The RX 450h is a hybrid version of Lexus' midsize RX 350 crossover that manages to be spacious and sybaritic while simultaneously sipping fuel. Despite a vast cargo area and luxurious , it can still return up to 30 mpg combined.
For the latest model year, Lexus has given the a mild refresh complete with stylistic revisions and several equipment additions.
Keeping in line with Lexus' latest design language, the latest RX 450h arrives with a new front end inspired by the GS sedan. Lexus' signature hourglass-shaped grille is front and center, flanked by new headlights with a line of LEDs. A unique front bumper, blue-trimmed Lexus logos, special 19-inch wheels and blue-tinted headlamps and taillamps set the RX 450h apart from its conventionally-powered sibling.
The RX 450h is essentially unchanged in profile, but it does sport a revised rear-end. A slightly re-worked bumper is part of the new package, as is a license plate area shaped to mimic the car's front grille shape.
The hybrid powertrain carries over with no revisions. It consists of an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 that teams with an electric motor to produce a total system output of 295 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission sends power to the front wheels, helping to provide maximum efficiency if not a linear responsiveness to throttle inputs.
Fuel economy is rated at 32 mpg city, 28 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, and 30 mpg city, 28 mpg highway with all-wheel drive.
Notably, the optional AWD system doesn't use a transfer case and driveshaft to send output to the rear wheels - instead, an electric motor powers the rear axle to provide extra traction when wheel slippage is detected.
Inside, the flowing design theme of the interior remains, though the steering wheel and center console have been reworked for improved ergonomics. Material quality is still top-notch, and the seats are comfortable enough for cross-country trips.
When equipped with the optional Display Audio or navigation packages, the RX 450h features Lexus' Remote Touch system. This mouselike device allows users to navigate through icons and menus on a dashboard-mounted display screen; some love it and find it easy to use, while others have criticized it as an unnecessary distraction that diverts attention from the road.
Those looking to put their hybrid luxury crossover to work as a pack mule will find much to like in the RX 450h: a sizable 40 cubic inches of cargo space is available behind the rear seats, and 80.3 cubes can be had by folding the rear seats down. The story is similar if people hauling is a priority thanks to a spacious rear passenger area, although, unlike some rivals, no third-row seat is available.
Standard and Optional Features
The RX 450h come standard with with genuine wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, a nine-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with a six-disc CD changer, SiriusXM radio and an iPod/AUX input, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, a proximity key, push-button start, power-adjustable front seats, a power liftgate, heated exterior mirrors, LED running lights and taillights, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The Navigation System with Backup Camera Package brings (surprise!) a navigation with voice command functionality, NavTraffic, HID headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, the Remote Touch system and Lexus' Enform Application Suite, which pairs with the owner's iPhone, Android or Blackberry to provide local searches through Bing and utilize voice-enabled apps to make restaurant reservations through OpenTable, get movie tickets via MovieTickets.com or tap into internet radio, including Pandora or iHeartRadio
To those features, the Luxury Package adds leather upholstery, memory functionality for the front seats, a sunroof, a rear-armrest storage compartment and auto-dimming exterior mirrors.
The RX 450h comes standard with dual front, front knee, front and rear side, and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control system, electronic brake-force distribution and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
As the new-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class Hybrid has yet to be released, the RX 450h is currently the only gas-electric midsize luxury crossover. Buyers who place an emphasis on fuel efficiency but don't want a vehicle with a stylized "L" badge on the front grille should check out the diesel-power versions of the BMW X5 and Audi Q7.