2011 Lexus RX 450h Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 14, 2011
The 2011 Lexus RX 450h isn't a model you should pick if you want to show the world you bought a hybrid. It's seemingly anonymous, and a variation of a vehicle that's already about as ubiquitous in suburban boutique mall parking lots as they come. And if that's not enough, 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.

But if you want to get 30 miles per gallon puttering around the city in complete comfort, not thinking about hypermiling or what propulsion model the vehicle is in at what moment, this is one of your better picks.

Beneath the hood, the 2011 RX 450h is completely different. 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. Fuel economy ratings range up to 32 mpg city, and the driving experience really isn't that much different than that of the RX 350—although the already numb, detached feel of the steering and driving experience becomes even more so.

The most dramatic part of the redesign the RX received now about two years ago was to the interior; the instrument panel got a swoopier look that's slightly canted toward the driver. Otherwise those in back will be nearly as comfortable as those in front; seats get nice, adult-size contouring all around, and the cabin is an extremely tight, refined place—though there's a bit more drivetrain noise and vibration in the RX 450h.

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Just as with the 'normal' gasoline Lexus RX 350, there's not a lot to get excited about, but there's a lot to make you feel comfortable and secure. Safety equipment is strong—with ten airbags on board—and it's a Top Safety Pick. There are also some interesting tech options, including a Pre-Collusion system that cinches up seatbelts when anticipating a collision, adaptive lighting to help you see around dark corners, and a head-up display.

Of course, that's in addition to the very extensive list of luxury features and comfort items. Bluetooth, power front seats, and dual-zone climate control are standard, while options include leather seating, a side-view monitor, excellent Mark Levinson audio, a hard-drive navigation system with live traffic info, remote start, and rear entertainment.

For more information on the 2011 Lexus RX 450h, please see our full review of the 2011 Lexus RX 350, where you'll find more images, related news, and what other sources have said.

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