By: BRANDON RANDALL
When Lexus debuted its first RX hybrid model nearly a decade ago, it introduced something unusual to the automotive market: a luxury SUV that didn’t guzzle gas and require a fuel stop every other day. Many other automakers have brought their own crossover SUV’s to the market since then, but the 2014 Lexus RX 450h stays true to its legacy, ranking at the top of this class of ‘fuel-efficient’ vehicles thanks to its impressive fuel mileage, large list of standard features and comfortable cabin.
The Lexus RX 450h uses a full hybrid system just like its tiny cousin, the Toyota Prius. Don’t worry though, with a 3.5-liter V6 the 450h has a lot more power. Output amounts to 295 horsepower, routed through a special continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The 450h accelerates from zero to 60 in 7.5 seconds, making it only tenths of a second slower than the conventionally powered RX 350.
The full hybrid system helps the 450h coax out an impressive 30 mpg combined. When compared to the 20-23 mpg range of most other regular luxury crossovers, you begin to see that this Lexus really does stand alone in the market. Even rival diesel-powered SUV’s aren’t quite able to reach the 450h’s figures.
The cabin of the Lexus RX 450h is clean and attractive. The exceptional build quality and attention to detail is immediately apparent when you step inside. My model featured natural bamboo on the steering wheel and scattered around the cabin. High-quality leather throughout the RX lend an air of opulence. The main electronic control screen is vivid and relatively intuitive, though can sometimes require too much attention to use while driving. There is plenty of comfortable space in the back for three adults, enhanced with seats that feature sliding and reclining adjustments.
The base trim level comes very well equipped, with standard features like fog lamps, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone climate control, leather wrapped and adjustable steering wheel, eight way power front seats, cloth upholstery, and much more. Additional features like a sunroof, heated and ventilated seats and leather upholstery can be added for additional cost with the premium and luxury packages. You can also upgrade the sound system to the top of the market, Mark Levinson unit.
Driving this car was a pleasure. The compliant suspension and abundant sound insulation separate you from the outside world. The 450h would be a wonderful companion of comfort on long road trips. Despite its heft, the 450h feels a lot like its RX 350 sibling. Even when driven quickly through twists and turns, it was always composed and planted.
In a market of luxury crossover SUV’s that’s only growing with every passing year; the Lexus RX 450h remains an ideal choice for a very fuel-efficient, five passenger vehicle. It’s priced fair, looks and feels great, and will have you driving more and stopping for gas less.
(Check-back often for Brandon Randall’s auto column ‘Stick Shift’)