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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The mid-size Lexus RX 450h crossover is the hybrid version of the 350, revolutionizing the segment with an eco-luxurious edge for soccer moms and the like. Loaded from head to taillights, everyday include a power liftgate, a sliding and reclining rear seat, and a dual-screen rear entertainment system – and a real-life fuel economy tested to deliver 27.8 mile-per-gallon combined with all-wheel drive.

I drove a 2015 Lexus RX 450h with the standard Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with a lighter electric motor for an output of 295 horsepower. Standard equipment on the RX 450h includes: wood interior trim; dual-zone climate control; ten-way power front seats; leather upholstery; 10-way power driver’s seat; wood interior trim; power tilt-and-telescopic steering column; steering wheel with mounted controls; a 12-speaker premium audio system with iTunes Tagging and Internet Radio; Bluetooth; a cargo area tonneau cover; a rearview camera display; eighteen-inch wheels; and power tailgate. Total vehicle price without options came to $48,845.

Not much changes for the RX models – there is some new Siri Eyes Free technology that lets you call contacts, select and play music from iTunes, and get turn-by-turn navigation. Main rivals to the Lexus RX 450h are the Audi Q5 Hybrid, Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, as well as the Volkswagen Touareg diesel and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 350 Blue Tec, if you’re open to expanding all alternative fuel options.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The RX 450h continues to possess a high-class look inside and out, with the center console layout streamlined and contoured – but less impressive brands can compete and I can attest the RX’s interior isn’t as suave next to a top-of-the-line Nissan Murano with its NASA-inspired zero gravity seats when the two vehicles sat in my driveway between test drives. Optional equipment included a $1,915 navigation system, a $3,060 Premium Package (upgraded leather-trim and bamboo inlay interior, some safety technology, moonroof and roof rails), a $995 Mark Levinson audio system, $700 nineteen-inch wheels … I’ll stop there, but it added $10k to the price. There is a sportier gasoline version – the RX 350 F Sport – with a more aggressive grille, rear bumper, fenders and larger wheels, which makes the model versatile.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2015 Lexus RX 450h ratings of “Good” in all categories. With all-wheel drive, the vehicle earns an overall 5-Star rating with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Optional safety technology includes the Blind Spot Monitor System and adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision warning system.

Cost Issues: The 2015 Lexus RX 450h starts at $47,620 with my test drive priced at $57,405 with options. As I mentioned, I was pretty impressed with the interior of the redesigned Nissan Murano, which costs $43,070 fully loaded.

Activity & Performance Ability: Like its 100% gasoline sister, the Lexus RX 450h is an enjoyably smooth ride with commanding acceleration on any mountain grain or city incline matched with forceful brakes. The real performance highlight is that it retains said fuel economy (or close enough to it). But to really tap into the pleasure of this vehicle, be expected to cough up the dough for the many premium packages. There is plenty of cargo room to store all baby necessities and weekend luggage.

The Green Concern: EPA-estimated fuel economy results with the hybrid system are 30-city and 28-highway for a combined claim of 29 miles-per-gallon with the all-wheel drive. I was able to retain about 27.8 miles-per-gallon with heavy highway driving.

An excellent mid-size SUV choice for its luxury and fuel economy, the 2015 Lexus RX 450h continues to be a go-to choice but needs a better interior showing in future years to keep up with what smaller brands or models are accomplishing with their top-of-the-line crossover trims.

2015 Katrina Ramser

Editor's Note:

1. There will be a major redesign of the Lexus RX for 2016, we will get a good look at it at the New York Auto Show next week... see it here first.

2. My wife owns a 2010 RX 450h and so on weekends (when she allows me to drive) it becomew the family car. Over the past 5 years I have occasion to test the non hybrid RX 350, and I feel the h version is a better riding and handling choice. The fact that we get around 28 mph in this SUX is a plus, but the smooth and quieter luxury ride the 450H provides may be worth the higher price.