It looks pretty, has good MPG, is roomy enough for your entire brood and drives more like a car than an SUV. The Lexus RX 450H might be the ideal family ride.
By Holly Reich
The Big Picture
We took the Lexus RX 450h from NYC to Ann Arbor, Michigan (and back). It was loaded to the seams with college gear for my daughter’s freshman year. I’m talking everything from Uggs, mini-refrigerator and giant storage containers to duffle bags bursting with teenage fashion for Jenna and her friend! What could have been a monster trip was actually fun because of the RX 450h. It has all the necessary luxury appointments: it drives beautifully, looks fabulous and hardly ever gets thirsty. I can count the number of times on one hand that we stopped for gas – round-trip.
An Inside Job
The comfortable cabin of the Lexus RX 450h has goodies like maple wood trim, 10-way power front seats with lumbar, and funky triangular windows up front that splashes additional light inside. The power tilt and telescopic steering column is topped by a slim, leather stitched steering wheel. It feels soft and grippy! And yes, there’s storage space. The pass through under the center stack is roomy enough to hold your purse and has a 12V charger outlet. There are plenty of retractable cup holders including a pop-out one on the driver’s side and a sizeable center console box. The cubbies on front doors and seat backs fold out, (so you don’t have to squeeze your hand in to see what’s there). The hooded navigation system is easy to read and use, even when glare creeps into the cabin. Seating is versatile: three-part (40/20/40) rear seats can slide fore and aft, recline and fold down using one-touch levers mounted in the luggage compartment. This alone made our trip less cramped, giving backseat riders a more relaxed position.
One word: yes. Whether you are single and need wheels big enough to carry your sports equipment or a family of five, this is the perfect fit. Read on and see why.
The Lexus RX 450h has all the necessary equipment including 10 airbags with side curtain airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, rear side airbags and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. A roll sensor signals the side curtain airbags to inflate if a tip-up is detected.
The RX 450h also provides Intelligent Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS). The nuts and bolts of it—when entering a corner, AFS estimates where the vehicle will be in three seconds, based on the vehicle speed and the angle of the tires and adjusts the aim of the headlamps.
Among the safety options is the Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and maintain a pre-set following distance from the vehicle traveling ahead. The radar sensor can detect certain obstacles in front of the car while a computer determines whether a collision is possible. In a dangerous situation, PCS retracts the front seat belts and increases the braking.
Gizmos and Tech
The optional Lexus Enform gets an honorable mention. Available on navigation-equipped vehicles, Enform features Destination Assist and eDestination. Live Destination Assist agents (available via your on-board cell phone equipment) will help drivers find a specific address, a business by name, or a type of business (i.e. gas station, movie theater, etc.), and even Zagat-rated restaurants, and send the routing coordinates to the navigation system.
With eDestination, drivers can go online via LexusDrivers.com to save and sort destinations in up to 20 folders. Drivers can then send the locations—up to 200 at a time—to their vehicle, where they will be available for download into the navigation system.
We did try it out and I can say that it was impressively quick. We called in asking for a different type of restaurant, something more local, that wasn’t on the highway. The very polite attendant sent us a link (which came right up on the map) to a chain restaurant at least ½ hour off our route. We decided to keep driving. Next time I’ll load in information before I leave and send it to eDestination.
I did expect a quiet ride, good maneuverability and excellent gas mileage. What I didn’t expect was speed and pick-up—smooth, steady and fast! The RX450h Lexus Hybrid Drive features a 3.5-liter V6 Atkinson-cycle engine (295 total hp), electric motors, a power-control unit and other fuel-saving innovations. And yes, true to its word, the Lexus RX 450h did offer up V8 style performance. The AWD model I drove had an estimated mpg of 30 city, 28 highway and 29 combined. I must say that the Eco-driving light was one of my fave features. When you’re driving in the green you feel so righteous!
An eco-friendly, mid-sized SUV with spunk, charisma, space and style.
HYBRID. Woo hoo. I wasn’t gung ho hybrid until I drove this vehicle. But then again, we’re talking Lexus.
The quiet factor. The downside: I was never sure that the car was turned on. Just wait…pretty soon they’ll be adding in recorded “engine sounds” for hybrids.
Though I admire the technology that went into ENFORM, it’s not necessary for me. Until the technology gets so seamless it can read my thoughts, I’ll stick with the standard Nav system.