Thursday, April 2, 2015

Going Green: 2015 Lexus RX 450h

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  Launched well over 10 years ago, the Lexus RX hybrid was a bit of a trailblazer. It came as a shock to those people that thought  SUV's were by their very nature thirsty at the pump. Since its introduction, the number of premium hybrid SUV's on the market has grown significantly. But with the increase in competition, the RX hasn't become dull at all. It is surely a top pick in what has become an increasingly important segment.
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     The RX 450h succeeds because of a few key things you might hope to find in a luxury hybrid SUV: great gas mileage, smooth performance, a pretty comfortable cabin, and a wealth of standard amenities. With the EPA giving the 450h a combined rating of 30 mpg, it delivers a knock-out punch to the crowd of gas only luxury crossovers and is easily among the most efficient options in the hybrid luxury SUV segment. With most hybrids, great fuel economy comes at the high cost of performance, and I am proud to say that isn't the case with the RX 450h. The RX 450h is moved along by a healthy 3.5 liter V6 that is teamed up with electric motors and a battery pack. Ride quality is rather good, and the RX holds you in a cocoon like space over most road imperfections. The cherry on top is the wealth of space in the cabin, that is decked out with a lot of tech options.

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     The RX 450h can come equipped with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. It comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, auto headlamps, fog lights, LED running lights, rear tinted windows, heated mirrors, power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone auto a/c, 8 way power front seats with 2 way power adjustable lumbar, leather wrapped power tilt-and telescoping steering wheel, sliding and reclining rear seats, cloth seating surfaces, and an auto dimming rear-view mirror.

    Bluetooth connectivity, and a 12-speaker sound system with all of the latest hook-ups for you iPod, or other audio devices.
 Standard electronic features include goodies like a 7-inch display screen, rear-view camera, Safety Connect,
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     Like the CT 200h that was reviewed earlier, the RX 450h gives you a lot of option packages to choose from, however your choices might be limited due to the area of the country that you live in.

The Premium package adds a sunroof, power folding and dimming mirrors, roof rails, leather trimmed seats and driver memory settings. A version of this package can even include a blind-spot monitoring system. The Luxury package includes everything from the Premium package, and then throws in things like 19-inch alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel, power driver seat cushion extender, upgraded leather trimmed seats, a household style power outlet, and smog-sensing auto climate control recirculation.

     The Comfort package requires that you select either the Premium or Luxury package, and includes automatic windshield wipers, xenon headlamps, as well as heated and ventilated front seats.

     The Navigation package also requires that you choose either the Premium or Luxury package, and includes a navigation system, voice controls, Remote Touch controller, HD radio, and Lexus Enform that includes Safety Connect.

 Depending upon which option package you select when you purchase or lease your Lexus RX 450h, stand-alone options can include things like LED headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with pre-collision warning, a heads-up display, a dual-screen rear entertainment system, and a 15-speaker sound system.

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     As stated earlier, the power for the RX 450h comes from a 3.5 liter V6 that is mated to electric motors and a battery pack. Front wheel drive models have 2 motors, while the all-wheel drive equipped RX adds a third motor. Total system output is a respectable 295 horsepower, and is paired to a special CVT.

     In 9th Gear performance testing, the RX 450h was able to hit 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, with is a tiny bit slower than the RX 350. That time also places it in the middle of the pack when you compare it with other luxury SUV's. The upside to this though is the gas mileage. The EPA has rated the front-wheel drive 450h 32/28/30 mpg, while the all-wheel drive version comes in at 30/28/29 mpg.

     Every single 2015 Lexus RX 450h that rolls of the assembly line comes standard with safety features like a rear-view camera, antilock brakes, traction as well as stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, and front knee airbags. Also included is Safety Connect, with is like OnStar, just for Lexus.

     Optional safety features include parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system, and adaptive cruise control that is linked to a pre-collision warning system. In brake testing, the big RX 450h came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet, which is just about average for the class of vehicle. Safety ratings also come in at 4/5 stars for overall crash protection.
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     Upscale trimmings, astounding build quality, and cutting edge tech options make the 450h look and feel like the hefty price tag it can come with. With the authentic wood trim and high quality leather seats, you will feel like you are truly driving a luxury vehicle. However, the front seats could use just a little more adjustment range, as both thigh and lateral support might be found lacking for you. Rear seat passengers will find the seating roomy and comfortable thanks in part to the sliding and reclining seats.

     With the 2015 Lexus RX 450h's compliant suspension setup, and great sound insulation isolate the passengers and you from the outside world and provide comfort on an road trip you choose to take. The hybrid powertrain is even pretty quiet. Initial get up can seem slow at times unless you really give it the beans, but overall the 450h feels quite a bit like its RX 350 sibling. Through the twisty stuff, it remains strong and confident, though it isn't anywhere near as sporty as some diesel powere luxury SUV's, and the steering can feel a touch heavy at times.

     Though the credentials are certainly impressive, the 2015 Lexus RX 450h does have some viable competition in the form of Infiniti QX60 Hyrbid, the Audi Q5 Hyrbid, and the Porsche Cayenne Hyrbid. However, the fuel economy of the 450h easily beats the competition, in addition to being one of the most affordable. Its assets make it an easy choice when shopping for a luxury SUV.


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