lent us a vehicle that contained just about all of them-which explains why the bottom line on this specific vehicle is a jaw-dropping $59,815. Our RX 450h AWD came standard with an extensive amount of safety equipment, such as 10 airbags, four-wheel ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, Brake Assist, VSC, tire-pressure monitoring, and a first aid kit. And plenty of other items come standard on this model, including a nine-speaker AM/FM/CD/XM sound system, dual-zone climate control, and an LCD driver information screen.
But there was an additional $15,690 of options in this tester-heated/ventilated front seats, dual-screen rear entertainment system, XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, heads-up display, LED headlamps with intelligent high-beams, semi-aniline leather trim, 18-inch wheels, parking assist, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, and, arguably the coolest item available on the RX, the Remote Touch controller. This is the logical next step in the world of iDrive, MMI, and the rest-and works better than any of those. It’s shaped like a computer mouse and works essentially the same way. It’s so easy to use that unlike some of the other systems out there, we never found ourselves taking our eyes off the road to operate it.
As its predecessor was, the 450h is a well-built, quiet, comfortable vehicle. It’s the perfect SUV for those who like what the RX line has to offer and for people who want to be able to carry five people, tow 3500 pounds, and haul up to 80.3 cubic feet of stuff, and, when the vehicle’s empty, get 30 mpg around town. That’s a strong combination — but at $60,000, it’s awfully pricy.
|2010 Lexus RX 450h AWD|
|Base price range||$44,125|
|Price as tested||$59,815|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||3.5L/245-hp/234-lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 24-valve V-6 plus 167-hp/247-lb-ft front and 68-hp/103-lb-ft rear electric motors|
|Transmission||Continuously variable transmission|
|Curb weight (dist f/r)||4790 lb (56/44%)|
|Length x width x height||187.8 x 74.2 x 66.3 in|
|0-60 mph||6.9 sec|
|Quarter mile||15.2 sec @ 92.6 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||137 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.74 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||28.6 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)|
|EPA city/hwy econ||30/28 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.67 lb/mile|