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  • 2017 Lexus RX 450h AWD F Sport

    Posted on May 31st, 2017 ninarussin

    Hybrid SUV gets enhanced active safety features

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Lexus 450h

    2017 Lexus 450h

    The 450h is the hybrid sibling to Lexus’ RX 350 midsize sport-utility vehicle. Although engineers employ electric motors to enhance fuel economy, they also boost power, giving the RX the performance of a V-8.

    A 3.5-liter V-6 engine works in concert with two electric motors- one on each axle- delivering exceptional acceleration off the line as well as 30 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy. The F-Sport edition tested adds a sport-tuned suspension, special exterior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels and unique interior.

    Base price for the RX 450h F Sport AWD is $56,495 excluding the $975 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a panoramic view monitor, touch-free rear door, triple-beam LED headlamps, Mark Levinson audio and navigation system, cargo net and carpeted cargo mat. Final MSRP is $61,804.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    2017 Lexus 450h

    2017 Lexus 450h

    Once behind the wheel, it’s easy to understand why the RX is such a popular vehicle. It fills a lot of squares for growing families wanting interior and cargo versatility plus the driving dynamics of a sport sedan. This year, Lexus adds a host of standard active safety features including blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, autonomous braking, a Scout GPS link, pre-collision, lane departure alert, intelligent high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.

    The test car’s atomic silver exterior is new for 2017. The current model integrates the Lexus’ spindle grille more successfully into the vehicle design, balancing it off with a strong, high beltline and angular rear end. Large LED headlamps and air intakes on either side of the grille raise the eyes up and make the bottom section look less heavy. Twenty-inch wheels on the test car create a fat footprint for high-speed performance and dress up the car in profile.

    The 3.5-liter V-6 engine develops 259-horsepower and 247 lbs.-ft. of peak torque. Electric motors add another 232-horsepower. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 7.9 seconds: impressive for a vehicle with a curb weight of 4,740 pounds.

    2017 Lexus 450h

    2017 Lexus 450h

    The vehicle is well balanced front-to-rear, with the engine and transaxle up front and nickel-metal hydride battery pack positioned under the second-row seats and cargo area. The battery pack’s location keeps the center of gravity low- balancing off the optional panoramic sunroof- and out of the way so second-row seats can fold flat to extend the cargo floor.

    Hybrid technology also enables engineers to make the engine on/off feature at idle less invasive. Extra battery capacity makes possible an electronic air conditioning compressor versus a traditional mechanically actuated unit, that stays on: keeping the interior cool when the gasoline engine shuts off. In the extreme heat of the desert southwest, that’s a very big deal.

    A six-speed continuously variable transmission works well with the powerplant. Feedback is slightly different than a traditional step transmission, but the unit doesn’t suffer from the rubber band feel of competitive products.

    An electric power steering system saves weight under the hood and provides plenty of assist at the low end for good maneuverability and a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway.

    2017 Lexus 450h

    2017 Lexus 450h

    The four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts with coil springs up front and a compact double wishbone setup with coil springs in the back. It does a good job of absorbing bumps in the road while keeping the chassis nice and flat in the corners.

    Visibility around the vehicle perimeter is good, thanks to rearview and overhead cameras that eliminate blind spots when drivers shift into reverse. Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots.

    Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion from the road, engine and wind to the interior so both rows of occupants can converse or enjoy the premium audio system.

    Versatile interior

    Lexus 450h Interior

    Lexus 450h Interior

    Lexus designers created a stylish interior that combines with the versatility active families need. Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob adding a measure of safety after dark. The driver can also access the cargo area without a key fob by placing his hand near the Lexus emblem.

    I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with plenty of lower lumbar support for longer drives. Memory settings make it easy for multiple family members to share the car.

    F-Sport seats are heated and ventilated, preventing the traditional problem with leather during the southwestern summer.

    I found the center stack screen easy to read, with bright, clear graphics. The navigation system is intuitive to program and recalculates routes quickly as needed. The gauge cluster is easy to read at night and in low light but some of the characters fade out when the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses.

    Second-row seats fold flat to create a long load floor capable of holding a couple of road bikes with the front wheels removed. Rear seats also recline, move fore and aft to keep passengers comfortable on long trips. Dual zone climate controls have rear vents to circulate air through the back of the cabin.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus RX 450h comes with ten airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, blind spot monitoring, intelligent high beam assist, rearview camera with cross traffic alert and Lexus Enform Safety Connect that automatically notifies emergency medical personnel and police in the event of a serious collision.

    Lexus builds the RX at its Cambridge, Ontario Canada assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish midsize SUV with luxury amenities, good fuel economy and a high level of standard safety features.

    Dislike: Gauge cluster is difficult to see with polarized sunglasses.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: RX 450h AWD F-Sport
    Year: 2017
    Base price: $56,495
    As tested: $61,804
    Horsepower (gasoline engine only): 259 HP @ 6000 rpm
    Torque (gasoline engine only): 247 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 7.9 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: Yes
    Fuel economy: 31/28 mpg city/highway

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