First Drive: 2016 Lexus RX450h
Making the world a little bit greener one mile at a time is the moto for most hybrid consumers – saving fuel at the pump while leaving a little less carbon footprint behind. Toyota/Lexus has always been the popular choice when it came to their hybrid models, and with the pre-accessor RX450h doing so well, Lexus continued the trend into their newest body style. Question is though, is 11-grand more than the standard 3.5L V-6 worth the extra few mpg’s?
For those that want to add a little pizazz to their green lifestyle – Lexus now offers an F SPORT on their all new RX hybrids. It gives a new twist on being economical with a sporting pedigree. While the F SPORT tweaks the suspension, the steering, the throttle and adds some enhanced esthetics like a sharper grille, flashy wheels, and a sportier interior – our tester on the other hand was the standard hybrid version.
While most would think Lexus has gone off their rockers with their latest obscure design language, we appreciate how they’re taking things to the next level. However its design isn’t what bothers us right… it’s the fact that our range-topping 60-grand crossover showed up looking the like an android green text user with those 18-inch wheels – ew! At least ours sampler showed up wearing those triple-beam headlights to blind people from seeing our poor taste in wheels.
In all seriousness – the new RX is a sight to see – whether you love it or hate it, it still attracts attention. Lexus did a unique job here crafting its lines and incorporating certain design elements like the “floating” roof and that large spindle grille – and that grille it’s here to stay, so get over it! There’s LED’s all around too, lighting up the night sky. And if that wasn’t enough our Nightfall dark blue paint is as gorgeous as a summer sunset when caught in the right shade of sunlight.
In certain cases, a hybrid model can make up more power than the normal gasoline version – and with the RX450h, it just that. It uses a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine, then combine that with an electric motor, it churns out 303-horsepower. 8 more than the standard V-6. Mat that to a continuous variable transmission (CVT for short) and it pulls a little over 7 seconds to 60 mph. An AWD drive system is available if you’re looking to spare a few extra coin – that will cost an extra $1400. And it’s not a traditional all-wheel drive system either – it uses another electric motor to complicate and confuse the buyer.
The RX450h certainly has no problem getting up to speed and knowing that we can merge with traffic confidently makes us happy. Yet in the world of hybrid technology, they’re not meant to hustle – they’re to be efficient. In fact it’s almost like a game. How much can we keep it an EV mode without the gas engine to kick on? Come to find out. A fair distance. Keep it below 35 mph and we could travel nearly a mile in EV mode – doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind it’s a two and half ton crossover, and it’s a boost from the previous version which only did 25 mph and couldn’t barely cover half a mile. Of course though the engine has to come on eventually and it’s always on tap when we need it. The combined forces provide linear, direct power as it hums its way to speed. Transition from electric to gas goes unnoticed.
Because Lexus decided it wasn’t best to offer the F SPORT package here, our drive was a little less attentive. The lack of connection to the wheels from the steering is over taken by the body roll in the corners. With body roll comes a soft chassis which unless you hit a deer, you wouldn’t even have known it was there. Sucks to be the deer though.
Crossing the stainless steel embossed threshold into a luxurious first class cabin opens a world of peace and serenity. Settling into our two tone white on black leather is like wrapping yourself in one of those fluffy white robes you get at one of those fancy hotels. It’s so fluffy! They’re even heated and ventilated. Everything here is quality – the knobs are pure aluminum – the wood trim is… well the wood is fake, but you can option up for real wood. You get the point.
Impressively though is the design – unlike the exterior – this is subtle with unique contrast three-dimensional lines and curves. The large pop-up display is standard, but to get in the 12.3-inch form is going to cost $1510 – otherwise its only 8-inches inside this large surfaced area – call us a size queen, best to upgrade. Plus that upgrades gets you the ear-gasim Mark Levinson Premium Audio System.
Even more technology comes within our sampler here including the Lexus Safety System +. It cost $2250 that adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure and Assist, and a few other toys. We even sprung for the $600 Color Heads Up Display – it’s worth the extra coin if you like geeking out of that sort of thing – like we do! Also included was a Heated Leather Steering Wheel at $150 and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic and a full 360-degree panoramic View monitor – nifty – even has a high resolution display – that another $800 setback. And taking a new spin on hands free rear lift gate access – wave your hand over the emblem for a second – poof the door opens – that’s a $200 option.
But lets get to the real question – fuel efficiency. During our duration we took our RX450h to San Diego – a 800 mile journey. With four other occupants in the car and a trunk full of luggage the EPA 30 mpg seemed far fetch. At the end of our journey only 26 mpg could be reached. However, during our city driving 27 mpg was seen as our average. It also required premium fuel getting us 370 miles of range.
Hybrids have certainly come a long way since they were first released into the wild. The new RX450h shows how far Lexus has come with their technology. Even though we didn’t meet the EPA’s average, hybrids aren’t highway cars – you get the most efficiency in the city. So if you’re able to squeeze 30 mpg outta of this, perhaps 11-grand is just a drop in the bucket for what you might pay at the pump.