Lexus has a long history with hybrid vehicles, pioneering hybrid technology in the luxury SUV market with the RX 400h, first launched in Australia in 2006.
The all-new RX 450h, launched in July 09, delivers class leading economy and efficiency, while delivering on the needs of luxury SUV owners. It is spacious, exceptionally smooth, powerful and with diesel like economy.
Like all Lexus vehicles it is faultless in production and also has a number of world firsts, which I will talk about later.
What are we Testing
We had the Lexus RX450h Prestige AWD SUV. It is powered by hybrid-exclusive 3.5-litre V6 (2GR-FXE) engine combined with the world’s first hybrid system to use an Atkinson Cycle V6 engine. This is mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (E-CVT).
It has a MLP of about $90,000 but you will need to have a chat to a Lexus dealer to get the final drive away price.
What’s it’s Purpose
Luxury AWD SUV for the environmentally conscious!
What’s it Like
We had the Lexus RX450h for about 3 weeks over the holidays. It transported all the family to Queensland, swallowed all the luggage and teenagers with ease and everyone arrived feeling relaxed.
On the trip I averaged 7.5L/100k, which was great considering the weight. The drive was comfortable, smooth and fuss free. The RX450h drove and handled more car like that SUV like and the more I drove it the more I started to really like it.
In short it was great!
What’s Good & Not so Good
What is Good!
· Interior layout and space
· Powerful, smooth and economical (city)
· Build quality
What is not so Good!
· Price premium for Hybrid
· Limited off road/towing ability
· The fact that Lexus wanted it back
The RX 450h features a number of design cues that distinguish it from its petrol sibling, the RX 350. RX hybrid receives a unique front bumper and silver grille design, characterised by a wider and slimmer multi-bar grille and bumper opening below the grille.
Headlights and taillights also receive the hybrid touch with blue accents on headlight lenses and a unique fog light surround design.
The blue theme continues with blue highlights on the Lexus emblem, vehicle badging, engine cover, key fob and a chrome feature strip that runs the length of the doors and features the chrome and blue word “hybrid”.
The new body is longer, wider and lower than previous RX 400h and benefits greatly from the all-new trailing-arm type double-wishbone rear suspension. For a large AWD SUV it looks quite stylish. It comes from the ‘L-Finesse’ design philosophy Lexus is using and I have to say it works.
Unlike a lot of other cars it looks smaller than it actually is and the external design allows for maximum utilisation of internal space. Lexus RX 450h debuts an all-new touch activation pad design, which requires only the slightest touch on either the top, or bottom, of the door handles to unlock and lock the vehicle’s doors.
The new Lexus Smart Entry system design replaces the traditional black touch button mounted on the door handle, resulting in a cleaner design.
Inside, Comfort & Features
Debuted on RX 350, the RX450h features a completely new cabin design, penned under the L-Finesse design philosophy. Commanding the attention of all occupants is a crossover cockpit theme that is divided clearly into two zones: the “display” and the “operation”.
Both zones have dedicated functions, with the “operation zone” housing the all-new Lexus Remote Touch navigation system, gear shifter and driver-operable switchgear.
The “display zone” has been designed to provide information to the occupants and features the multi-information screen, combination meter and head-up display (HUD)^.
Whatever Lexus call its internal design it works and works brilliantly. Sitting in the exceptionally comfortable drivers seat absolutely everything falls easily to hand.
A little unusual at first is the “mouse” located on the centre console to control the menu navigation. Once you get the hang of it its nothing short of great design.
All areas of the interior have been designed to maximise occupant comfort. Larger armrests, seats designed with arm movement in mind and increased rear headroom were all achieved through considered design. Lexus RX 450h increases the maximum amount of useable storage space through efficient design.
The front of the vehicle is characterised by the large centre console, which features a dedicated stowage area for the owner’s manual and offers a further 21 litres of stowage capacity.
The centre console also features two 12-volt power outlets and one auxiliary input for portable music devices. All cords can be stowed out of sight and can be fed through to a dedicated stowage tray that sits atop the centre console.
The front also features two central and dash-mounted cup holders, along with larger door-mounted cup holders for 750mL bottles, along with larger map pockets
The centre console has the added advantage of offering a large floor stowage compartment in the front and frees up further space in the glove box by allowing for stowage of the owner’s manual.
In the rear, occupants can leave books, maps and other items in the back of the seat or door pockets, while provisions for 750mL bottles are also available.
The flat-folding rear seats also give way to greater cargo volume, while the new suspension design frees up a further 150mm of space in the rear.
The seat splits 40/20/40 for maximum versatility. However, engineers designed a new quick-release system for the rear seats. The quick-release system consists of two levers, one on either side of the vehicle, inside the rear door.
Further stowage areas, for wet or dirty items, are also provided under the cargo area’s floor. The cargo area can also be completely covered by a standard split parcel blind to shield the 446-litre cargo area.
Entertainment is catered for in the Prestige by a 12-speaker Lexus premium sound system. This has an in-dash six-stack CD player capable of DVD, MP3, WMA and CD-R/RW playback and for the first time in RX, an AUX jack allowing for playback of portable music players such as iPods.
All models have Lexus pro-active all-wheel-drive, ten SRS airbags with rear seat side SRS airbags and rear-seat pre-tensioning seatbelts. Also featured is the Lexus Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) safety active safety technology.
The RX 450h’s passive safety equipment includes an improved two-stage driver’s SRS airbag, a newly adopted twin-chamber front passenger’s SRS airbag and full-length side curtain-shield airbags.
RX 450h also has newly adopted active front-seat head restraints and rear-outboard seat pre-tensioning seatbelts with force limiters.
The VDIM package seamlessly combines vehicle stability control with cooperative steering function (VSC+), Traction Control (TRC), ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Lexus Brake Assist.
All three RX 450h model grades have Lexus’ unique E-Four electronic all-wheel-drive system, a larger footprint on the road, a lower centre of gravity and a larger brake package.
Further assisting RX 450h’s safety is the improved road holding, all-new rear suspension, road-speed sensitive electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering, rear guide assist with camera, High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps with i-AFS on Prestige models,
Performance. Engine, Transmission & Suspension etc
Lexus RX 450h has a sophisticated petrol-electric series and parallel hybrid powertrain for reduced environmental impact.
RX 450h’s Lexus Hybrid System driveline consists of a purpose-developed Atkinson Cycle 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, a generator, a 123kW electric drive front motor, reduction gears to the front axle and a continuously variable transmission that also functions as a power-split device.
Engine power can be transmitted to the front axle via the mechanical path and the electrical path, or a mixture of both.
Some of the engine’s power output is transmitted to the electric drive motor, via the generator, as supplementary power for vehicle acceleration.
A second, 50kW AC permanent magnet motor, powers the rear wheels during take-off and acceleration. As well as propelling the vehicle, the Lexus Hybrid System allows for energy-saving regenerative braking on both the front and rear axles.
The Lexus Hybrid System transmission acts as an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) that can freely vary the engine speed.
It achieves this by controlling the generator’s revolutions, dispensing with the need for a conventional transmission. The electronically controlled CVT smoothly adjusts the speed of the engine, generator and motor when the vehicle is accelerating or decelerating.
The Lexus RX 450h has trailing-arm double-wishbone independent rear suspension, improving agility, controllability and stability, coupled with increased package efficiency and a lower cargo floor. It also features new MacPherson strut-type independent front suspension, for improved manoeuvrability, stability, roll posture, cornering performance and ride comfort
Off Road & Towing
Lexus RX 450h features the most efficient all-wheel drive system of any Lexus hybrid SUV to date.
Featuring three electric motor generators, RX 450h builds on the tried and tested E-Four (Electric Four Wheel Drive) system that was first introduced in RX 400h over four years ago.
The electric drive motors in the hybrid drive system play the crucial roles of providing motive force and charging the battery pack. All of RX 450h’s drive motors have increases in maximum torque and usable torque range, contributing to improved acceleration and drivability.
On a low grip surface the Lexus E-Four system drives the rear wheels for take-off, acceleration, low-speed cornering and traction in marginal conditions.
E-Four also saves energy and petrol because the vehicle only uses all-wheel drive when it is needed – for example, if a loss of front-wheel traction is anticipated.
While the RX450h is an AWDSUV it is not a 4wd by any stretch of the imagination. Dirt or snowy roads are about the limit if its adventure aspirations. Combine this with a measly 1500kg tow capacity and you quickly realise that the RX450h is a city car with the safety of a sophisticated AWD system.
The RX450h AWD SUV is a technological masterpiece from Lexus. It is full of almost everything you can imagine and heaps of things that normal people don’t even think about. When I read about all the features that the RX450h has my head starts to spin.
The beauty of a Lexus is that they have all this technology and make it incredibly easy to use and seamless. Unlike a lot of Lexus vehicles this is actually fun to drive. It is stylish, immaculately put together, well thought out inside and very easy to use.
The question is why anyone would pay more for the RX450h over the RX350. Is the price premium worth it for some fancy hybrid technology? After all, the entire hybrid development is only about using a diminishing non-replenishable resource at a slower rate. Petrol is running out.
But its not only about better fuel economy. It’s also about the environment and its here where the RX450h shines.
In a single year of motoring, all-new Lexus RX 450h will save the same amount of carbon emitted from eight return flights from Sydney to Melbourne.
Over a 12-month period, RX 450h will emit almost 1.6 tonnes less C02 than petrol-powered RX 350, and significantly less than its diesel-powered rivals. There is a heap of boring assumptions behind these figures but you get the picture.
The Lexus RX450h is a great vehicle. Would I Buy one…probably not. But that is because I want the ability to go four wheel driving and tow toys. The RX450h is not designed for this. A couple of my friends have this vehicle and they love it, so that speaks volumes.
Behind the Wheel
Fit for Purpose
Off Road Ability
Value for Money
AAG Overall Rating
Green Vehicle Rating
CO2 Emissions g/km
150grams of CO2
Fuel Economy L/100km (ADR comb)
6.4 litres per 100km
Mercedes Benz ML
VW Touareg V6TDi
4 yr, 100,000 km, with full roadside assistance
More Technical Specifications