2013 Lexus RX450h Review Behind the Wheel ZipRage

THE RIDE:

2013 Lexus RX 450h

THE REVIEW:

The Lexus RX 450h is a gas-electric hybrid version of the well known RX 350 crossover sport-utility vehicle. The 450h was first introduced by Lexus in 2006 and to call its reception a success would be an understatement. The Lexus RX 450 h was the most popular hybrid sport utility in 2012.

The Lexus RX 450h last got a major face-lift in 2010, when it received more power and significantly better fuel economy. Mechanically the 2013 is the same vehicle it was in 2010.

For 2013, Lexus gave the RX 450h a mild face-lift with revisions to the backside and a bit of an interior makeover. The signature styling feature is the new trapezoidal grille that’s recently made it’s debut in the GS sport sedans as well. The upper grille and slanted lower grille combine into a single element that projects an aggressive front end design and a new headlamp incorporates Audi-esque LED daytime running lights.

The gas-electric RX 450h features a 3.5-liter V6 Atkinson-cycle engine rated at 245 horsepower and 234 pound-feet of torque paired to three electric motor-generators. One motor generator operates as an engine starter and can charge the battery, a second is a 167-horsepower motor that works with the gas engine to deliver power to the front wheels and a third in the AWD model drives the rear wheels. Total output is 295 horsepower.

2013 Lexus RX450h Review Behind the Wheel ZipRage-12The engine and drive motor are connected to a continuously variable transmission, which further maximizes the RX 450h’s efficiency. To store all that electic power there’s a 288-volt nickel metal hydride battery tucked under the second-row seats.

Though the luxury hybrid RX 450h is an all-wheel drive vehicle, it is not well suited for off-road driving. There is no mechanical driveshaft from the front to the rear, instead, the vehicle demands more torque from the rear electric motor as road conditions demand.

The RX 450h can operate in electric-only or gas-engine-only modes as well as a combination of both. A driver-selectable EV mode can allow the vehicle to be driven short distances using only the electric motors. Also, the hybrid system can shut off the engine when the car is stopped, and then turn it on again when the brake pedal is released.

The result of all this fuel saving technology is a mileage rating of 30 highway/28 city/29 combined.

Changes to the interior are subtle, including a redesigned steering wheel, new metallic accents and more storage room in the center console.

The RX 450h has everything you’d expect from a luxury SUV; standard power tilt/telescoping steering column, a nine-speaker sound system, an interactive information screen, dual-zone climate control and a power liftgate among others. Unfortunately, many luxury standards will cost you extra; leather seating is now extra; a 15-speaker sound system is available, as are video monitors for blind spots, and of course there is an optional navigation system.

Standard 10-way power front seats are shaped and cushioned for great comfort, combined with ample steering wheel adjustments it is easy to tailor a comfortable driving position. Rear seats mimic the fronts’ comfort in addition, they slide fore and aft, as well as recline for a lot of passenger comfort options.

The Lexus Remote Touch system (included with the optional navigation system) is a feature I’ve really learned to love from Lexus. It allows you to easily navigate on-screen options without leaning forward in your seat to navigate buttons or a touchscreen. The RX 450h’s dash isn’t, however, laid out as well as most of the manufacturers vehicles. For example, the steering wheel heat button lies below and to the right side of the steering colum, hidden from view and highly difficult to reach while driving.

The RX 450h provides 40 cubic feet of storage with the seats up and 80.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.

The hybrid powertrain is seamless in operation and the engine stop/start function never gets in the way. Overall, the RX 450h delivers a very quiet and a comfortable driving experience. Power is on tap, but smooth and merging or passing is never an issue.

When it comes to handling, however, the RX 450h doesn’t inspire. It is a tall, heavy vehicle, with suspension dialed in for comfort. You won’t be carving corners in this one.

The RX 450h starts at $45,910, added fuel economy comes at a cost of $6,600 over its non-hybrid sibling, the RX 350. For city driving, this efficiency boost is 14 mpg, on the highway the difference is a much more modest 3 mpg. Do your math wisely as this is one hybrid that may not justify its sticker bump.

BRAGGING RIGHTS:

The most fuel-efficient luxury SUV you can buy with a buttery smooth ride and a luxurious and comfortable interior.

WINDUP:

The most fuel efficient luxury SUV comes at a questionable economic benefit with expensive and confusing options packages.

THE PHOTOS: