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HIGHER 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 Fri, Nov 6, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

HIGHER BRED By Roy Nakano The RX has always been a pioneer model for Lexus. The first-generation RX introduced the concept of the luxury crossover. Perhaps more than any other vehicle, it was responsible for the boom in crossovers for the past decade, and its look inspired future designs from Asia as well as North America. The second-generation RX introduced the first hybrid luxury crossover, the RX 400h, capitalizing on the highly successful pure hybrid design introduced in the Toyota Prius. For the RX, however, Lexus included multiple electric drive motors for a combined horsepower of 268. Thus, the RX 400h not only got better gas mileage, it was significantly quicker than the non-hybrid RX.

For generation three, Lexus didn't mess with the successful formula too much. The 2010 RX 450h introduces an updated version of Lexus Hybrid Drive, featuring a 3.5-liter V6 Atkinson-cycle engine, lighter electric motors, a smaller and lighter power-control unit and other fuel-saving innovations. Lexus asserts that it offers up performance similar to V8s with better combined fuel economy than the average four-cylinder mid-size sedan. With EPA-estimated 32 mpg city and 28 mpg highway (30 mpg combined) ratings for the two-wheel drive test vehicle (and 30 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 29 mpg combined for the AWD) it earns 16-20 percent better fuel economy than its predecessor. The new 450h produces 295 total system horsepower, which is 27 more than the previous generation RX 400h. As a full hybrid, the RX 450h can operate in electric-only or gas-engine-only modes as well as a mode that combines the power of both. Extended electric-mode operation during low-speed or stop-and-go driving conditions helps reduce fuel consumption. Under certain circumstances, a new available driver-selectable EV mode can allow the vehicle to be driven short distances using only the electric motors. Lexus boasts that the RX 450h achieves Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) certification in California (Tier 2-Bin 3 in other states), producing nearly 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car. With the Atkinson cycle, the gasoline engine's intake valves are closed late to delay beginning of compression, resulting in a higher expansion ratio. That reduces intake and exhaust energy losses for more efficient combustion and improved fuel economy. The gas engine alone produces 245 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, up from 208 in the previous RX 400h; torque is 234 lb.-ft. at 4,800 rpm as compared to 212 at 4,400 rpm from the previous RX 400h's 3.3-liter V6. The Atkinson cycle also reduces exhaust temperature.

The virtues of a crossover design over a truck-based SUV become very evident as one lives with the RX. Ride quality is on par with a luxury sedan. Because of the sophisticated suspension designed into the new RX, handling is far superior to that of traditional SUVs, while still maintaining the elevated view of the road that SUV owners so desire. During normal driving, the RX 450h goes about its business as elegantly as any high end luxury vehicle, offering no clue as to its exceptional emergency situation capabilities. When called upon, however, the 450h roars like a lion, offering outstanding passing power and cornering ability. It's sort of like Vigor Morgenstein in his role in "A History of Violence" - a civil, friendly, mild-mannered Vigor under normal conditions; a highly capable, butt-kicking athlete when faced with a confrontation. Fit and finish are what you expect from Lexus - that is, class-leading. During long-distance drives, the comfort and luxury of the RX 450h make the miles seem shorter. Enhancing this sensation is the optional Mark Levinson Surround system - still among the best factory sound systems money can buy. As the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The RX hybrid certainly wasn't broke, but Lexus found several ways to make it better without messing with its overall goodness.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT More of the same goodness, but better.

For more information about Lexus products, go to www.lexus.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Lexus RX 450h Price: $41,660 (base) $51,505 (as tested), includes heated and ventilated front seats, Mark Levinson surround sound/DVD changer with 15 speakers, navigation system, Intuitive Parking Assist, Premium Package (touch open/close moonroof, auto-dimming electrochromic power heated outside mirrors, power rear door/hatch, MP3 mini plug with USB audio plug, three-setting driver's seat/steering/mirror memory), Sport Package (19-inch Sport Finish alloy wheels with mud & snow tires, Sport-Tuned suspension, Vehicle Dynamic Management, wood and leather trimmed steering wheel and shift knob). EPA mileage ratings (city/highway/combined miles per gallon): 32/28/30 mpg Powerplants: 3.5 liter 24-valve DOHC V6 with VVT 2 electric drive motors (3 for the all-wheel drive version) Lexus Hybrid Drive Horsepower: 295 @ 6000 rpm Torque: 234 pound-feet at 4800 rpm Drive system: Front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive optional) Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) Steering: Electronic power rack-and-pinion steering Suspension: 4-wheel independent with front McPherson struts and rear double wishbone suspension, anti-roll bars and vehicle stability control Brakes: 4-wheel power assisted ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB2) system with regenerative control and incorporating Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system (VDIM) Wheels and tires: 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels 19-inch mud & snow tires Dimensions Length: 187.8 inches Width: 74.2 inches Height: 66.3 inches Ground clearance: 6.9 inches Curb weight: 5770 pounds Performance (mfg. results) 0-60 mph: FWD - 7.8 seconds AWD - 7.4 seconds 0-1/4 Mile Acceleration: FWD - 16.0 seconds AWD - 15.6 seconds Top speed: 112 mph (electronically limited)

 

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