2017 Lexus RX 450h Review

2017 Lexus RX 450h - The 2017 Lexus RX 450h is a visually dynamic, plush, fast SUV with sparkling fuel economy.

By:

Prices: $53,035-$56,645

The Lexus RX 450h gas-electric hybrid combines luxury, style performance and sparkling fuel economy for a fairly large, heavy SUV. The RX 450h's sculpted lines really make it stand out, compared with conservative rivals. But that's not to say that the four-door hatchback RX 450h sacrifices utility or luxury for flashiness. It's about time that more SUVs and crossover vehicles got more flair. After all, they're outselling cars.

The  popular 2017 RX 450h is the most powerful model in the RX line. It has 308 combined system horsepower for fast acceleration and-importantly-gets an estimated 31 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways. Those figures actually seemed a little conservative to me, as the fuel gauge needle seemed nailed to the "F" mark despite several days of spirited driving in the suburbs and city. The system works seamlessly with a planetary type electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. There's only a 17.2-gallon gas tank, although it calls for 91 octane fuel.

The Lexus Hybrid Drive system pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine with two high-torque electric drive motor-generators for strong acceleration. Instead of transfer gears and a driveshaft to the rear wheels, the available all-weather drive system uses a second independent electric motor to drive the rear wheels when needed to help maintain optimal traction.

Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes can be selected. I couldn't tell much difference between the three modes and found "Eo" the most appropriate to use. A fourth mode-EV-lets the RX 450h drive at low speeds under electric power for short distances. I suppose it lets you quietly sneak out of the neighborhood in what some may think is a flashy, gas-guzzling SUV.

The RX 450h handles curves securely, even in Eco mode. Not that it fits into any "sport" category. In fact, my test RX 450h felt rather bulky for the first mile or so. After all, it weighs 4,740 pounds and is 192.5 inches long. It's also 67.7 inches high, which means extra effort is needed to enter, although door openings are wide with easily gripped handles.

Steering is quick and firm, but could use more road feel, and the brake pedal has a nice linear action. The anti-lock brakes have electronic brake force distribution and a brake-assist feature.

The ride is comfortable, but some road imperfections can be felt because, after all, this is no luxury sedan.

The regular RX 450h I tested lists at $53,035, but there's a $56,645 "Sport" version with distinctive handling and style upgrades such as a blackout mesh grille, special wheels and a sportier interior.

My test RX 450h's quiet interior had supportive front seats and a roomy rear seat, although the center of the rear seat is stiff and best occupied by the large fold-down armrest that contains
sturdy rubber cupholders. Those seats slide forward and tilt for more comfort. They also have 40/20/40 split seatbacks, which don't sit completely flat. In any case, the cargo area is fairly large with all the rear seatbacks in their normal position, although the load floor, though wide, is high because of such things as battery placement. An optional power rear hatch swings up far out of the way.

Occupants sit high, surrounded by nice stitching, wood inlays and soft touch materials.

There's a pushbutton start and all the usual luxury vehicle features. They include power leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats, power-adjustable wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation system with 8-inch multimedia display,  and a 12-speaker premium audio system. My test RX 450h had no tachometer, but instead a large gauge with "power," "Eco" and "Charge" markings. There's a mouselike controller and interface that called for too much driver attention. But, thankfully, there's also plenty of dashboard physical buttons and knobs for such things as audio and climate controls.

The RX 450h is loaded with safety features. They include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, intuitive parking assist, backup camera air bags and side curtains.

Despite all the RX 450h's style, luxury and safety features, what we keep coming to is its impressive fuel economy. Many casual observers might never guess it's good for a combined 30 city/highway miles per gallon estimate.




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.

For more reviews from Dan, visit Facebook.