2014 Lexus RX Review

2014 Lexus RX - The 2014 Lexus RX 450h gas/electric hybrid may be the perfect upscale family car for many


Prices: $46,310-$47,810.

The refined Lexus RX 450h gas-electric hybrid crossover is well-developed, with good performance, sparkling fuel economy, carlike comfort and maneuverability and roominess. No wonder it's among Lexus's top-selling models.

The RX 450h is priced at approximately $46,310 to $47,810 and has standard all-wheel drive and a smooth continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that can be manually shifted and put in driving modes ranging from "Economy" and "Sport" to  "Snow" and "EV."

The RX 450h got numerous improvements for 2013, so there are no significant updates for the 2014 model. This vehicle is more tried-and-true than ever.

The 450h uses a 3.5-liter V-6 with three electric motors and a battery system to generate 295 horsepower, enabling quick off-the-line acceleration and high-speed passing.  

Most owners will rarely need sport mode because the smooth, responsive transmission works fine in "D" (Drive) mode for normal driving. In EV drive mode the electric motor (traction motor) powered by the hybrid battery (traction battery) is used to drive the vehicle.

EV mode lets you drive in residential areas early in the morning and late at night, or in areas such as indoor parking lots,without concern for noise and exhaust gas emissions. You can drive about half a mile solely in EV drive mode at under 26 m.p.h., or farther, depending on hybrid battery level and driving conditions.

The 450h is pretty quiet even when the gasoline engine kicks hard in for more performance, but EV mode naturally helps you save gasoline.

The RX 450h is 188 inches long and heavy at about 4,870 pounds because it's loaded with luxury equipment.Yet, it delivers estimated fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways.

Premium fuel is recommended for the best performance, although Lexus says regular-grade gasoline can be used. However, it warns that fuel with an octane rating lower than 91 can cause engine "knocking" and that persistent knocking can lead to engine damage.
The quiet, nicely designed upscale interior has items including genuine wood interior trim. There are a good number of storage areas, although the owner's manual seems as thick as the bible and gobbles up space in the glove compartment. (At least the informative manual is easy to read.) Doors have useful snap-out pockets, and there's a deep covered console storage bin. The back of the front seats have storage pockets for rear passengers.

All doors, which have large outside handles, open wide for quick entry and exit, but the 450h is a little higher than a car so it takes a more effort to climb in and slide out.

It's plenty roomy up front and in the reclining and sliding split 40/20/40 split backseats. Separate electric motors power the rear wheels, eliminating the need for a space-eating rear seat floor-level center driveshaft. However, the middle of the backseat is rather stiff and best suited for the pull-down armrest, which contains two cupholders.

The power front seats provide good support, especially in curves, and backlit gauges help assure good visibility of them in sunlight. Small, but well-marked, dashboard controls are accompanied by a center display screen that's easy to use-once you get used to it.

However, ordinary tasks, such as checking radio stations, call for too much attention to the screen and thus cause a driver to take eyes from the road.

The RX 450h is attractive-some might even say it looks racy-but its sloped rear roof causes rear-vision problems for a driver. Large outside mirrors automatically fold when the 450h is parked to prevent parking area damage and greatly assist rear visibility.

The 450h is well-equipped, with an upscale car's usual luxury, comfort and convenience items.

However, there still are attractive, but costly, option packages. They include a $995 Mark Levinson premium surround sound system, $2,775 navigation system with voice command, backup camera, and (how could you resist?) a $3,060 premium package with a power moonroof, leather trim interior, blind-spot monitor system and Bamboo interior trim and steering wheel.

Safety items include no less than 10 air bags and an effective anti-lock braking system controlled by a linear-action brake pedal.

Handling is nimble. But the power steering, although quick enough, feels artificial. The 18-inch aluminum wheels help handling. So does a sophisticated suspension, which provides a supple ride without getting sloppy on bad pavement.

The cargo area is moderately large. It has a wide, but high, opening. A thoughtful scuff plate prevents damaging the lip of the cargo opening when objects are scraped over it. Rear seatbacks easily flip forward to greatly expand the cargo area.

The hatch opens and closes automatically, and has a jam protection function. If sensors in the hatch detect an obstruction while it is closing, the function returns the door to its fully open position.

And, oh yes, the interior-padded hood glides open on twin struts so you don't need an awkward hood prop. Not that you'd want to mess with anything under the hood with all those engine compartment electronics. Take one look and you'll see what I mean

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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