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REVIEW: 2011 LEXUS RX 450h
High End, High Bred

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Nov 8, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Lexus RX 450h

By John-Fredrik Wright A while back, I reviewed the Toyota Highlander hybrid, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Colleagues at LA Car were getting a little annoyed at how much I enjoyed the Highlander, but now it seems that I may have fallen for another hybrid. A little more expensive than the Highlander, Lexus’ take on the hybrid SUV—the RX 450h—has a couple, three, four, five or more features not found in the Highlander. For starters, this feels like a luxurious car. It is, after all, a Lexus. The doors shut tight and keep out much of the noise from outside—even when driving. The seats are very comfortable, even for hours at a stretch. The exterior styling has its moments, even if the RX is already crowding the streets of So Cal, I must say it does great in this environment. The interior, however, is where the RX really shows its stuff. The features galore, the luxurious touch, and the all-around feel of perfection is felt throughout the interior. And turn on the Mark Levinson sound system and you will not want to ever leave this vehicle, but more on that later.


There are a couple of interesting solutions/features in this car. How about a cup holder right in front of the fan to the left of the steering wheel? At first I was unsure what to make of it, but after driving around in Death Valley, in the sun, all day with my bottle of water sitting there, I realized how much a constant flow of cold air from the air conditioner can do. That drink was the first thing to cool when I entered the car after lunch, and it stayed that way for the entire drive. A simple solution that might be frowned upon by other manufactures who instead have expensive heated and cooled cup holders, but this is an ingenious, and frankly much more effective, solution. That’s not the only thing kept cool in the car however. Since the seats are heated and cooled, you can easily chill out or heat up, literally, from your butt up. In Death Valley we were not interested in anything that heated something, but a cold seat was always very appreciated. Even though I disagree with Lexus’ decision to not allow me, or my passenger, to enter an address while the car is in motion, I must say that the navigation system, along with the rest of the functions and menus on the display screen, is very easy to operate. One of the coolest features, if I may use that word, must be the joystick used to navigate the screen. You can intuitively and easily move the cursor around on the screen by moving the joystick. But it gets better, you see; this is a smart joystick, with haptic feedback, so it “sticks” to buttons on the screen. This means that while you are moving the joystick around the map while in navigation mode, you can freely move the cursor with no resistance. But, when the cursor moves over a button you receive feedback in the joystick in the form of it “sticking” to that button. Very slick system, and it definitely comes in handy when trying to do something on the screen while driving. Instead of having to focus on where the cursor is at all times, you would instead move it towards the button you are aiming for and then wait for it to stick to it. Super-easy!


Other features that are easy to use include a very intuitive procedure to hook up a cell phone to the Bluetooth system. Not only was it easily connected, but using the system is also very easy. And I can’t really think of anybody I need to listen to through a Mark Levinson system, but I suppose nobody minds sounding like Pavarotti when they speak with me. Unfortunately I don’t think the same goes for my voice going the other way. On that note, the entertainment system in the RX, connected to the Mark Levinson sound system, is a thrill in itself. The movie-screens for the two rear passengers are elegantly integrated into the back of the front seat headrests, and since the two back seats recline, this car easily turns into a full-on movie theater. And what a theater it is! When the car is stationary, the navigation screen doubles as a movie screen and instead of using the Bluetooth headphones for the back two passengers you can listen to the movie through the 15-speaker surround sound system. Any movie comes to life, with all the audio effects coming through with immense power. I was actually so blown away by the sound system that I could not help myself; yes, I watched a movie in the garage. I’ll admit it.


Instead of enjoying the car sitting still in the garage, I recommend taking it out sometimes. This is where you’ll find other neat features that enhance your experience. For instance, while driving in the dark, you will come to love the handy feature that allows you to turn off all the lights in the car. Most cars let you dim lights on the dashboard, but the RX goes all the way to off, and the navi-screen is easily turned off as well. This makes driving at night easier since you don’t have any glare from the inside. Couple this with the heads-up-display (HUD) and you can still see how fast you are going (dim the HUD way down and it won’t bother you at all). I am a little bummed that I can’t figure out how to turn off the “information lights” such as the light telling me that the cruise control is on, or that the headlights are on. That would have been great! The Lexus RX 450h is a hybrid, which helps to explain why an SUV can have better gas mileage in city driving (30 mpg) than on the highway (28 mpg). Even so, these numbers might not be on par with some of the other ultra-high-mpg hybrid vehicles on the road today, but for a small SUV, it sure does help. Don’t let the hybrid and the eco-friendliness fool you though; this is a relatively fast SUV. It will definitely pick up and go, and with the CVT transmission it revs up and never stops hurtling you forward. Very impressive! Furthermore, the RX will even handle some off-road driving nicely; on the dirt roads of Death Valley it blew up a dust storm. Maybe not for traversing rugged backcountry paths, but the RX will definitely handle any dirt that you throw at it. For more information about Lexus products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Lexus RX 450h Price: $44,825 (base) $56,569 (as tested with entertainment system, premium package, etc.) EPA fuel economy rating: 30 mpg (city) 28 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 3.5 liter, 24 valve, DOHC V6 with VVT Front & Rear Electric Drive Motor with Lexus Hybrid Drive Horsepower: 295 hp @ 6000 rpm Transmission type: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) Drive configuration: On-Demand All Wheel Drive Steering (type): Electric Power Rack-And-Pinion Steering Suspension (front and rear): MacPherson strut front suspension, Double wishbone rear suspension, Four-wheel independent suspension, Front and rear stabilizer bar Brakes and tires: 4-wheel Power Assisted Ventilated Front and Solid Rear Disc Brakes 235/60R18 all season tires Dimensions Length: 187.8 in Width: 74.2 in Height: 66.3 in Curb weight: 4520 lbs

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