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."