The 2010 version of the Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUV is better than its predecessor when it comes to fuel economy and amenities.
Lexus has also reduced emissions and noise.
In fact, noise has been cut so much so that it is non-existent when you first start the engine and when it is idling, relying solely on the electric motor.
That's not unusual for a hybrid, but if you're not used to driving one, it does take some adjustment. I've been behind the wheel of a few hybrids, but the first morning I had the RX 450h, I came rushing out of the house trying to be on time to a meeting, started up the car, heard nothing, so started it again, heard nothing again, before finally realizing that "hey, dummy, you can go ahead and drive."
And when you do drive, you can go quite a ways before visiting a gas pump, as this SUV gets 28 mpg in the city; 27 highway, which is 1 mpg and 3 mpg, respectively, better than the last RX hybrid.
The AWD version gets 28 and 26.
And the 450h's 3.5-liter, V-6 engine is no pushover.
It's linked to an electric motor and makes a hearty 295 horsepower.
When you need a nice surge to get yourself up to speed in highway traffic, the 450h delivers, and does so with smoothness.
The 450h handles nicely, too, with the electronically controlled brakes working nicely, and acceleration and cornering taking place seamlessly.
You can switch to another driving mode, ECO, which results in improved fuel economy, and EV -- quieter and less polluting.
The sequential shift mode makes the 450h perform like a six-speed manual transmission, if you want that experience.
From an exterior-appearance standpoint, this version is not radically different from the design themes that we've been used to in the RX in recent years. One nice touch is the blue-tinted headlamp covers.
Also, there's a rear spoiler conceals the top-mounted rear wiper. Lexus improved visibility by adding quarter windows in front of doors.
Interior design remains quite refined, with quality materials that are soft to the touch, and elegant, sloping angles on the dash.
Lexus says cargo space has been added, too, and you'll like the handles in the cargo bay area, which drop the back seats flat.
Technological gains include a rearview camera that is optional, but that you don't need to also add the navigation system with, unlike in the past.
But if you get the new navigation system, you'll get XMNavTraffic and weather.
The mouse-like gadget that controls the system is fairly easy to use after a few minutes of getting used to it.
The 450h is priced at around $41,700 at the low end for a front-wheel-drive model, but if you choose an all-wheel-drive version, and add all the fixings, your price tag goes to nearly $60,000, which is pretty steep.
Lexus started the luxury hybrid SUV category, and continues to offer one of the best available.
With all its great features and its lessened environmental impact, it's a keen, green machine.