Make us your home page
Review | Lexus RX450h

Review: Lexus RX450h hybrid has power, options aplenty

When I look at the 2010 Lexus RX450h — the hybrid version of Lexus' luxury crossover model, now in its third generation since 1998 — I see evidence of the steady migration of a social norm toward more fuel-efficient vehicles. • Honda and Toyota together have sold more than 1.3 million hybrids, and this once-alien technology has been applied to vehicles including hulking SUVs (Chevy Tahoe Hybrid) and nondescript sedans (Ford Fusion Hybrid). What was once subversive is increasingly orthodox. The RX, now arriving in dealerships, will make for an interesting experiment.

The gas-powered RX350 is priced at $37,625 in front-wheel-drive configuration, and $39,925 for all-wheel-drive. Bigger, more powerful and more prepossessing, and besotted with high-tech features and options, the 2010 RX350 is actually priced $900 less than the 2009 model. It gets reasonable fuel economy: 21 miles per gallon for the FWD version, 20 mpg for the AWD.

The hybrid RX450h, arriving in showrooms in a few months, is likely to be priced about $7,000 more. This is the second generation of Lexus hybrid luxo-ute, replacing the RX400h. There are a few value-added niceties, but it's basically the same car with the same performance as the RX350 (0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds), except that the hybrid gets 28 mpg with FWD and 27 mpg in AWD.

The fuel economy itself doesn't justify the higher cost. So given the increasing social acceptance of hybrids, will more people step up to the hybrid, even though it's not in their economic best interest?

Not that the RX450h doesn't have other compensations: When it's gliding silently on electric power in midtown, the world safely shut out by the acoustic-laminated glass, the RX450h is a deliciously tranquil place.

Lexus has poured a lot of design and technology into the cabin, and both come together in the car's unique asymmetric console. This is part of what Lexus calls its L-Finesse design language — stronger visual gestures with more organic detailing.

The RX also debuts Lexus' Remote Touch, a multifunction controller, kind of like a computer mouse that is hand-stitched by Prada. Situated in a small, leather-bound lump in the central console, the Remote Touch directs a point-and-click arrow through the LCD's various display menus, such as navigation and audio functions.

The RX450h is well equipped in standard trim, including loads of leather, wood and chrome; LED brake and taillights; six-disc CD changer with satellite radio and iPod connectivity; Bluetooth, and safety features like active headrests, and braking and stability assists.

Among its signature options, the RX offers adaptive front lighting (high beams dim when they sense oncoming traffic), side-view monitor, electrochromic (self-dimming) outside mirrors, voice-recognition navigation.

The vehicle's Eco mode maximizes fuel economy by increasing regenerative braking, dulling throttle response and generally dialing out any kind of liveliness. In Eco mode it's possible to get in excess of 30 mpg.

Complaints? The big hybrid's continuously variable transmission moans a bit at highway speeds, and if you're climbing a significant grade the moan becomes a lament.

To slow down, the car ordinarily uses regenerative braking, not hydraulics. Electric brakes, in other words. But if you hit the brake pedal harder than usual, the full force of the hydraulics come online and everything in the car winds up on the windshield.

As for handling, even with the Sport suspension package, the RX450h rolls like a tugboat off Cape Hatteras.

Is the RX450h the right thing to do?

Well, you could always get a Toyota Prius and get 50 mpg, so it's more accurate to say the big hybrid ute is less wrong than right. Search your conscience and your wallet.

2010 Lexus RX450h

Base price: $44,000 (est.)

Price, as tested: $52,000 (est.)

Powertrain: Series/parallel gas-electric hybrid; 3.5-liter, 24-valve Atkinson-cycle V-6 with variable valve timing; starter generator electric motor; two AC synchronous permanent magnet motors (AWD model) rated at 167 hp (front) and 68 hp (rear); 37-kilowatt, 288-volt nickel-metal hydride battery; all-wheel drive.

Horsepower: 245 at 6,000 rpm (gas engine only)

Torque: 234 pound-feet at 4,800 rpm (gas engine only)

Total system horsepower: 295

0-60 mph: 7.4 seconds

Wheelbase: 107.9 inches

Overall length: 187.8 inches

EPA fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 26 mph highway, 27 mpg combined

Review: Lexus RX450h hybrid has power, options aplenty 03/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 6, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Los Angeles Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]