The Lexus RX hybrid is the best-selling hybrid SUV in America and has been for several years. Much of the attraction is Lexus’ great reputation for quality, quietness, and luxury vehicle ride. The new 2013 continues that tradition. You will notice a bold new look in the front, changes to the rear, and tweaks to make the already beautiful interior even prettier.
Under the hood the gas-electric RX 450h features a 3.5-liter V6 engine that is rated at 245-horsepower. The Lexus hybrid powertrain uses two motor-generators on the front-wheel drive version. One is an engine-driven generator that operates as an engine starter and can charge the battery pack or power other electric motors as needed. The second is a 167-horsepower motor that works with the gas engine to deliver power to the wheels. Total output of this pairing is 295 horsepower. Peak output for the RX 450h’s gas engine and electric motor occur at different rpm ranges. Therefore, combined power ratings represent peak power delivery in actual driving conditions.
The engine and drive motor are connected to a continuously variable transmission, which is engineered to manage the various sources of power in a way that maximizes the RX 450h’s efficiency. Beyond the engine and the motor, there’s a 288-volt nickel metal hydride battery pack under the second-row seats. When the vehicle brakes, some of the energy is captured and sent to the battery pack.
A third, rear-mounted motor-generator is added on the AWD model to drive the rear wheels. The system does not have a mechanical driveshaft, instead, it simply demands more torque from the rear electric motor. The RX 450h can operate in electric-only or gas-engine-only modes as well as a combination of both. A driver-selectable EV mode can allow the vehicle to be driven short distances using only the electric motors. It has the stop/start system when the batteries are fully charged.
This SUV is as comfortable as any you’ll ever drive and the interior and electronics are awesome. Lexus uses a mouse-type system in the center console that can be operated by driver or passenger. Handling is good in tight turns for an SUV, and acceleration in this all-wheel drive SUV is strong when you nail it.
The only complaint I have is the transition from battery to gas when sitting still. It’s just too noticeable and sends a slight shudder through the vehicle. When driving, it is hardly noticeable. The RX comes with virtually everything as standard equipment.
If you want a gas-hybrid SUV, it doesn’t get any nicer than this one. Economically, I think the gas RX350 makes more sense, especially for those who drive a lot on the highway.
What I liked most: The changes to the exterior, and the great interior.
What I would change: The idling transition of the two systems.
Fuel Economy: 30 in town/28 out the highway.
2013 Lexus RX350 in a few words: The best hybrid SUV on the market.
Car Pro Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.