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“We offer the luxury of hybrid travel” could be a clever promotion line for Lexus. Notable in my drive time last week were smooth performance and outstanding in-city fuel mileage by an SUV — the redesigned 2010 Lexus RX450h hybrid. Two hybrid-powered sedans are also produced by the Japanese luxury divison for Toyota, and a fourth H-stamped Lexus model is scheduled for introduction next month. The stylish RX450h is a derivative of the long-popular Lexus RX350 gas-powered sport ute.
In normal driving here and there about town, the Lexus lends the feel of a docile breed; if the need arises for quickness, though, kick down the accelerator pedal and the power response is very strong. The RX450h has a larger power plant than last year’s 400h model. Its 3.5- liter V-6 (last year’s was 3.3-liter) with Atkinson Cycle valve timing and an electric motor combine for 295 horsepower, 27 more than previously.
The transmission is the continuously variable type, and a “lag in acceleration” complaint with some CVTs wasn’t a problem with the RX.
In reverse, particularly when backing from my garage, I’d occasionally feel a shudder when the power switched from electric to gas. Not a serious matter, kind of what would be felt if it had backed into a less-than-full trash can.
The use of the electric motor at low speeds in the all-wheel-drive Lexus gives it a city rating of 30 miles per gallon, with a rating of 28 on the highway, when the gas engine prevails. Overall average for my driving was 27.8 mpg. Inside the RX450h, at the left of the speedometer where a tachometer normally would be, is an indicator for the charging system. Watching the needle confirmed what I’d expect, that the fuel mileage was cut most severely when passing other motorists or upon resuming highway speeds after a slowdown.
The RX is equipped with soft, comfortable perforated leather front and rear seats. The front seats are heated and ventilated; the cooling part isn’t as quickly effective as were those in the Infiniti FX a couple of weeks ago. Large cargo capacity is available behind the second row of seats.
A head-up display projects speed of the vehicle on the windshield. In the redesigned center console, storage space has been created beneath the center stack and shifter.
Locating an outlet for the charging cord of my cell phone was a mystery; finally found one by opening the lid in the center console, removing a small tray, then lifting out a large bin and at the bottom were two receptacles.
The backup picture in the monitor provided by the rearview camera is perhaps the most clear of any I’ve tested in the past couple of years. Other options, such as navigation, Mark Levinson surround-sound system with 15 speakers, radar cruise control which maintains driving distance from car ahead, moonroof, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels and headlamp washers pushed sticker price from $43,250 to $56,450. The hybrid SUV is also equipped with automatic dual-zone climate control, power tilt and telescope steering wheel, interior wood trim and trip computer. Navigation, climate, audio, etc., settings are controlled by a new high-tech remote touch controller, which has the feel of a computer mouse. With a navigation map on the monitor, I pushed the menu button, moved the controller past indicators for destination, info/ phone, setup and climate, then stopped on Audio, hit “enter,” then came choices for AM, FM or SAT (for satellite radio) and I moved the controller to SAT, hit enter, then six choices came up for satellite radio. At this point, I hit enter on my preference and enjoyed the sound. A new hybrid sedan, the HS250h, smaller than the GS450h and the full-sized LS600hL, will arrive in Lexus showrooms next month, priced from $36,000 to $45,000.
A look back
Thirty years ago this month, I reviewed in The Denver Post a 1980 Oldsmobile Omega. Excerpts: Oldsmobile, builder of the longtime hot-selling Cutlass, has another hit on its hands. The model name — Omega — isn’t new, but the car is, and what a reception it has had in the showroom. Some persons are waiting several months to get their hands on these ’80 models, which were introduced in late April. A report from Oldsmobile early this week indicated there are 10 days supply nationally of the Omega, one of the lowest days supply in the industry. What’s so different about the new one? It’s got the goodhandling front-wheel-drive setup, for one thing, and offers a choice of transversemounted 4-cylinder or V-6 engines which produces gas mileage figures out of reach of the older Omegas. It also seats five persons with plenty of legroom and headroom. Fuel mileage averages ranged from 20.3 to 32.2 miles per gallon. Base price of the Brougham Coupe is $5,014; adding of such optional items as air conditioning, tinted windows, vinyl landau roof, power steering, whitewall tires, dual horn, visor vanity mirror and AM/FM stereo and tape raised window sticker price to $8,105. The 2.8-liter V-6 engine develops 115 horsepower. The 2,560-pound two-door is 750 pounds lighter than last year’s Omega.
2010 Lexus RX450h Hybrid
(price as tested)
MPG City 30 / MPG Highway 28
Vehicle type: SUV hybrid
Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
Length/Width/Height: 187.8/74.2/66.3 inches
Weight: 4,652 pounds
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, electric motor
Transmission: Continuously variable
Fuel mileage: 27.8 mpg
Fuel tank: 17.2 gallons
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic;
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz ML320 diesel,
Audi Q7 TDI, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Built at: Ikeda, Osaka, Japan
$2,440 Navigation, backup monitor
$2,400 Leather trim, moonroof
$1,875 LED headlamps, headlamp washers
$1,610 Levinson surround sound, 15 speakers
$1,500 Precollision, radar cruise
$1,200 Head-up display
$660 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels
$640 Heated, ventilated front seats
• Exterior styling
• In-city fuel mileage
• Rearview camera view
• Excellent ride quality
• Pricey with options
• Remote-touch controller
• Unhandy 12-volt receptacles