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2010 Lexus RX 450h ReviewThe Good
The Lexus RX 450h crossover SUV receives a makeover for 2010, with a boost in horsepower and the addition of a number of new innovative features that should help the RX hybrid maintain its position as one of the world's top hybrid SUVs.The Bad
Early reviewers find the RX 450h's redesigned exterior less than impressive, with a bland, unexciting appearance that leaves many wanting more.
The CarGurus View
Lexus continues to refine its signature hybrids, including the 2010 RX 450h, by upping the power quotient and adding a new wave of innovative bells and whistles. The latest version of the RX hybrid should appeal to potential buyers who seek a roomy, luxurious crossover SUV that will receive the additional benefit of good fuel economy.
At a Glance
An all-new, second-generation Lexus RX 450h debuts for 2010, replacing the RX 400h. The RX 450h comes equipped with an enhanced Lexus Hybrid Drive system generating 27 more horsepower than the previous generation's hybrid system. The 2010 RX 450h also receives a number of new hybrid-related systems designed to improve efficiency, including an exhaust-heat recovery system, which reduces engine warm-up time, and a cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system, which helps improve fuel economy.
The five-passenger RX 450h luxury sport utility vehicle comes with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for 2010. Both systems were designed to work specifically with the hybrid powerplant and the regenerative braking system. In addition, the 2010 RX 450h features a number of new technologies that are firsts for Lexus, including a Remote Touch controller for the RX 450h's available hard disk drive navigation system and a new casual-language voice-recognition system for the available navigation system. Lexus also adds XM NavTraffic and NavWeather features to the standard XM satellite radio.
The RX 450h retains its basic exterior shape and car-like platform for 2010, although it now displays a sharply designed shoulder line and a more aerodynamic overall shape compared to the previous year's version. Exterior updates also include a new, unique inverted trapezoid grille, a unique front bumper, angled blue-tinted headlights, blue-tinted taillights, and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Optional exterior features include LED headlights and special 19-inch wheels.
Inside, the 2010 RX 450h gets a new "dual-zone cockpit" design. The dual zones include a "display zone," centered on an 8-inch navigation display set back in the dash to ensure optimal visibility, and an "operation zone," which provides the driver with a wide range of information accessible through an optional steering-wheel-mounted multi-information switch and the Remote Touch navigation controller.
The RX 450h's Hybrid Drive system combines an Atkinson-cycle, 3.5-liter V6 engine with an electric-drive motor, which together produce 295 hp, an increase of 27 hp over the previous generation's hybrid system. The engine links to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). The Hybrid Drive's
new exhaust-heat recovery system helps improve efficiency by reducing engine warm-up time, so the gas engine stops earlier, more often, and for longer periods of time, allowing the electric motor to take over quicker and more often, thereby reducing fuel consumption.
The available part-time all-wheel-drive system adjusts torque to each wheel for optimal traction and driver control in all types of road and driving conditions. The real-time adjustment of torque helps improve fuel efficiency, according to Lexus. In addition, a rear-mounted electric motor-generator enables all four wheels to perform regenerative braking and charge the hybrid battery, further improving efficiency.
When equipped with an optional towing package, the RX 450h can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Ride & Handling
The 2010 RX 450h rides on a revamped suspension, including a new double-wishbone rear suspension designed to provide improved agility and control, as well as passenger comfort. Thanks to the redesigned rear suspension, the rear wheel wells don't intrude as far into the cargo area, resulting in five percent more cargo space than the previous generation offered. Lexus also updated the SUV's front MacPherson strut system to complement the new rear suspension and improve handling. An electronic power steering system comes standard.
Most drivers will find the seating position in the RX 450h comfortable, with controls and dials easy to access. In addition, the white organic LED multi-informational display was designed for easy readability from a wide angle.
The 450h's well-cushioned yet supportive leather seats will keep passengers comfortable over long distances, and rear-seat passengers will find plenty of legroom to stretch out. Interior storage spaces and cubbies are adequate but not overly spacious. Sound-absorption materials and acoustic glass ensure a quiet ride.
Cabin & Comfort
When it comes to interior quality, the RX trims have traditionally been rated at or near the top of their class by drivers and reviewers, and the 2010 RX 450h is no exception. Lexus makes extensive use of high-quality materials like leather and wood to create a rich interior look. In addition to leather upholstery, standard features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, wood trim on the dash and center console, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, reclining and sliding rear seats, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and a nine-speaker audio system with a 6-CD changer.
In addition to standard features, owners can choose from available Luxury and Sport option packages. The Luxury Package adds a Mark Levinson surround-sound system, a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system, and dynamic radar cruise control, while the Sports Package adds a sport-tuned suspension, among other features. Other options include a power tilt-and-slide moonroof, a power cargo door, and a navigation system. In addition, an optional heads-up display uses high-intensity LEDs to project information onto the windshield, enabling the driver to stay focused on the road ahead. The display is bright enough to be read in direct sunlight, according to Lexus.
The 2010 RX 450h also offers an optional passenger side-view mirror with an integrated camera, so the driver can check the right-side blind spot by pushing a button on the navigation screen or steering wheel, displaying the camera image on the navigation screen.
The 2010 RX 450h comes equipped with a total of 10 standard airbags, including driver and front-passenger knee airbags, side-curtain roll-sensing airbags, and front side seat-mounted airbags. In addition, Lexus designed the front-seat active headrests to better reduce whiplash injury in some low-speed rear collisions. Four-sensor antilock brakes also come standard.
Optional safety features include a Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system, which integrates the vehicle's various safety systems, including the stability control, antilock braking, hill assist control, and traction control systems. In addition, an optional Pre-Collision system uses radar technology to detect a possible frontal crash and automatically retracts the front seat belts and primes the brake assist to optimize passenger safety.
Other optional safety systems include an intelligent Adaptive Front-lighting System, which anticipates the SUV's location, based on the steering angle and vehicle speed, and swivels the headlights into the turn for better illumination. In addition, a new optional automatic high-beam system automatically switches the headlights from high to low beams when it detects oncoming vehicles.
What Owners Think
While the previous generation of the RX hybrid consistently drew good marks from owners for interior quality and comfort, some owners found the RX lacking slightly in handling and ride comfort, when compared to competitive vehicles from European automakers. Suspension upgrades to the new RX 450h should ease some of those concerns. In addition, some owners questioned the previous-generation's reliability. On the plus side, the RX 450h's upgrade in horsepower should result in better acceleration, and the hybrid powerplant should result in good overall fuel efficiency.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.