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2013 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid First Drive Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
September 3, 2012
2 min. Reading Time

The 2013 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid is the latest in a line of eco-conscious mid-size luxury SUVs produced by the premium brand.  The RX 450h Hybrid's status as a continuation of the very first gasoline / electric crossover to have been introduced to North American buyers almost ensures that its sales will continue to buttress the impressive totals of the standard edition of the RX.  It also doesn't hurt that the luxury hybrid provides one of the better battery-powered driving experiences in the business.

Our time behind the wheel of the 2013 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid was brief, but it was enough to confirm that the latest model picks up where the previous RX left off.  A substantial percentage of Lexus sales are of the hybrid variety, which means that driving dynamics, performance, and comfort are much more than afterthoughts each time the Japanese brand releases a revised product. 

The RX 450h Hybrid features either one (front-wheel drive models) or two (all-wheel drive editions) electric motors that assist a 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the production of 295 total horsepower.  A continuously-variable automatic transmission is charged with managing that output, which is combined together seamlessly to give the RX 450h the ability to pull hard off of the line and merge with traffic with ease.  We were also impressed with the crossover's smooth handling, which gave it a sedan-like feel during normal driving - although it was easy to detect the additional heft and taller ride height of the platform when pushing through the corners. 

This is of course forgivable when one realizes that the Hybrid offers a fuel mileage rating of 32-mpg in stop and go driving and 28-mpg on the highway, which are excellent figures for such a capable automobile.  The RX also features an EV mode for battery-only operation, but it's restricted to slow speeds and short distances.  Sport and ECO modes can also be selected in order to prioritize acceleration or fuel economy.


There's not a lot to give away the fact that the 2013 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid hides a special drivetrain underneath its conservative sheet metal.  Although the company's fresh 'spindle' grille has been grafted to the RX's traditionally smooth and inoffensive styling, the vehicle's personality remains that of an old friend rather than a new flame.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing - after all, familiarity and reliability are two of Lexus' trademarks - but it does mean that the RX Hybrid comes across as practical, rather than sporty.

The passenger compartment of the crossover features the automaker's standard high quality materials at all of the important touch points, as well as the availability of features such as heated leather seats, a moonroof, automatic climate control, a Mark Levinson surround sound system, voice-activated navigation, and the Lexus Remote Touch Controller for interacting with its various vehicle settings and entertainment systems.  Interior space is more than adequate, especially for second-row occupants, and cargo space has not been negatively affected by the presence of the battery pack, with 80 cubic feet of total storage space available.  The RX 450h can even tow up to 3,500 lbs should one not be able to fit every single piece of luggage within its generous confines.


The 2013 Lexus RX 450h Hybrid is more of the same, only better.  The 450h Hybrid is like a finely-tuned edition of last year's gasoline / electric RX model, a vehicle that makes no major changes but instead improves on the harmony of the components already familiar to those behind the wheel. 

There's no question that legions of converts to the Lexus RX fold will be happy should they choose the 2013 Hybrid as their next step down the battery-powered path.  The crossover is a reasonable performer, coddles occupants with a long list of luxury equipment, and consumes substantially less fuel in all situations. There is a price to be paid, however, for the Hybrid's gaudy mpg numbers, as the crossover starts at approximately $6,000 more its gas-only counterpart - a figure that might give a few first-time buyers pause as they consider the merits of the more affordable entry-level RX.



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