Time for a pop quiz everyone. Your question: What was the first luxury crossover that was offered with a hybrid powertrain?
Time is up! The answer is the Lexus RX. The first hybrid RX was introduced back 2004 and has gone through a number of revisions up to the model seen here; the 2014 Lexus RX 450h. Is it worth the almost $7,000 more over the standard RX 350 to save some gas?
Like the last RX I drove last year, the RX 450h has gotten some design tweaks. The most noticeable change is up front with the addition of the spindle grille and new headlights. Like the previous RX, I found myself wondering if the spindle grille works on the RX. After a week, I found myself saying no.
The RX 450h comes with Lexus' Hybrid Drive system which pairs a 3.5L DOHC V6 and three electric motors on all-wheel drive models. Front-wheel drive models feature two. This produces a total output of 295 horsepower. The powertrain provided adequate power no matter the situation, putting it in the midpack of luxury crossovers when talking about crossovers.
There are four different drive modes available in the RX. First is Eco which increases throttle resistance and reduces power from the climate control system to improve efficiency. I ran this mode for most of the week and didn't noticed that the throttle had more resistance whenever I put my foot down. Next is Sport which tweaks the throttle to make it a bit ore lively. I drove with this mode briefly, but I couldn't tell any difference in the throttle when it was in this mode or normal. EV mode is next which allows the vehicle to run on electric power alone. I found this to be more of a gimmick than an actual feature as it only let me drive a limited distance and below 25. Wrapping up the modes is Normal which offers a nice balance between Eco and Sport.
The transmission is a CVT and for the most part, the transmission does its job well. You don't notice it's a CVT till you put your foot to the floor and CVT groan makes an appearance. Keep your foot off the floor and CVT keeps to itself.
Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 30 City/28 Highway/29 Combined. My week in the RX hybrid netted me 26.9 MPG. Somewhat disappointing as I had the vehicle in Eco mode for most of the week.
As for the RX 450h's ride, I was confused. I was expecting a comfortable and smooth riding crossover. But instead, I got a firm riding crossover. The ride was a bit bouncy and I could feel most bumps. As I wrote in my notes, 'I think Lexus' ride engineers mixed up the suspension settings for the RX 350 F-Sport and RX 450h'. The steering also felt a bit off. It wasn't too light or heavy, but felt like there was a lot of resistance when I was turning the wheel.
After spending a week with the RX 450h and reading through my notes, I can say that you are better off passing on the RX 450h. The added cost for the hybrid does give you slightly better fuel economy, but offers a worse ride and steering than the standard RX. You're better off sticking with the regular RX 350.
Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RX 450h, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with VVT-i, Three 650V Electric Motors
Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 245 @ 6,000 (3.5L V6), 155 @ 0 (Front Electric Motor), 67 @ 0 (Rear Electric Motor), 295 (Total Output)
Torque @ RPM: 234 @ 4,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 30/28/29
Curb Weight: 4,520 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Cambridge, Ontario
Base Price: $47,810
As Tested Price: $55,550 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge)
Premium Package - $3,060
Navigation System w/Voice Command - $2,275
Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound - $995