2013 Lexus RX 450h AWDPosted on December 11th, 2012
Hybrid five-passenger crossover gets a styling update
By Nina Russin
The RX series is undoubtedly Lexus’ greatest success story. Not only does the five-passenger crossover vehicle outsell larger GX and LX models, but as of November 2012, all Lexus passenger car as well.
The 450h is the gasoline-electric hybrid model in the RX lineup. First introduced as the 400h for the 2005 model year, the 450h that followed in 2010 is the second-generation car. The number ‘450’ designates power, not engine size. Engineers estimate that net power from the car’s 3.5-liter gasoline engine and electric motors is the equivalent of a 4.5-liter eight-cylinder block.
For 2013, the RX gets a refreshed exterior, the most noticeable aspect of which is Lexus” new spindle grille. New headlamps, LED running lamps and a new bumper frame the grille, making the newest RX a distinct departure from 2012 models. There is also a new rear tail lamp design, but its effect is subtler than the front end.
Base price for the RX 450h is $47,310 excluding the $895 delivery fee. Although the RX is the smallest of the brand’s three sport-utility models, pricing puts it in the heart of the luxury market, especially if the buyer adds a few options.
For example, the dual-screen DVD and navigation package, which also adds Lexus Enform, Sirius satellite radio and a backup camera costs $4,290. A heads-up display which projects speedometer readings onto the bottom of the windshield is $1200, while the luxury package with blind spot monitoring, semi-aniline leather trim, power moonroof, heated steering wheel, 19-inch alloy rims, roof rails, scuff plates and headlamp cleaners costs $6115.
Four other options on the test car, a comfort package that includes rain sensing wipers and heated and ventilated front seats, Mark Levinson audio, intuitive park assist and pre-collision with adaptive cruise control brings the final price to $64,280, a 25 percent jump up from the base MSRP.
Twenty-nine mile-per-gallon fuel economy
The RX hybrid is remarkably fast and efficient for a vehicle weighing 4652 pounds. The all-wheel drive car averages 29 miles-per-gallon in city and highway driving according to the EPA, one mile-per-gallon short of the front-wheel drive version.
The all-wheel drive RX 450h accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 7.4 seconds according to the manufacturer. The reason has less to do with horsepower than torque. Since electric motors develop peak torque at very low speeds, the car can go like a cheetah off the line, giving its owner bragging rights in the daily race out of the toll both.
Power for the RX 450h AWD model comes from a 245-horsepower aluminum V-6 engine and three electric motors. One motor controls the engine starter, generator and transmission ratios, the second drives the front wheels and the third the rear wheels. A nickel-metal hydride battery pack powers the lot. Engineers estimate total system horsepower at 295.
A continuously variable automatic transmission now comes with a sport mode, which also revises throttle mapping and makes the steering heavier. A snow mode slows down throttle response to prevent the wheels from spinning out on wet roads.
Test drive in Arizona
I spent the past week driving the newest RX around Phoenix, Arizona as well as a stretch of road on the Gila River Indian reservation south of town.
It’s easy to see why the RX has become such a popular car. It has everything the buyer of a luxury crossover might want, and the hybrid’s fuel economy is similar to a midsized passenger sedan.
The hybrid technology, which Lexus developed internally and has refined over the past two decades, is so seamless that it is virtually invisible to the driver. While the first-generation RX 400h felt nose-heavy, this car does not. The vehicle’s high profile and curb weight mean that it’s not going to corner like a sports car, but it feels well balanced, and is easy to control.
The electric power steering system has plenty of assist on the low end for maneuvering through traffic. A 40-foot turning circle makes U-turns difficult on all but the widest roads, but that’s hard to avoid on a vehicle with a 108-inch wheelbase.
On-center response at high speeds is pretty good. Drivers should have no problems making quick lane changes for performing emergency evasive maneuvers.
Options on the test car, including the blind spot monitoring system and adaptive cruise control, make it ideal for commuting. Adaptive cruise control also helps drivers conserve fuel, since they can use the system when traffic is heavy.
The heads up display enables the driver to monitor his speed without taking his eyes off the road. The display is adjustable, so drivers who find the numbers displayed on the windshield distracting can disable it.
Lexus is known for its quiet interiors, and the RX is no exception. There is no noticeable road, engine or wind noise inside the passenger compartment, enabling occupants to converse easily or enjoy the Mark Levinson sound system.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
Well-suited for active lifestyles
The RX is a good choice for active families, thanks to its all-weather capability and 3500-pound towing capacity. The power rear liftgate saves the driver from fumbling with arms full of cargo, making the back end much easier to load up.
With second-row seats in place, the cargo area has plenty of room for luggage, groceries, golf bags or small camping equipment. Folding the seats flat extends the cargo floor for skis, snowboards or bicycles. Optional roof rails enable the owner to add a carrier up top as well.
Inside, the RX has all of the amenities a luxury sedan would, including semi-aniline leather seating with front seat heaters and ventilators, a large center stack display with a mouse-type control device in the center console, premium audio system, navigation with real-time weather and traffic updates.
Keyless entry and start is both a convenience and safety feature, since the driver can enter the car and fire the ignition without having to fumble for the keys. For those who leave work in urban centers after dark, it adds a measure of comfort.
Lexus Enform connects the driver with a switchboard, whose operators can assist with vehicle locating and directions. I’ve used the system myself and found it valuable when I’m in a situation that prohibits programming the navigation system. For example, when I find myself having passed a poorly marked exit, I can get redirected to my destination without having to find a place to pull off the road.
The Lexus RX 450h comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, daytime running lamps, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Smart stop technology forces the brakes to override the accelerator pedal if the drive inadvertently depresses both at the same time.
Safety connect automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision. The system can also provide stolen vehicle location.
Lexus offers 24-hour roadside assistance during the factory warranty period, and covers lodging costs if the vehicle breaks down over 100 miles from home.
Like: A stylish, luxurious crossover vehicle that has the versatility to meet the needs of buyers with active lifestyles.
Dislike: Expensive option packages significantly increase the cost of the vehicle.
Model: RX 450h AWD
Base price: $47,310
As tested: $63,385
Horsepower:* 245 Hp @ 600 rpm
Torque:* 234 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.4 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 30/28 mpg city/highway
Comment: Horsepower and torque ratings are for the gasoline engine only, and do not take into account additional power from the electric motors.2013, Green Hybrid, Luxury 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Lexus, performance, pricing, standard safety
Leave a reply