The whisper-soft whirring sound of the 2010 Lexus RX 450h is a gentle reminder that this hybrid delivers a unique driving experience.
With a 3.5 liter, 24-valve, dual overhead cam V6 engine, the RX 450h alternates between gas and electric power seamlessly. One detects that it has shifted from electric to gas when the vehicle becomes a little noisier, like a typical gas engine. Or one can just keep one’s eye on the digital pictogram on the dashboard that shows when power is coming from the engine, the battery or both, and also when the battery is recharging itself. However, when it’s running on electric power, it’s at times nearly soundless.
I drove this Lexus for a solid week without having to refill the tank, which was satisfying especially since gas prices jumped by a dime that week. The EPA fuel economy estimate sets the RX 450h at 30 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
This hybrid operates with the press of a button and runs at low speeds on electric power alone with the engine turning on automatically when needed at higher speeds. While the manual advised that the transmission and brakes may feel different, I only detected a slightly different brake feel–nothing significant.
The cabin, with touches of high-gloss wood, is roomy and comfortable for both driver and passengers. I immediately appreciated the steering wheel auto-tilt-away feature. When one presses the POWER button to start the car, the steering wheel automatically lowers and moves closer to the driver and when the vehicle is powered down, the steering wheel moves up and away, thus enabling the driver to more easily exit.
I became a fan of the RX 450h’s deep-set monitor screen where one can view vehicle information, climate control, audio, phone and navigation. The deep set of the screen allows it to be shaded and its clarity not affected by sunshine. I also felt right at home using the joystick and mouse-like controller for these devices, although I wondered how someone less computer-savvy might feel about them.
One of the luxury package options that I found helpful was the side-view monitor which, with the touch of a button, showed the right side of the vehicle that is commonly known as the blind spot. There are plenty of other technological advances including voice recognition that allows driver to control climate, phone and audio by speaking and windshield wipers that can sense how hard it is raining and adjust its speed. The test vehicle also came equipped with a backup camera and parking technology that alerts how close the vehicle is to an object behind it through visual clues and sounds.
And as one who is more often than not overloaded with handfuls of shopping bags or work material, I appreciated the automatic lifting rear door controlled by the remote.
And while it may be a minor thing, I simply loved the way the glossy wood and leather steering wheel felt in my hands—oh, so smooth.
The Lexus RX450h, certified as a super ultra-low emission vehicle, is a successful marriage of green initiatives, consumer-friendly technology and luxury appointments. And what a happy marriage it is.
Stats: On-demand all-wheel drive, 10 front/rear/knee & side curtain airbags, heated and ventilated front seats, LED headlamps that pivot at a turn, intelligent high beams, energy managing crumple zones, low tow-hitch receiver enabling vehicle to tow up to 3,500 pounds
Pricing: The price tag for this driving experience begins at $43,250. However, the RX 450h that I tested had $11,450 in options, including intelligent high beams and headlamp washer, one-touch moonroof, Mark Levinson surround sound with DVD and 15 speakers, navigation system with voice command and backup monitor. Final price for the test vehicle was $55,575.