Lexus' RX450h transforms the company's top seller into a thrifty, hybrid AWD SUV
As the Lexus RX350 has been the carmaker’s best selling SUV, their RX450h (hybrid) AWD combines all the superb attributes of the RX series, with hybrid technology for greater fuel economy. And the hybrid now includes a RX450hl (longer) version with third row seats.
In this its fourth generation, the 2020 450h comes with a new suspension, a 12.3-inch display, added safety technology and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto with Alexa connectivity through Lexus’ Enform infotainment system.
The RX450h combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine with three electric motors, two in the front and one to drive the rear wheels. The combination provides 308-hp and carries EPA mileage estimates of 31 city, 28-highway mpg with a CVT automatic transmission (complete with paddle shifters) and start/stop technology. The 450h can operate in electric-only (EV mode for short distances), or gas-engine only modes.
Coupled to the CVT, the RX450h offers four driving modes of Eco that favors fuel economy, Normal for a balance between power and energy conservation, and Sport that increases performance and does so in linear fashion. And, as said, EV pure electric mode.
Performance is quick in electric mode. Gas only, Toyota claims a 0-60 of 7.9 seconds. Passing power is adequate although the vehicles’ 4,740-pound curb weight can be felt. With four adults aboard, the 450h can hold its own among SUV hybrids.
RX450h’s distinctive front end cannot be mistaken for any other carmakers vehicle. Its sculpted, striking concept car design with its large protruding large grille and shark eyes headlamps, grabs the eyes. However, the olive green paint job on the test car did this fine SUV no service. The 450h deserves a more brilliant color.
What the 450h lacked exterior color wise, made up for it with a striking interior. Sumptuously padded, heated/cooled front seats with perforated inserts added to the 450h’s posh, overall design scheme. A large 12-inch display serves a host of apps plus rearview camera with 360-degree surround view that melds nicely into the vertical stack that even includes a CD player. Add a console with CVT shifter, a thoughtful wireless cell phone charger, drive mode selector and an ultra-sensitive trackpad for screen selections, and it gives the impression of a Gulfstream jet cockpit.
The console mounted trackpad, incidentally, is not easy to use while driving and takes a lot of getting use to as some features require multiple selections and clicks. Until you become intimately familiar and experienced with it, it’s wise and safer to make some selections while stopped. I’d prefer a touchscreen as the pad is a bit too distracting and techie for me.
Primary HVAC controls reside on the vertical stack and are easy to use with most selections appearing on the display.
The RX’s gauge cluster replaces a tachometer with a power gauge showing Charge, Eco and Power settings. The gauge attempts to help the driver maintain economical accelerator pressure. Included here is a 4.2-inch driver information display that signals operating functions, features and alerts along with a digital compass.
Back doors open wide for easy ingress/egress. A low 20-inch step-in treats passengers to comfy and soft back seats that offer a good amount of leg room and ample headroom.
Back in the cargo area, that has an easy 30.5-inch liftover, the area with the rear seats upright is rated at 18.4 cubic feet that measures 39 inches deep, 45 wide and 29 high. Pull two handles in the cargo area and rear seatbacks automatically flip forward to increase cargo capacity to 56.3 cubic feet for 72 inches of cargo loading depth (a full 6-feet).
Beneath the cargo floor is a spare tire and nickel metal hydride battery pack. Some small items can be stowed within the middle of the tire.
Shod with Michelin 20-inch tires, RX450h rides ever so smoothly and quietly. There’s very little road feel as the RX favors a comfortable, stable ride over sportiness.
Handling wise, a modified suspension offers a planted ride especially in sharp turns when taken at too great a speed. It’s controlled and assuring.
Now all this luxury, comfort and economy comes at a price, but not an exorbitant price. RX450h began life at $46,750 exceptionally equipped. Included as standard is lane departure alert with steering assist (will automatically steer the SUV back between the lines), lane tracing assist, road sign assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, intelligent high beam headlamps and more. Options such as blind spot monitor with parking assist, panoramic view monitor, rear cross traffic braking ($1,865); cold weather package windshield wiper deicer, headlamp auto leveling/headlamp cleaners ($315); 20-inch alloy wheels ($1,130); color heads-up-display ($600); heated/ventilated front seats ($640); panoramic sunroof ($1,850); 12.3-inch navigation system/Mark Levinson audio ($3,365); touch free power rear liftgate with kick sensor ($150); Premium Package ($800) for memory driver seat, auto-dim outer mirror plus delivery ($1,025), all took the bottom line to $58,490. This price can be shaved somewhat by foregoing some of the niceties like sunroof, head-up display etc.
Also to be considered for this price, the RX450h garnered top government safety ratings. It received a full five stars for an overall vehicle score; four for driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front and rear seat side crash and four for rollover.
RX450h comes from a heritage of being a smooth, quiet riding and reliable luxury SUV. Its hybrid technology merely increases its attractiveness.
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