- Smooth, controlled ride
- The Lexus ownership experience
- New Remote Touch controller has cutting-edge feel
- Big boost to EPA city fuel-economy numbers
- Remote Touch is still a computer interface
- Looks very, very similar to outgoing version
- Driving feel is less pleasing than gas-only version
- Highway fuel economy not much better than gas-only version
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h pleases green do-gooders and upscale shopaholics alike. Driving enthusiasts, though, should look elsewhere.
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h carries a torch—for advanced hybrid technology, for better fuel economy, but mostly, for the luxurious look and feel of the previous model. It's so close in shape to the outgoing RX 400h, it's hard for observers to tell the difference from the previous crossover hybrid's shape.
There are subtle differences, though, from the old version to the new 2010 Lexus RX 450h. The details are finessed—smaller headlamps, skinnier rear glass, a more pinched appearance from the side. The overall appearance is somewhat less imposing than before, but still handsome. The cockpit suffers a bit; the new shapes and textures of the dash, particularly the center console, are a little less rich and inviting, and less wood trim covers the dash. It can be difficult to tell the hybrid RX 450h from the gas-only RX 350, too; differences amount to blue-lit gauges, a tinted grille, and a tweaked front bumper, as well as small hybrid logos and optional 19-inch wheels.
Beneath the hood, the 2010 RX 450h is completely different, of course. Instead of a conventional V-6 engine, there's a 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, which includes two separate motors (a third on all-wheel-drive versions); a continuously variable transmission instead of a six-speed automatic; and a hefty battery pack under the second-row seat. The combination of gas and electric power, Lexus says, gives the RX 450h fuel economy of 28 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, about 10 percent better than the last RX hybrid. That compares well to the gas-only RX 350's 18 mpg city, but not so well to the RX 350's 24-mpg highway rating. Different driving modes are enabled by new computer controls; there's even a driver-selectable electric-only mode, in which the RX uses only the power stored in its nickel-metal-hydride batteries.
It's easy to see how the already aloof RX feels even more distant with the hybrid system's added weight and continuously variable transmission; the electric power steering common to both the RX 350 and RX 450h lacks road feel, but at least the newer, larger brake rotors seem more sporting. As in the gas-only RX, the Lexus RX 450h's best talents are in providing a smooth, quiet ride.
The raft of improvements shines also on the RX 450h's interior space. A redesigned rear suspension gives it about 5 percent more cargo room behind the second-row seats. Drivers and passengers continue to enjoy good head-, leg-, and shoulder room, so long as there are only four involved. Adding a third passenger to the second row of seats tightens things up considerably. No third-row seat is offered. The impression of quality is largely carried over from earlier models, but the redesigned instrument panel has swapped some of its high-end look for swoopy, silver-painted plastic. Too, there's more drivetrain noise and vibration in the RX 450h than before.
The 2010 Lexus RX skips nothing in the safety department. It contains 10 airbags in all, including curtain airbags and side bags for the rear seats, as well as standard anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and a hill-holder feature. The RX 450h's safety controls also integrate the operation of the stability and traction control for more predictable handling. For 2010, Lexus offers a Pre-Collision System, which uses radar sensors to detect a possible impact, then to ready the brakes and seatbelts for an imminent crash; adaptive lighting; and automatic high beams. TheCarConnection.com will revisit the RX 450h's safety ratings when the NHTSA and IIHS perform their safety tests.
Outfitted with a host of upscale gear, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h leaves some equipment on the options list for the truly extravagant. All hybrid RXs have a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, and 10-way power front seats. Options include leather seating, a side-view monitor, USB connectivity for MP3 players, a Mark Levinson sound system, a hard-drive navigation system, XMNavTraffic, a rear-seat entertainment system, ventilated front seats, remote start, and a sport-minded suspension.
A touchy new subject with the Lexus RX is its new Remote Touch controller. Like the haptic systems from BMW (iDrive) and Audi (MMI), Remote Touch uses a single device to consolidate climate, entertainment, and navigation functions inside the cabin. The Lexus controller, though, resembles and acts like a mouse—unlike the click-wheel systems from the Germans. It's a more logical operation, but it's still electronic intervention where buttons and switches would be easier. A head-up display is optional, and it adds to the gee-whizzery that can turn the RX into an eerily fast driving simulator.
The most desirable feature of the 2010 Lexus RX 450h, aside from improved fuel economy, might be the Lexus ownership experience. The crossover might not be exciting to drive, and some may not see the mileage dividends without changing their driving style—but every Lexus owner is treated exceptionally well.
2010 Lexus RX 450h
The interior of the 2010 Lexus RX 450h wins praise for its user-friendly layout, while the refreshed exterior maintains a conservative appeal.
If you've seen the less expensive RX 350—or even previous model-year RX models—you've essentially spotted the pricier 2010 Lexus RX 450h hybrid model. That's the case according to most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Even though the Lexus RX crossover utility vehicles have been redesigned, they bear a striking resemblance to previous RX Lexus models and could easily be mistaken for them from the outside.
The exterior styling of the Lexus RX 450h is familiar for a reason—it works, and Lexus doesn't want to mess with the unbridled success of the RX lineup. Motor Trend is quick to point out that "it's unlikely the neighbors will be able to detect that the 2010 RX is all-new," although they mention that the Lexus RX 450h features a "unique front grille and bumper and blue-tinted badges." Kelley Blue Book says the 2010 Lexus RX 450h is "slightly larger inside and out," while Cars.com adds that the Lexus RX 450h "is the latest Lexus to receive the brand's 'L-finesse' styling language." The key aspects of the new styling, according to Cars.com, are "sharp, angular design elements, such as the headlights." Road & Track picks up the new elements, remarking that "the new body has a much more muscular look," but for the most part it's the same RX you know and love.
The interior of the 2010 Lexus RX 450h is another story, however, and it features a significant styling makeover. Road & Track calls the new look the "'dual-zone' cockpit design," which features "a display zone centered around the dash-mounted 8-in. navigation display, while the operation zone, closer to the driver, includes a remote touch-navigation controller and steering wheel-mounted multi-information switch." Automobile Magazine likes what Lexus has done inside, noting that the interior "now sports more angular faces than the Sydney Opera House" and claims "it's interesting to look at [and] even more intriguing to use."
Cars.com reports that other changes include "solid or two-tone color schemes" and "sweeping lines" across the dashboard. Another major change, according to Edmunds, is the "mouse-operated, hard-drive-based Remote Touch navigation system [that]...attracts a Gizmodo crowd that revels in technology for technology's sake."
2010 Lexus RX 450h
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h proves you can have your cake and eat it too, offering both an increase in power and fuel economy.
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h shines in city driving, where it can make the most of its hybrid powertrain, but loses some of its fuel economy advantage on the highway.
The latest hybrid in the RX Lexus lineup, the Lexus RX 450h, is powered by a potent combination of gasoline and electric engines. Kelley Blue Book reviewers state that the Lexus RX 450h uses "a new 3.5-liter V-6 that employs mileage-making Atkinson Cycle valve timing [and] is teamed with the latest take on the Hybrid Synergy System." Motor Trend reports that the Lexus "RX 450h's hybrid system makes 27 hp more than that of [the] previous 400h," while also noting that "FWD hybrids utilize a 167-horsepower electric motor while AWD versions supplement that with a 68-horse electric motor that drives the rear wheels. Either way, combined system power is rated at 295 horses."
The combination proves more than adequate, as ConsumerGuide finds that the 2010 Lexus "RX 450h has impressive thrust and outstanding passing punch." According to their best estimates, Edmunds feels that the 2010 Lexus RX 450h should run at about "7.2 seconds from a standstill to 60 mph."
Along with a unique engine, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h differs from the RX 350 in the transmission utilized. While the conventional RX Lexus comes with a six-speed automatic, Edmunds says that the Lexus RX 450h features a "planetary continuously variable transmission (CVT)." These types of transmissions usually don't score very well with reviewers, but TheCarConnection.com's research reveals a surprising amount of praise for this latest version of CVT. Edmunds points out that "the transmission incorporates hill logic this year, and there are several specialized driving modes, our favorite being the six-speed mode with manual shifting," although the gear changes are simulated. ConsumerGuide adds that the "CVT transmission is responsive," while the "well-integrated hybrid/electric powertrain exhibits very little of the surging and bogging typical of hybrid vehicles." Both front- and all-wheel-drive versions of the 2010 Lexus RX 450h are available.
Despite a significant power boost over the previous Lexus RX 400h, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h still manages to provide an improvement in fuel economy. According to the official EPA estimates, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h should return 28 mpg city, 27 mpg highway in FWD models, while the AWD only drops to 26 mpg on the highway.
The RX Lexus lineup hasn't been known for sharp handling, but it can usually be counted on for a comfortable ride. The same holds true in the latest Lexus RX 450h, where a bump in overall weight has hurt handling, but a revised suspension keeps occupants riding in comfort. Motor Trend is impressed to find that "the electric power steering has been retuned and delivers commendable feedback and linearity," and Edmunds notes that it "stops and steers better, but still [is] not nimble." One sore point for many hybrids is brake pedal feel, but even here ConsumerGuide says the "brakes are strong, with a smooth, progressive pedal feel."
2010 Lexus RX 450h
Comfort & Quality
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h goes a long way toward justifying its price tag on the basis of its high quality and comfort levels.
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h boasts a larger cargo space than previous RX Lexus models, as well as all-day comfortable seats. Unfortunately, seating for five is the only option, as Lexus continues to resist the trend to add a third row to its mid-size SUV offering.
ConsumerGuide reviewers contend that "this premium midsize crossover SUV seats five" in a very comfortable arrangement, with front seats that are "shaped and padded for long-haul comfort, with an excellent blend of cushioning and support." Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com echo that sentiment, with Cars.com noting that "the optional leather seats are power-adjustable up front." Motor Trend reviewers appreciate the extra space on the new 2010 Lexus RX 450h, measuring "jumps in legroom (0.6 inch front, 0.2 inch rear) and rear shoulder room (0.5 inch)" that are attributable to the increased exterior dimensions of the Lexus RX 450h.
The rear seats also score well, as ConsumerGuide mentions that the back bench of the Lexus RX 450h offers "ample headroom and foot space for adults sitting outboard." The rear seats are also customizable—Cars.com says that "the backseat folds in a 40/20/40 split; like before, it reclines and adjusts forward and backward."
Interior storage space wasn't all that bad on the previous version of the RX Lexus lineup, but a few design changes for the 2010 Lexus RX 450h result in even more capacity. Cars.com reports that "the RX's cargo area measures 40 cubic feet," which means there is "more space than a Lincoln MKX (32.3 cubic feet)." Kelley Blue Book compares it favorably with previous versions of the RX Lexus, declaring that the latest Lexus RX 450h has "more space for five people and their cargo." In terms of hard numbers, Motor Trend says that the 2010 Lexus RX 450h has "an additional 1.7 cubic feet of cargo space, thanks to an all-new rear control-arm suspension." In the passenger area, ConsumerGuide remarks that "interior small-items storage is a bit below average for an SUV."
Both build and materials quality are excellent in the 2010 Lexus RX 450h. Cars.com states that "leather upholstery is optional (cloth seats are standard)," but otherwise this Lexus RX 450h comes standard with premium materials. ConsumerGuide notes that "RX models feature luxurious, high-grade cabin materials, with many soft-touch surfaces and comfortable padding" throughout. One of the new material touches, according to Motor Trend, is the use of an "OLED (organic LED) multi-information display, which is thinner and more efficient than LCD." Cars.com also comments that the Lexus RX 450h "makes wide use of soft-touch materials," which lend an air of luxury and quality to the cabin.
Occupants will feel comfortable, even when the road is less than smooth. ConsumerGuide raves that, on the Lexus RX 450h, "the ride is absorbent yet composed and controlled—nearly on par with a premium sedan." Edmunds does, however, reports that on straight roads the "RX 450h settles in and delivers a relaxed, serene ride that we simply can't fault."
Unlike its corporate sibling, the Lexus RX 350, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h doesn't have any significant cabin noise issues. Much to the contrary, ConsumerGuide says that "overall noise levels are pleasantly low," although "there is a noticeable wind whistle at highway speeds."
2010 Lexus RX 450h
Few vehicles on the road offer the combination of driver-awareness features and active-safety measures found on the 2010 Lexus RX 450h.
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h hasn't yet completed the full round of crash tests, but that alone isn't enough to keep this perennial safety standout from earning high marks in the safety category. The 2010 Lexus RX 450h is packed with active and passive safety features, as well as a few nifty visibility-enhancing devices that will prove invaluable.
As of this writing, no U.S. crash tests have yet been conducted on the 2010 Lexus RX 450h, but previous versions of the RX Lexus lineup have fared quite well. There's little reason to believe that the story will be any different for the Lexus RX 450h, especially considering that Edmunds reports "structural reinforcements to improve crashworthiness."
In terms of safety features, there's little more you could ask for than what comes on the 2010 Lexus RX 450h. Cars.com reports that "standard safety features include all-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front and outboard rear seats, front and rear side curtain airbags, knee airbags for front-seat occupants, an electronic stability system and active head restraints." ConsumerGuide adds that "Lexus' Pre-Collision System, which is designed to tighten the seatbelts and ready full braking power when sensors detect an imminent collision," is also available on the Lexus RX 450h, while "Hill-start assist is a new standard feature." One other noteworthy safety feature, according to reviewers at Motor Trend, is the new set of headlamps "that automatically switch from high to low beams when a camera in the rearview mirror detects lights from vehicles ahead."
Speaking of cameras, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the RX Lexus lineup offers a few to help with driver visibility. Along with the usual backup camera, which Cars.com says is "included with the navigation system option," Cars.com states that the Lexus RX 450h is available with a "wide-view side monitoring system. Featuring a wide-angle camera mounted under the right mirror, the system can show an image on the navigation screen of the ground around the right side of the RX, to make parking easier."
2010 Lexus RX 450h
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h borrows a lot from Silicon Valley, but easily keeps it all in check.
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h packs on high-tech features without unduly complicating the driving experience.
The features on the 2010 Lexus RX 450h draw lots of attention in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, which is understandable when you consider that Motor Trend claims the RX Lexus lineup is "crammed with about as much tech as the International Space Station." ConsumerGuide notes the availability of some "welcome high-tech features," including "a hard drive for storing digital music files."
The most interesting new feature on the Lexus RX 450h is the Remote Touch interface—Edmunds reports that this new mouse-operated system "feels instantly natural" for those accustomed to working on computers, and "eventually users perceive it to be just as easy to use as a touchscreen." Motor Trend, meanwhile, states that the Lexus RX 450h includes "intuitive park assist, Smart Key access system, XM NavTraffic and Weather, heads-up display...and standard Bluetooth."
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h can be equipped with much more technology than just what is offered in the base version, though that may prove to be enough for most people. For those interested in additional features, ConsumerGuide reports that "an available side-view monitoring system uses TV cameras to show a wide-angle passenger-side view of the vehicle on the navigation screen," while additional features for the Lexus RX 450h include "dual-screen DVD entertainment [and] adaptive cruise control." Audiophiles will be delighted to learn that Motor Trend reviewers list a "15-speaker Mark Levinson audio" system as one of the available upgrades for the RX Lexus lineup.