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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2010 Lexus RX 450h Review


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2010 Lexus RX 450h

SEE ALSO: Lexus Buyers Guide

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE 2010 LEXUS RX 450h VEHICLE
The 2010 Lexus RX 450h crossover SUV is full of refinement and luxury, but with a hybrid spin. The standard creature comforts are many – a few favorites being the automatic tilting side view mirrors for reverse parking, interior walnut trim accents and the ability to electronically customize functions (moonroof and light settings) upon entry through Lexus Personalized Settings (LPS) – and engine is eco-friendly yet powerful.

I drove a 5-door 2010 Lexus RX 450h (Hybrid) with front-wheel drive powered by the Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with a lighter electric motor. The gas engine alone produces 245-horspepower – combined with the electric you get 295-horsepower and a vehicle that goes 0-60 in about 7.8 seconds. Base price for the RX 450h is $42,685 for FWD and $44,275 for AWD.

That sounds do-able until you study the price tags on the optional packages, which easily add close to $20k on the base price. The packages are incredibly loaded, however, such as the second-row dual-DVD screens (embedded behind the front seat headrests) or the upgraded 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The RX 450h is not short on style: leather 3-setting heated-and-cooled seats; standard 10-way driver’s power seating; Bluetooth connectivity; headlamp washers; and a dash that emits a new organic light (Lexus calls this higher contrast white the Organic Light Emitting Diode).

Reliability & Safety Factor: One of the best standard safety systems in the RX series is the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), which governs the car’s handling systems including 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC). Basically, slippage issues are detected sooner and corrected in a swifter manner. The RX 450h also features Electronic brake distribution (EBS); Dual-stage airbags; and 3-point safety belts with pre-tensioners or force limiters, among other standard safety features.

Cost Issues: Like nay luxury SUV, the vehicle becomes increasingly more desirable with additional packages. However, at a base of $42,685, you can still be satisfied with those standard creature comforts. But note in terms of a money-saving hybrid, the 450h doesn’t fit the bill.

Activity & Performance Ability: What makes the RX 450h stand out from its siblings (350 and 400) is that it delivers the same impressive acceleration but carries the most weight. And as a hybrid it sucks up the least amount of gas in the trio no matter how you drive it. You’ll definitely want to opt for AWD, as the FWD transmission won’t save you but 1-mpg.The 450h has a fun 6-speed electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) with snow modes. There are a lot of other cold-weather driving condition pluses, such as headlamp washers combined with the Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS) headlamps to guide you into a turn.

The Green Concern: The RX 450h is a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) producing 70% fewer smog emissions than its conventionally-powered competitors. During a week of testing in typical driving conditions (traffic, highway and around town driving), the 450h retained much less than estimated or approximately 25.5-mpg versus the claimed 30-mpg for FWD. There is an Eco gage in the instrument panel that uses a needle to show when the vehicle is in charging or power mode. Also, you have a little indicator light that tells you when you’re driving green.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
If in the market for a luxurious and secure crossover SUV, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h will fulfill your bad-weather performance, interior convenience and green driving needs – however, be prepared for a price tag that could reach $60k when fully loaded.

SEE ALSO: Lexus Buyers Guide

©2010 Katrina Ramser