Trying to multitask might seem like a good idea at first, but although you might get things done, you might not get them done well. Watching your favorite football team or Formula One race, while studying for an exam, and typing a paper might work for a while, but you won’t know what happened in the race, you’ll fail the test, and your paper will be poor at best.
The 2010 Lexus RX450h attempts it’s own multi-tasking effort. The hybrid SUV tries to be luxurious, fuel efficient, and practical all at the same time. It manages to accomplish everything it set out to do, albeit with varying degrees of success.
The fifth-generation RX is the newest version of the best selling model in the Lexus line, but only one in five sell with a hybrid motor under the hood. So Lexus is banking on the RX450h being good at everything it attempts to do. So, how does it fair?
For 2010, the RX ditches the rolling jellybean theme of the old model. The Japanese automaker has created a vehicle with more finesse and more style than ever before. There are more sharp creases and broad shoulders that give the RX a more hunkered-down appearance.
The overall dimensions of the vehicle have grown at bit, around a 2.2-inch wider track in front, a 2.6-inch stretch in the rear, and the wheelbase is now 107.9 inches. That extra girth has helped the RX in the corners, as well as interior room, but with added size comes added weight. The new RX has packed on 500 pounds over the previous version, while the all-wheel drive version gains 400 pounds on top of that. Our hybrid version amps that up, as it had an added 460 pounds thanks to all those batteries.
Still, while the RX looks bigger and weighs more, it still looks a bit funky in the front. If you stand and look at it, it seems as if the front is hovering, as it sits up quite high and the tires are placed far back. The grille, headlamps, and tail-lamps are far more dynamic than ever before. We like the rear-spoiler, as it hides the rear-wiper blades and the radio antenna. The RX450h features a collage of blue tinting on the front and rear emblems, headlights, tail-lights, and "hybrid" logos to set it apart from its gas powered sibling.
That finesse approach carries over into the interior of the RX450h, as it features a completely revised instrument panel, center stack, and navigation system. In an attempt to be luxurious and technological, the RX features an all-new Remote Touch controller, which is sort of like a mouse for the infotainment system. The controller pod rests easily in hand, with buttons placed on either side of the raised mounting. If you are computer literate, or have ever used a mouse, this system shouldn’t be hard to use. The controller moves an arrow on the eight-inch screen to operate the sat-nav, enter addresses into the QWERTY keyboard and controls the audio and climate control.
The RX450h, as well as the RX350, has a new Eco driving indicator that shows real-time fuel economy on the blue-backlit gauge cluster. Other interior features include a SmartAccess keyless entry, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, HDD navigation, and a backup camera.
The overall feel of the interior is a good one. The leather is soft and the plastics are just right. Some hybrid vehicles cheapen themselves up in order to keep the price down, but that can’t be said of the RX. This feels like a quality product and that’s what we’ve come to expect from Lexus.
This is Lexus’ second-generation RX hybrid and minor improvements can be felt all around. The hybrid powertrain shuts off the 3.5-liter V-6 engine nicely at stoplights and it comes back on when you get on the gas. It can be a bit slow at times, but nothing that will get irritating over time. The engine alone produces 245 hp at 6,000 rpm and 234 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm, with total power increased to 295 hp when the electric motors are spewing their battery power goodness.
If you’re inclined to use the 37 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery to its fullest power, the RX450h does have an EV mode that will allow the car to go up to 10 mph for about two minutes. Honestly, that just seems a bit weird because not many people travel at 10 mph, as most cities have a speed limit of 25 mph. If you use ECO mode, the car will take control of everything like a robot, including the air-conditioning and the throttle inputs for increased efficiency.
The RX450h isn’t quick at all, at least it doesn’t feel like it. Stomping on the accelerator forced the motor to give off a depressingly terrible noise and the speed never really arrived. This would be a major complaint in a normal machine, but considering this is a hybrid, we can’t get on it too much because this vehicle is about fuel efficiency, not power.
The ride is comfortable and smooth and there is little road noise to speak of. Once you get the vehicle up to speed everything is just fine. You can keep track of how the car is doing through the car’s main screen or the Multi-Information Display between the speedometer and the green driving gauge. This little thing can show you everything from tire pressure, fuel economy since last filling up, instant fuel economy, whether or not the vehicle is in EV or Eco mode and more.
Instead of a tach, you get a green driving gauge and it’s pretty fun to use. There is a blue zone, a green zone, and the power zone. We tried to stay out of this power zone as much as possible, even though it was fairly difficult when accelerating.
In the bends, the RX450h has some issues with body roll. While taking corners was never freighting like it was the Dodge Challenger, we wouldn’t’ advise any aggressive cornering. There was little steering feel and the brakes could be a bit grabby. Not to mention every time you stopped, the car would whine at you as it did its voodoo magic to regain some energy.
In terms of an overall driving experience, the RX450h isn’t what you would call exciting. This is a fuel economy vehicle designed to take a family where it needs to go. This isn’t the Hyundai Sonata Turbo - although dads forced to drive it would certainly like it to be - and it certainly isn’t a normal RX. If you like driving, the RX hybrid might not live up to your standards.
Overall, the Lexus RX450h is a transportation vehicle. If you just sit back, enjoy the leather seats, the wonderful interior and watch the road, this is the perfect machine. This machine manages to accomplish the luxury aspect quite well, same with fuel economy and it’s fairly practical as well. For the soccer mom or the dad who just wants a vehicle that can carry his kids, this is as good as gets.
Or is it? One has to wonder if you really need to spend this much on the RX hybrid. In order to get one, you need to shell out an extra $5,000 over the normal one and is it worth it? Is the overall product worth $51,000? The Toyota Highlander hybrid is just as good in terms of fuel economy and although it might not be luxurious, it manages to get two out of the three spot on.
Basically, if you can afford it, the RX450h is fine. If you need to have the Lexus badge and the hybrid badge in one decent looking package, go pick one up. As for us, we don’t need either. So, it’ll be the Highlander then.
Why we like it: Once again, Lexus manages to create a vehicle that is luxurious, practical, and built like you would expect. It’s pretty fuel efficient as well, around 29 mpg.
Why we don’t like it: We are drivers and we love cars that love to be driven. This isn’t one of them. It wants you to want to get the best mileage possible and be comfortable on your journey. The steering is numb, the brakes as average, and the engine makes an unpleasant noise when pushed.
Overall Verdict: Have a family, money, and the need to save the planet in style? Here is your RX450h.