2008 Lexus RX 400h Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 6, 2008

With the carbon footprint of a small car and all the comforts and technologies of a luxury SUV, the 2008 Lexus RX 400h is a green family’s dream.

In putting together this comprehensive review of the 2008 Lexus RX 400h, TheCarConnection.com’s car experts included information from a variety of reviews. Then TheCarConnection.com editors added their observations and firsthand experience with the RX 400h.

The RX 400h is a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the RX 350 crossover vehicle. Available in front- or all-wheel drive, the 2008 Lexus RX 400h receives a few minor updates this year, including a new front grille, chrome door handles, a new finish for its 18-inch wheels, and a rear spoiler.

The 2008 Lexus RX 400h is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 engine and the latest version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, which includes two separate electric motor/generators. In the all-wheel-drive version, there's one each at the front and rear axles, working through a continuously variable automatic transmission. It's a so-called full-hybrid system, meaning that it can operate solely on its electric motors for limited distances at low speed, such as when crawling along in gridlock traffic. The electric motor system is the only power source for the rear wheels, with the sophisticated hybrid management system allowing smooth power delivery even on slippery surfaces.

Combined, the two power sources generate the equivalent of 268 horsepower. The 2008 Lexus RX 400h can reach 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, tow up to 3,500 pounds, and achieve up to 27 mpg city/24 mpg highway (for front-drive models).

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The 2008 Lexus RX 400h doesn't handle quite as well as the standard RX 350, due to its heavier weight--it has an all-electric power steering system--but it rides about as well, and the hybrid system feels much more settled on the highway; it's easier to maintain a steady speed than in the Toyota Prius. The overall driving experience is nearly as refined as that of the standard RX 350--though a full-throttle pass yields a little more noise due to the CVT.

A very attractive interior design, with rich materials and very comfortable seating for five, distinguishes the RX from more plainly styled rivals. The 2008 Lexus RX 400h also comes as well equipped as most luxury vehicles, but the options list is especially lengthy and interesting. A DVD navigation system, laser-guided cruise control, heated seats, adaptive front lighting, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and a Mark Levinson premium audio system are optional.

The 2008 Lexus RX 400h has done very well in most crash tests, with straight five-star results in the federal tests for frontal and side impact, and top Good results from the IIHS, though the insurance group gave the RX a Poor rating for rear impact. Lexus's sophisticated VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management), a more sophisticated form of electronic stability control, is standard on the RX 400h, along with anti-lock brakes, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and a driver's knee bag.

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