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Lexus SUV Hybrid
The Lexus SUV Hybrid breathes Toyota’s experience with hybrid drives.
Toyota – Lexus is Toyota’s premium brand – is in my opinion the first and most experienced carmaker implementing Hybrid drive trains.
They actually started selling Hybrid cars as early as 1997. And this experience shows.
A bit cramped for me, with the door closed I had a hard time to curl my knees around the steering wheel…but I am just too tall
During my interviews for this article I more and more became convinced that the Hybrid is the next step of car development.
No doubt for me the future of cars is electric. But as long as the batteries cannot power a vehicle for at least 500 mi, the hybrid – the combination of conventional and electric power – is the next logical step.
And Toyota/Lexus, having invested in this technology since more than 10 years, in my opinion now are in the ‘pole position’ for the hybrid car future.
The Lexus SUV Hybrid RX450h
So the actual SUV model built by Lexus is the RX450h – with ‘h’ for hybrid.
A moon roof needs about 3 – 5cm headspace…so I shouldn’t order one
And please let me do this report from my personal German angle. On their German website Lexus quite humbly declares that it is not that easy for them to establish a premium brand in a market that originally has invented and dominated the premium niche – Germany.
It is not too easy to compete with Mercedes, BMW and Audi. And not too easy to convince ‘spoiled’ German customers, proud of their premium brands.
And yes, as a German I knew ‘Lexus’ quite well from my frequent US trips – but didn’t even know they were on the German market already – actually for more than a decade.
And I had never driven a Lexus so far…
A personal Disclaimer: You should know for this article that I personally am a big Mercedes Aficionado. Still driving my grandfather’s fantastic 260E (made 1989).
Am I ignorant? Dunno…I would say today that if Lexus can make it there (ahem …here, Germany), they can make it everywhere … ideally in the US – the most important auto market in world.
So in order to do my research and to heal my ignorance I visited my local Lexus Forum and had ‘Andreas’ show me the car.
The Lexus SUV RX450h from within
The car is nicely done, in my opinion distinctively designed for the US market and with the moonroof a bit oppressive for my taste…well, as 99% of all cars roofs are …
I want to thank Andreas Plewnia from Lexus Forum Hanover to be so kind to show me the pros and also cons of the Lexus SUV
The look and feel is distinguished, showing excellent craftsmanship, giving the feeling of luxury without bragging.
The legroom for the driver – me especially – is a bit petite, but I guess even for men not as tall as me ( I am 6.7″).
Also the storage spaces in the cockpit seemed to me a bit – well – small…
The GPS and car electronics are well designed and give the driver all the information he may need without distracting him from the street.
The ‘joystick’ on the central console used for controlling the GPS and sound system and the interface are designed intelligently.
The seats feel good and supported my back well.
Lexus SUV Hybrid…’take me to the streets…’!
So having everything – especially my long legs – in place, the Lexus SUV was now about to show me his inner values.
With actually three motors – one conventional six cylinder gas combustion engine (183kW/249 hp) and two electric (173kW/235hp) – and nicely designed electronically controlled gears power the car smoothly and without any perceptible gear changes.
It comes with a 4WD and the smaller electric motor sits on the back axis to support in cases of traction or stability problems.
The most interesting gauge for Hybrid fans © Lexus Media
The most interesting instrument in the cockpit is the ‘power-charge’ indicator on the left side/left instrument.
Depending on your driving style or how often you are braking and stopping for a red light or traffic jam, this instrument shows you if the battery is in discharge or charge mode.
What I wonder about is the ‘real lifespan’ of the battery.
Normally I would think it is no good idea to use a NIMH battery the way the Lexus does…no real complete charging / decharging cycles, instead constant short sequences of both.
I should know what I am talking about, since a new notebook battery – in my case a Li-Ion – is always on my list for business expenditures – I somehow just cannot follow that simple ‘full cycles’ rule.
But a Lexus SUV hybrid comes with a five year/100.000km guarantee in Germany.
Well, they should know with all their experience already. So I obviously must be wrong
The ‘450’ in the model type indicates that it would take a conventional 4.5l engine to to be any road competition for this hybrid.
And with the German testers’ fuel economy data between 6.3l (37.34 MPG) to 10.9l (21.58 MPG) you won’t see the man at your local the gas station too often.
I learned that with a hybrid the consumption is even more dependent on your driving habits than with a normal car. But the Lexus has a way of awakening the ambition to beat the neighbors’ lower consumption.
I also didn’t know that actually 95 % of all Lexus SUVs sold worldwide are already Hybrids…since there is a premium to pay for that advanced technology I was quite surprised to hear that.
It seems that most Hybrid customers are technological ‘first movers’, not so much ‘greens’. They pay the premium happily to own the new technology.
Studies done in Canada show that Hybrid buyers are not extra motivated by tax credits, but they for sure don’t refuse to take it.
Though German Auto magazines complain in their tests that the steering is too soft – a typical German complaint, we love the steering to be hard, sporty and direct – they call the Lexus RX450h also “The Perfected”.
As an American at heart I believe it to be just right for my American readers.
So if you are in the market for an SUV you for sure check out the Lexus SUV Hybrid 450h.
What are your experiences with a Lexus SUV Hybrid? Share your story with us…