• Jan 5, 2010
2010 Lexus RX 450h - Click above for high-res image gallery

With a slew of sensors and CPUs, the 2010 Lexus RX450h can pretty much drive itself. Want to go somewhere? Sit down in the driver's seat, use the Remote Touch device (a.k.a. "mouse") to tell the crossover where you want to go, and follow the easy-as-store-bought-pie instructions to your destination. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on how badly you want to feel like you're in control of your commute. For those concerned about fuel economy and comfort, the almost-autonomous nature of the RX450h is nice, but certainly doesn't offer a tremendous amount of ability to control how much fuel you burn moving down the street. As it turns out, this is a feature, not a bug. Find out why after the jump.

Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

How does the RX450h make it absurdly easy to get from one point to another? Through a combination of shiny luxuries and thoughtful technologies that give the operator fewer things to concentrate on while driving. Front and center among these new technologies is the car's heads-up display (HUD), which integrates directions from the navigation system in an amazingly intuitive way. Of course, to see those HUD arrows, you need to have the navigation system, which adds at least $2,550 to the RX450h's $41,660 base price.

Whether or not you opt to spend the extra money, the HUD exemplifies how Lexus has made the RX450h a simple and comfortable hybrid. Aside from directions, it displays your speed, along with the ability to adjust the brightness and angle to provide exactly the right look no matter the conditions (it can also be turned off). During long drives, when it comes time to lean forward on the steering wheel to straighten up the back for a few moments, you can still see how fast you're going, something we truly appreciated after a few hours on the highway. Of course, if you're letting the RX450h control its own speed with its adaptive cruise control, knowing your mph doesn't matter as much, but still, it's a nice touch.

We drove just over 550 miles during our week with this all-wheel drive 2010 Lexus 450h. For the first 250 or so miles, we let the machine do its thing in Eco mode: the adaptive cruise control was on and set to just a hair over the speed limit, climate control was set to auto and we followed the navigation system where it told us to go. The distance that the adaptive cruise control sets between the RX450h and the vehicle in front of it is, of course, adjustable. Nonetheless, it's not suitable for drafting – which we don't endorse anyway – and on the closest setting, it still kept us a safe distance away from other vehicles, even when people shifted lanes directly in front of us.

On auto-pilot (or as close as it gets these days), the RX450h automatically achieved 28.6 mpg – nearly in line with the EPA's 28/30 mpg estimates for the all-wheel-drive model (the front-wheel drive variant clocks in at 32/28). On the second half of our journey, we tried to beat the vehicle's full-auto performance. We turned off the air and (why not) also the auto-dimming (electrochromatic) rearview mirror system and told the CUV when and how hard to accelerate by using the pedals instead of the cruise control. We also tried our hand at manually shifting the gears of the Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT). Embarrassingly but perhaps predictably, all of this produced poorer fuel economy than the automagic system. Over the entire week, we managed 27.6 mpg. Score one for letting this particular vehicle drive you.

The RX450h strives to offer as much comfort as possible, so it's packed with luxury touches like side mirror glass that rotate downward when you put it into reverse for curb-finding and friendly interior lights that come on when you approach the car with the wireless key fob in the dark (neither of which is a new feature, but very convenient). The lights remind you that, hey, this car wants you to feel at ease. Quite a bit poorer in the wallet, but at ease nonetheless.

On the road, the smoothness of the RX's ride cannot be overstated. Even though we happened to be driving a pre-production model, everything was as smooth as melty mayonnaise. This is Lexus' second-generation RX hybrid (following the RX400h), and minor improvements can be felt all around. The hybrid powertrain shuts off the 3.5-liter V-6 engine nicely at stoplights; it comes back on without any hassle when it's time to move again. If you're inclined to use the 37 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery to its fullest extent, the RX450h does have an EV mode that will allow the car to go up to 10 mph for about two minutes. As in the 2010 Toyota Prius, EV mode is a limited tease of what a real electric car can offer, but it's better than nothing, and ideal for teenagers trying to sneak in to their parents driveways after curfew. Eco mode, which we used extensively during out week-long test, automatically controls the air conditioning and throttle inputs for increased efficiency.

To keep track of what's going on with the hybrid RX, there is a Multi-Information Display between the speedometer and the green driving gauge. This screen can toggle between all sorts of information readouts: average speed, tire pressure, average mpg, whether or not the vehicle is in EV or Eco mode and more. Switching the information type is controlled by a lever on the steering wheel, which is also used to engage EV or Eco mode and other options.

The green driving gauge isn't nearly as easy to use as similar displays in the Prius or the Ford Fusion Hybrid, but does provide a way to tell if you're charging the batteries from the brakes or pushing down on the gas pedal enough to enter the "Power" zone. We avoided this zone as much as possible – it means you're accelerating quickly – in our effort to get a decent mpg result. When we did need to use it, the RX450h's penchant for smoothness remained at our fingertips.

In the end, if you're seated in the comfortable seats of the RX450h and apply just a modicum of awareness and effort, you're in a crossover that will take you where you want to go, no questions asked. Compared to the non-hybrid RX350, the RX450h gets an official fuel economy improvement of around nine mpg. Toyota hasn't kept it a secret that it wants the fuel sippers to gravitate towards the Prius, while Lexus' hybrid line is more about adding creature comforts than it is about significantly reducing the amount of fuel one burns. Having said that, we applaud the mpg improvement to date, particularly for a vehicle of its size.

Still, does it make sense to spend $5,000 or so more for the RX450h than the RX350? You're undoubtedly getting some fuel economy benefits from the hybrid powertrain, but five grand worth? There's a simple way to answer this question: ask the car. Remember, the RX450h doesn't want you to think, it doesn't beg you to be involved with the driving experience, it just wants you to feel comfortable. If the hybrid badge and better mpg warms your cockles, then go for it.

Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have been a fan of the RX for years and while I preferred the look and design of the previous generation better,I'll certainly get 'used to it' since it's not that far from the handsome vehicle it's always been. I am thrilled to see the fuel economy has improved so much all while the smooth,luxurious driveability is even closer to purrfection.

      In our marketplace, we have many many choices for products that we need or aspire too. Cars are one huge place where there are many competent products all appealing and each offering thier unique vision of something.There are very few bad choices on the market nowdays and certainly less in the luxury segment.So when you haters rant against a country of origin( and German cars are made in the US, along with Japanese, etc) or a specific brand, understand you show the limits of your own knowledge of a multifaceted marketplace. Not everyone is sold on the high price of a BMW's performance, or Daimlers high priced engineering, or Lexus costly quiet/isolation, or Audi's expensive premium interior,etc. There is nothing wrong with any of these choices if thier strong suits appeal to your desires and you can pay the tab. Apparently, Lexus continues to build a well built,high quality,reliable offering in a segment(luxo crossover SUV) they have dominated from day one. I personally think the X-6 and ZDX type designs are a silly waste but if these and other brands are tying to beat the RX jauggernaut, good luck to the folly of low volume and heavy depreciation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      ugh I hate japanese vehicles. and this is one reason why. SO UGLY. I'd take any american or german SUV over these stinky japanese ones.. bLeH
      • 5 Years Ago
      My girlfriend wants an X6, but I'll gladly try to talk her into getting this instead. IMO, this is a much more sensible, and better all round car... & don't even get me started on the price difference.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think the X6 is a classic chick car: all fashion and not much else. It's one of those cars that finds itself in no man's land, because it is full of compromises & doesn't do any one thing particularly well... except maybe look good, and that depends on who you ask. All this is just my opinion, of course.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I watched the recent Top Gear last night in which Jeremy tested the X6 and I agreed with pretty much everything he said about it.

        It's basically a vehicle built of compromises. It has horrid rear visibility and rear seat room due to the sloping rear end. It has the high ground clearance of an SUV or CUV but doesn't offer anything in the way of a off-road characteristics otherwise.

        I forget exactly the way he worded it, but he essentially said that it was too tall to be good on the road, but too much like a car to be good off-road which really makes it pretty unspectacular overall.

        I'm really confused by its existence in general.
        • 5 Years Ago
        But the X6 is just bad-ass!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ invisiblepigeon3:

        Three main reasons: One, she is a soccer mom, & wants a practical vehicle with AWD for the winter & space for hauling her shopping and arts & crafty stuff. Two, she already has an old Jag XJ that she loves to death and will not part with (she won't admit it, but it's mainly because she thinks the J-gate shifter is cool... women...). Three, with me around, there's never a shortage of something fun to drive... even though she thinks my cars are all ugly, boy cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The X6 looks like a pissed off puffer fish. It's a ridiculous vehicle. I wouldn't buy an RX, as it's just a tall ES with optional AWD. Why doesn't she spend the money on something fun like an IS350?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Gross! The only redeemable parts of the X6 are the ground clearance and engines.

        They tried to combine too many types of cars into one model!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I know this is tangential to the review but I want to comment:

      "Whether or not this is a good thing depends on how badly you want to feel like you're in control of your commute."

      You guys bring up a much deeper point here, one that might deserve greater discussion elsewhere.

      After being cutoff a half dozen times in the two days i've been back to work, it seems more opportune than ever to have cars that take full control of the commute. As lifelong car enthusiast I can't recommend making cars autonomous enough. Between bimbos on cell phones (still!) to jacka$$es who think their masculinity is determined by how aggressively they drive I'm pretty much sick of it all.

      We need autonomous cars for the masses. Want a free driving car? Make a challenging test that tests important things like: changing ones oil (or maybe battery packs down the road), navigating using a paper map, proper braking techniques, managing understeer etc. Can't do any of that? get a robot car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anyone notice how they raised the gas pedal? hehehehehehehehe
      JDM Life
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is one of Lexus best cars. Its advanced and loaded with tech, luxury you name it this car has it. Its one of the best DD you can buy.

      IMO theres not one thing wrong with this car and Lexus really has brought the RX into its own. Its looks distinct from the interior to the exteroir.

      The amount of RX i see on the roads are crazy !
        JDM Life
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        Lexus is not a "glorified Toyota" i promise you that and the only person that would say that is a person who has never owned a Lexus or experienced one. Nothing like a Toyota

        Out of Acura and Nissan Lexus is the furthest from its mother company. To be honest Lexus is almost completely not connected to Toyota. Almost.

        "Numb steering and a floaty/squishy ride come to mind"

        This is a Luxury car..soft ride is a trade mark...I dont understand what you mean. Many reviews said the handling on the RX is nice. Sure its not a M3...but Lexus never intended it to be.

        So theres nothing wrong with the RX imo.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        Numb steering and a floaty/squishy ride come to mind.

        The whole "I'm driving a glorified Toyota" feeling hardly seems worth the extra money...
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        I like Lexus vehicles but it's pretty ridiculous to claim that Lexus vehicles are supposedly nothing like Toyotas, and yes I've experienced both plenty of times and across many different models. In fact some of my favorite features in Lexus vehicles are features shared with Toyota siblings. The controls for the power seats for example are perfectly intuitive, and exactly like in any Toyota vehicle. The way the transmissions shift feel the same, the way the vehicles respond to gas pedal inputs feels the same, etc.
        Not to mention even though the current ES is no longer quite as identical to the Camry as it used to be, if you're used to driving a Camry you'll feel 100% at home in an ES. It drives and feels exactly like an even quieter Camry.
        And anyways Toyota's overall strategy has always been to have their customers stay within the family-optimally you'd go from owning a Scion, to owning a Toyota, to finally buying that Lexus when you make it big. They don't try to deny that Lexus is related to Toyota, Lexus is just the very best of what Toyota has to offer. So they take Toyota's reputation for reliability and crank it up to the next level, they take the Camry's quietness and crank it up (down?) another notch to utter silence, etc. They obviously aren't trying to deny the heritage though, their hybrids share the same blue glow on the brand badging and for that matter the brand logos are basically the same thing except with different letters inside. The styling also shares quite a bit of family resemblance too-the LS is basically the Camry after it's worked it's way up the ladder to a six-figure job, matured a bit and packed on some pounds and put on a very expensive designer suit.
        The latest LS460 might have nice cooled/heated seats you won't find in a Camry, but any Toyota owner would feel right at home sitting in it-when you reach to roll the windows up or down, or adjust your seating position, the mirrors, etc. you'll feel right at home.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Having spent a few thousand miles driving the 450h, I can confirm that the thing is more economical than anything with that much comfort, performance and utility should be. IMHO, the 2010 redesign adds just the right amount of edge to the familiar look of previous RXs and looks great. As a bonus, it's even nicer from behind the wheel. Makes you want to plan cross country travels...
      • 5 Years Ago
      after seeing this on the road many many times i have to say lexus did a great job updating the rx.
        • 5 Years Ago

        how about worst driving SUV ever
        how about boring as they get dynamics

        personally if I had $50k I'd opt for the FX50 over tis anyday

        i'm not saying this is a bad car, but it's not my cup of tea. I like to be a bit more engaged in my driving

        but then again i'd rather a G37 S or somthing like that and i'd be much happier than having to drive around in the RX
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Lexus RX model -- Is one of the most advance SUV out there, Also the Top seller as well since it came out. RX is one of those car that nobody can't really say anything bad about it.

        Top Reliability
        Top Sell
        Top advance technologies
        Top Luxury
        Top Re-Sell Value

        if you have something bad to say, is maybe because you can't afford one. or just don't comment'''
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Ligor - or anything else, I don't care for the cheap looking interior, especially for this class of cuv. I'll take a highlander hybrid anyday.

        Wait. i did :p.
        • 5 Years Ago
        All the "preferring to be more engaged in my driving" here makes it sound like you guys are driving on open roads with fast curves on a daily basis...

        How about reality? Most of us spend most of our commutes in densely packed urban areas and traffic jammed freeway. Fun driving? In your dreams.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes. This is the coolest SUV in the lineup. I'm wondering who designed the GX. GX just doesn't look great as this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Rich? If you're buying a 45k car that makes you fall into the rich category? REALLY?

        That price is aimed at middle class America...rich people drive S500 AMG or higher.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ripiopower: So if we don't agree with you we shouldn't comment? Interesting!

        It is well-engineered, but it's a girly truck for real estate agents. I can't afford an M3 either, but I don't slag those! Or the Ferrari Italia... Pagani Zonda...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well it is not attractive....
      I guess you could compliment it by saying it looks good compared to a QX45..
      • 5 Years Ago
      Here comes all the hate...in 3, 2, 1...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Lexus sucks, hybrids are dumb, boring rich soccermoms drive these, no manual transmission means I can't be a real man (even though I would never buy one of these ever, I mean when I drive my wife's), this vehicle can't handle even though nobody who buys one cares, etc...

        Yeah. Might as well go ahead and skip the rest of the comments now.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So Luis, I just have a question for you. And I don't mean this to be an insult or anything. Do you work for Toyota or is Japanese? I just noticed your name vigorously defending (sometimes even going a little overboard) the automaker's name or japanese cars in general on virtually every posts that says crap about recalls etc etc...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I prefer the styling of the previous one, but having spent a LOT of time behind the wheel of a previous gen RX400h, they're not bad at all, as long as you're not looking for a driving experience (those things inspire no confidence at all when pushed hard).

      It's also easy to get around/below the claimed average fuel economy too, once you get the hang of them. And I can also live easy with the knowledge that a Lexus won't drive me nuts with glitches or fall to bits either (unlike a former client's BMW X5).
      • 5 Years Ago
      "We also tried our hand at manually shifting the gears of the Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)."

      Hmmm... "Shifting the gears" in a CVT - what's wrong with this statement?
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