When it debuted in 2006, it could have easily been considered an oxymoron — a luxury, hybrid sport utility vehicle? But with its series of upgrades, the newly named Lexus RX 450h has become mainstream in its short tenure.
The RX 450h no longer attracts a “wow-factor” response because it initiated a new vehicle segment. Instead, it garners attention for the same reasons as its siblings — class. In short, it deserves the manufacturer’s luxury brand high praise reputation.
The Weekly Driver’s Ratings
An increase of 27 horsepower to 295 is one of the numerous changes this year. The vehicle is also 400 pounds heavier. The new statistics don’t make a lot of acceleration difference. The hybrid won’t win a drag race off the line. But when a powerful, steady burst is necessary, the 450h is quicker than some SUVs I’ve driven equipped with V8s.
Steady, firm braking with a surprisingly small turning radius. When facing a parallel parking scenario or maneuvering through tight parking spots in the mall, I nearly forget I was driving an SUV. The new Lexus, in a word, is nimble — particularly considering its size.
Cargo Room (7)
There’s 40 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. That’s substantial, and didn’t go unnoticed by the review experts at Edmunds.com. They pointed out a Toyota Sienna minivan has about 43 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place. The hybrid RX has a deep center console and there’s also a substantial cargo area just below the center stack. It’s a unique use of space and with easy access. There’s no third seat option.
Intuitive, classic design, small learning curve, perfectly positioned. The Lexus RX 450h is a luxury car, right. Would you expect anything less?
Real wood is used as accents in the cabin. The rear seat slides and reclines with ease. Lexus manufacturers cars with a purpose. Materials are first-class, used in a well orchestrated smooth design with all parts ideally positioned. It’s like driving while sitting in a interior decorator’s family room. Standard equipment is impressive: alloy wheels, multi-adjustable power front seats, a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control and a nine-speaker stereo.
Front Seats (7)
Quality leather, ideal firmness and more than adequate, foot, leg and head room. Sit in the driver’s seat and it’s not too dissimilar from being at the head of the table at a dinner party and being in control of the serving platters and utensils — and liking it.
Fuel Economy (8)
You want 50 mpg, this ain’t the car. But in its unique designation as a midsized luxury SUV, the RX 450h has the best fuel economy in its class with estimates of 30 mpg (city) and 28 mpg (hwy). The hybrid can function in gas-engine-only, electric-only or combination modes depending on conditions.
Like all hybrids, there’s an adjustment for anyone operating a hybrid for the first time. Is the engine on? Is the engine off? It’s hard to tell. The RX 450h is quiet during city and highway driving, although like many other hybrids, the transition from electric to gas engine is audible.
Rear Seats (7)
Rear passengers can get comfortable thanks to the seat’s reclining and sliding adjustments. That seat is split 40/20/40 for passenger comfort and cargo-carrying flexibility.
Ride Quality (7)
Among several several key highlights throughout the brand is the Lexus smooth, tight ride. The 450h is no different. The suspension is soft and some have complained it’s “spongy.” I didn’t notice anything but comfort at any speed and in any driving circumstance.
Total (68 out of 100)
Class — hybrid SUV.
For standard equipment/option package information, visit: www.lexus.com.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) — $43,250,00
Price As Driven — $54,115.00
Mileage Estimates — 30 mpg (city), 28 mpg (hwy).
Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited miles; Hybrid battery/components, 8 years/100,000 miles.
What Others Say:
“The 2010 Lexus RX 450h pleases green do-gooders and upscale shopaholics alike. Driving enthusiasts, though, should look elsewhere.” —- CarConnection.com
“The 2010 Lexus RX 450h drives a lot like its gas-powered RX 350 sibling, delivering a smooth ride and tight handling despite its extra weight (which is only noticeable when changing direction at higher speeds).” —- Edmunds.com
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“It’s a hybrid just like the hot-selling Toyota Prius. But who knew more than a decade ago, one hybrid (Prius) would get nearly twice the gas mileage as another hybrid (the Lexus RX 450h)? The Prius defines economy and efficiency; The Lexus RX 450h defines as good as luxury and efficiency can get in an SUV. It’s hard not to like once the sticker shock subsides.”
Article Last Updated: February 14, 2010.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.