Car Review: 2014 Lexus RX450 Hybrid

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It’s tough to call any luxury car a good deal. After all, you’ll move from stop light to stop light at the same speed as all those other people who paid a lot less. But the 2014 Lexus RX 450h may be just that, assuming you do the math.

2014 Lexus RX 450h
2014 Lexus RX 450h

Of course the H stands for hybrid. If anyone understands how to make hybrids, it’s Toyota, and the RX 450h doesn’t disappoint.

Of course the first thing you need to know about the RX 450h is that you won’t see mileage similar to the Prius, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the non-hybrid version. The RX 450h delivers 30 MPG around town and 28 MPG on the highway. That’s nearly 10 MPG better than the straight gas version. But here’s something to think about. Unless you drive a lot, or plan to keep the car more than eight years, the extra cost of the hybrid version won’t save you money.

2014 Lexus RX 450h
2014 Lexus RX 450h

There are various hybrid calculators out there (I particular like the one at Money-Zine.com). Because the base price of the RX 450h is about $6,650 more than the non-hybrid version, it’s going to take at least eight years for the improved mileage to make up the difference (assuming you drive 15,000 miles per year). And there’s one other thing to consider, the RX 450h requires premium fuel, while the RX 350 uses regular. Looking at today’s national average premium costs about 35 cents more per gallon. So if your primary motivation is to save money, make sure you do the math.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in helping the planet, with a touch of luxury, the RX 450h is definitely your car.

Don’t think that the RX 450h loses anything in the power department. The gas engine is a 3.5 liter 24 valve V6. All by itself, the V6 will deliver 245 horsepower. Throw in the electric motor and the total horsepower available is 295.  Lexus says the RX 450h all-wheel-drive version will reach 60 MPH in 7.4 seconds. The front-wheel-drive model does it in 7.8 seconds. It’s not megapower, but it’s plenty for your daily acceleration up to freeway speeds.

The RX 450h has an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. Lexus says it’s equipped with an intelligent system that can estimate whether you are traveling uphill or downhill and automatically provide the optimal engine response. My test car had on-demand all-wheel-drive. Not a huge factor living in Phoenix, but nice for places with slippery roads. And, as pointed out above, it does move a little faster.

2014 Lexus RX 450h Fashion Dash
2014 Lexus RX 450h Fashion Dashboard

Inside, it’s properly luxurious. The leather looks right and I enjoyed the heated and cooled seats. The center portion of the dash has an angular look that sweeps to one side. Not everyone is going to like it, but it’s definitely something different and rather fashionable. The electronic display and interface works well. The navigation is just OK, requiring you to give too many commands. The music blasts into the interior via a 15-speaker Mark Levinson 7.1 sound system with 330 watts of power. My test car had the luxury package that included semi-aniline leather trim (not sure about the “semi” part, but here is a description of aniline). Of course luxury doesn’t come cheap, and you’ll pay an extra $6,055 for that package (which includes plenty of other items). My test car also had the optional dual screen rear seat entertainment and navigation system that added an additional $4,920. I only mention those prices to point out that you can skip them and save more than $11,000.

Lexus Remote Touch
Lexus Remote Touch

Lexus also uses its Remote Touch system. It’s a small mouse-like device on the center console. It’s right about where your hand will naturally rest. I like it because you don’t have to reach up and touch the screen. You let the Remote Touch mouse bounce from function to function. I’ve read some reviews that don’t like it, but I think it’s one of the better technology solutions for a car.

Is the RX Styling Getting Dated?
Is the RX Styling Getting Dated?

Outside, the RX series has an attractive shape, but I wonder if it’s getting a little old. Its had the same basic look since 2003. While Lexus has done an excellent job updating the style (the latest refresh came in 2012), I sometimes wonder if it’s time to see something new. On the other hand, RX owners obviously like the design so why fix something that isn’t broke?

As with any hybrid, you’ll get your best mileage around town. My week with the RX 450h included a trip to California and I averaged about 26 miles to the gallon. Non-hybrid SUVs do nearly as well. On the other hand, this car will definitely win the city MPG battle.

2014 RX450h Grill
Lexus RX Grill Was Updated in 2012

Basic warranty for the RX 450h is four years or 50,000 miles. The drivetrain warranty is 6 years/70,000 miles and the hybrid component is guaranteed for 8 years/100,000.

So what is the competition? You could spend a lot more and get a Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. In the same category is the newly renamed Infiniti QX60 Hybrid. While it has a cheaper base price, the QX60 mileage isn’t as good.

My test car stickered at $62,015, but the base price is about $47,500. Skip the expensive options and it’s almost reasonably priced. Is it a good deal? It all depends on your driving and your needs. But if you want luxury while driving around town in a car that will get great mileage and save the planet, there aren’t a lot of other choices, and the 2014 Lexus RX 450h is likely the best package in the bunch.

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