Lexus RX 450h – Excellent Hybrid SUV with Optional AWD

By John Addison (9/12/11)

Lexus RX 450h and AWD Review and Prices

Now you can have an excellent SUV without sacrificing premium features, comfort and good fuel economy. The Lexus RX450h is a stylish 5-seat, 5-door, SUV that delivers 28 miles per gallon (mpg) city, 32 highway, and 30 overall. For an extra $1,590 you can get the all-wheel drive (AWD) version for better handling on snow and ice and still get 28 city, 30 highway, and 29 overall.

The FWD 2011 Lexus RX 450h has a suggested starting price of $44,735 and the 2012 are $500 higher. The 2011 Lexus RX 450h AWD has a suggested starting price of $46,325 and the 2012 are $500 higher. Both models run about $6,000 more than their non-hybrid counterparts, the Lexus RX 350 FWD and AWD, but the 450h saves you 40 percent at the pump. If you can negotiate a good price on a dealer sale of the 2011 RX 450h, there’s no reason to wait for a 2012 model.

With this midsized premium SUV (Lexus brands this as luxury) you will enjoy a smooth and quiet ride. It does not have the sports car feel of the Lexus 200h or the acceleration Lexus 600h. This is a stylish SUV for those who enjoy room, comfort, and the Lexus status. With optional packages you can surround yourself with luxury appointments of leather and wood, up to 12 sound speakers, and dual display entertainment system for the back seat.

Seating is comfortable for five people. The rear cargo space is 40 cubic feet. Lower the back seat and you have 80 cubic feet – enough for home projects, lots of luggage, or a couple of bicycles.

Lexus Hybrid Drive System

The Lexus hybrid drive system is smart enough to know when to only use the electric motors, when to engage the 3.5 liter engine, and when to use both. The full series/parallel hybrid drive system is based on the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive, a proven success in over 3 million Prius. The FWD has two electric motors. One acts as a generator, the other drives the front wheels. The AWD has a third electric motor for the rear wheels. Although Toyota Motors has switched to lithium batteries for its new electric cars, it is staying with the proven NiMH batteries for its Lexus hybrids.

Most of the time, you will probably want to be in Eco mode to save gas. Touch Normal for freeway acceleration or passing a slow truck on a two-lane road. EV mode will let you travel a short distance in silence with only the electric motor engaged, receiving electricity from the NiMH battery pack.


The Lexus RX is a top safety pick with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Lexus RX safety features include:

  •  Active headrests for front seats
  •  Advanced technology airbag system Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) for driver and front passenger:
  •  Driver dual-stage airbag uses factors including crash severity and seat track position to choose one of three possible deployment speeds.
  •  Front passenger dual-stage twin-chamber airbag uses crash severity sensors to choose one of two deployment speeds. Airbag is designed to not deploy for passengers under 68.3 lbs. or when child seat is detected. (Advanced airbags in compliance with FMVSS208)
  •  ALR/ELR seat belt retractors on all outboard-seating positions except driver (ELR only)
  •  Brake pedal regression prevention mechanism helps reduce leg injuries in head-on impacts
  •  Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
  •  Driver and front passenger knee airbags
  •  Enhanced side-impact protection
  •  Enhanced-VSC (Vehicle Stability Control)
  •  Force-limiting seatbelt pre-tensioners for the driver’s and front passenger’s seats
  •  Four-sensor, four-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA)
  •  Front and rear seat-mounted side airbags
  •  High-strength sheet steel components
  •  Roll-sensing front and rear side-curtain airbags
  • Side impact door beams
  •  Three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners for outboard rear seating positions
  •  Tire pressure monitoring system

The optional Premium package includes Lexus Enform® with Safety Connect®:

  • Automatic Collision Notification,
  • Stolen Vehicle Location,
  • Emergency Assist Button (SOS),
  • Enhanced Roadside Assistance,
  • Destination Assist
  • eDestination (Complimentary one-year trial subscription included)

The AWD version improves fuel economy with a part-time AWD. When accelerating from a stop or if front-wheel slippage is detected, the AWD system on the RX 450h is designed to electrically power the rear wheels, delivering up to 50 % of torque to the real wheels, helping to provide additional drive force to propel the vehicle forward.

Other SUVs with Good Fuel Economy

Ford Escape Hybrid is over $10,000 less than the Lexus RX 450h. The Ford Escape Hybrid delivers better FWD mileage with 32 mpg overall with and 29 mpg with AWD. A range of premium options are available for the Escape Hybrid.

Toyota Prius V Crossover SUV. Lexus is the premium/luxury brand of Toyota Motors. The Prius is becoming a brand family as well.  Going on sale in 2012 is the Prius V, which offers as much room for 5 people and even more cargo space flexibility than the Lexus RX450h. The fuel economy is wonderful for a crossover with 44 mpg city, 40 highway, 42 overall. Although the Prius V lacks the luxury styling and appointments of the Lexus RX 450h, it is likely to save you $15,000 purchase price. The Prius V does not have an AWD option.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a larger SUV that can seat up to 7 people and still deliver good fuel economy with 28/28/28 mpg. It is about $6,000 less than the Lexus RX 450h and comes standard with electronic on-demand 4WD. A well appointed Premium version is available.

Toyota RAV4 EV can be ordered from dealers in 2012. This 5-seat, 5-door SUV, has about the same passenger and cargo space as the Lexus RX450h. The new RAV4 EV is a pure battery-electric with an estimated range of 100 miles. You’ll never pay a nickel at the gas pump. Toyota has not yet published a price. Toyota owns 2% of Tesla, which is supplying the lithium battery pack and working with Toyota on the electric drive system.

2011 and 2012 Lexus RX 450h Specifications


  • Wheelbase 107.9 in.
  • Overall Length 187.8 in.
  • Overall Width 74.2 in.
  • Overall Height (unloaded) 66.3 in. (without roof rack)
  • Tread Width – Front 64.2 in.
  • – Rear 63.8 in.
  • Ground Clearance 6.9 in.
  • Approach Angle 28.5 deg. – FWD 28.6 – AWD
  • Departure Angle 24.6 deg.
  • Breakover Angle 14.4 deg.


  • Seating Capacity 5
  • Headroom – Front (with moonroof) 39.1 in.
  • – Rear 37.7 in.
  • Legroom – Front 43.1 in.
  • – Rear 36.8 in.
  • Shoulder Room – Front 58.0 in.
  • – Rear 57.6 in.
  • Hip Room – Front 55.6 in.
  • – Rear 54.5 in.
  • Total Interior Volume 139.7 cu. ft.
  • Cargo Volume – Rear seats up and rearmost 40.0 cu. ft.
  • – Rear seats folded down 80.3 cu. ft.


  • Curb Weight 4,652 lbs. – AWD; 4,520 lbs. – FWD
  • GVWR 5,974 lbs. – AWD; 5,765 lbs. – FWD
  • Max Towing Capacity 3,500 lbs. (with appropriate hitch) – AWD
  • Not Applicable – FWD
  • Fuel Capacity 17.2 gal.


Type Series/parallel system with gas engine and electric motors

Total System Power 295 hp


  • Type, Materials V6, aluminum block and heads
  • Designation 2GR-FXE
  • Valvetrain DOHC 24-valve with VVT-i
  • Displacement 3.5 liter
  • Bore x Stroke 3.70 in. x 3.27 in.
  • Compression Ratio 12.5:1
  • Horsepower (SAE) 245 hp @ 6,000 rpm (not including hybrid drive)
  • Torque 234 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 rpm (not including hybrid drive)
  • Maximum Engine Speed (redline) 6,000 rpm
  • Fuel System Port Fuel Injection (SFI)
  • Fuel Requirement Performance numbers achieved with 91-octane unleaded fuel
  • Emission Certification SULEV II (California); Tier 2 – Bin 3 (all other states)
  • Evaporative Emission Certification Zero evap.


  • Motor Generator 1 (MG1) – Function Generator, engine starter, transmission ratio control
  • – Type Permanent magnet motor
  • – Max. voltage AC 650V
  • Motor Generator 2 (MG2) – Function Drives front wheels, regenerative braking
  • – Type Permanent magnet motor
  • – Max. voltage AC 650V
  • – Max. output 167 hp (123 kW)
  • Motor Generator Rear (MGR) – Function Drives rear wheels, regenerative braking
  • (AWD Model Only) – Type Permanent magnet motor
  • – Max. voltage AC 650V
  • – Max. output 68 hp (50 kW)


  • Type Sealed Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
  • Nominal Voltage
  • Power Output
  • 288V
  • 37 kW


  • Layout Front gas engine with hybrid transaxle and front and rear electric drive motors, electric all-wheel drive
  • Transaxle/Transmission Type Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission
  • reduction and power splitting, electronic all- or frontwheel-drive control system
  • Designation P313


  • Body/Frame Unitized steel
  • Suspension – Front MacPherson strut, coil springs
  • – Rear Double wishbone type, coil springs
  • Steering – Type Electric Power Steering (EPS): rack and pinion with
  • electronic power assist
  • – Overall Ratio 14.8:1
  • – Turns (lock to lock) 2.79
  • – Turning Circle (wall to wall) 40.0 feet
  • Brake System Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB2) system with
  • regenerative control and incorporating Anti-lock
  • Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force
  • Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Vehicle
  • Dynamics Integrated Management system (VDIM)
  • Brake Rotors – Front – type/diameter Ventilated disc/12.9 in.
  • – Rear – type/diameter Disc/12.2 in.
  • Anti-Lock Braking System 4 channel, 4 sensor
  • Wheel Size/Type 18-in. x 7.5-in. (standard)
  • 19-in. x 7.5-in. (optional)
  • Tire Size/Type 235/60R18 (standard)
  • 235/55VR19 (optional)
  • Spare Tire/Wheel Compact


  • 0-60 mph Acceleration (mfg. results) FWD – 7.8 seconds AWD – 7.4 seconds
  • 0-1/4 Mile Acceleration (mfg. results) FWD – 16.0 seconds AWD – 15.6 seconds
  • Top Track Speed 112 mph – electronically limited
  • EPA Estimated Fuel Economy* (City/Hwy/Combined) FWD – 32/28/30 AWD – 30/28/29
  • Coefficient of Drag (Cd) 0.33


Overall Exterior Styling/Body Design

  • 18-inch x 7.5-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels
  • 235/60R18 tires
  • Blue highlights added to front and rear “L” logo, engine cover, headlamp lens cover, rear combination lamp cover
  • Front fog lamps integrated into bumper
  • “HYBRID” badge incorporated on side molding of rear doors
  • Integrated color-keyed rear spoiler with rear-windshield wiper
  • LED brake and tail lights
  • “Lexus Hybrid Drive” engine cover
  • Pronounced wheel wells give rugged stance
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Rear tail light housings merged with back window glass
  • Side mirrors with integrated LED turn signal lamps
  • Standard integrated rear spoiler that hides windshield wiper mechanism
  • Water-repellant front door glass

Body Structure and Paint

  • Acoustic glass windshield to reduce noise
  • Anti-chipping paint applied to rocker panels and wheel housing arch sections
  • Exterior colors (9): Matador Red Mica, Tungsten Pearl, Nebula Gray Pearl, Obsidian, Satin Cashmere
  • Metallic, Stargazer Black, Black Opal Mica, Cerulean Blue Metallic, Starfire Pearl
  • High level of rust protection with zinc-plated steel on hood, doors and front fenders
  • Highly rigid body, monocoque construction
  • Measures to limit noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) have been applied throughout the vehicle
  • Rear bumper protector
  • Soft chip primer applied to hood for improved anti-chipping
  • Sound insulation placed in door panels, instrument panel and floor mats
  • UV-reducing glass used for all windows

Convenience Features

  • Auto on/off headlamps
  • Auto-dimming and foldable electro-chromic outside mirrors
  • Heated outside mirrors
  • Integrated front fog lamps
  • Rear intermittent wiper
  • SmartAccess key system
  • Variable intermittent windshield wipers


Interior Trim

  • Carpeted floor mats (carpeted trunk mat optional)
  • Chrome inside door handles
  • Coat hooks
  • Fabric covered sun visors with adjustable-illumination vanity mirrors and slide extensions
  • Fabric-trim seats in Light Gray
  • Genuine Walnut or Bird’s Eye Maple wood trim on console and switch plates
  • Leather-trim three-spoke steering wheel and shift knob

Seats and Cargo Area

  • 10-way power driver’s and front passenger’s seats: fore-aft slide; fore-aft recline; front vertical height; rear vertical height and power lumbar support
  • Driver’s seat Easy Exit (auto away/return)
  • Rear center arm rest with cupholders
  • Rear seat one-touch fold levers
  • Reclining/sliding fold-down rear seats with 40/20/40-split
  • Tonneau cover for rear cargo area

Instrumentation and Controls

  • Organic white Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) multi-information display
  • Scheduled maintenance indicator light


  • 12-volt power outlets (3): center console box (1), lower console area (1), cargo area (1)
  • Assist grips: front (2), rear (2)
  • Auto on/off headlights
  • Automatic dual-zone climate control
  • Center console with cupholders (2) and storage bin
  • Courtesy lights mounted on doors
  • Dust and pollen particle and deodorizing interior air filter
  • Electrochromic rearview mirror with compass (without Navigation)
  • First aid kit
  • Front and rear map lights; cargo area light
  • Front seatback pockets
  • Incandescent dome light with white LED spot lights
  • Incandescent foot lights
  • LED illuminated center console and glove box
  • Lexus Personalized Settings (LPS) to allow certain vehicle settings to be tailored by owner
  • Manual front seatbelt anchor height adjusters
  • Power door locks with anti lock-out feature
  • Power tilt-and-telescopic steering column
  • Power windows with one-touch auto up/down feature with jam protection for all windows
  • Programmable garage door opener (HomeLink)
  • Pull-out front door storage pockets
  • Rear air conditioning vents mounted on rear of center console
  • Steering wheel audio controls
  • Tool kit


  • Lexus Premium Audio
  • 9 speakers
  • AM/FM antenna integrated into rear spoiler
  • In-dash six-disc CD auto-changer
  • Integrated SiriusXM Satellite Radio receiver (complimentary 90-day trial subscription included)


  • Entry system with lock, two-stage unlock, trunk open and “panic” features, volume-adjustable confirmation tone and rolling code technology
  • Headlight off delay feature
  • Multi-function SmartAccess remote with engine immobilizer and remote window “down” feature
  • Remote-activated/key-linked illuminated entry: dome light and ignition key cylinder ring
  • Safety Connect® with Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assist Button, and Enhanced Roadside Assistance (complimentary one-year trial subscription)
  • Vehicle theft-deterrent system


  • 19-inch split five-spoke wheels with All-Season 235/55/VR19 tires
  • Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) projector headlamps with Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS)
  • Heads-Up Display (AWD model only; Requires Navigation Package)
  • Heated and ventilated front seats (Requires Premium Package)
  • Intuitive Park Assist
  • LED headlamps with headlamp washers, Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS) and Intelligent High Beams
  • Mark Levinson® Audio System with 15 speakers and DVD changer (Requires Navigation Package)
  • Pre-Collision System and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (AWD model only; Requires Premium or Luxury Package)
  • Rearview mirror backup monitor (non-navigation equipped vehicles only)
  • Towing hitch (AWD model only)
  • Towing Package (AWD model only)
  • Wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob

Premium Package

  • Driver’s seat memory – three settings (steering wheel, mirror, seat)
  • Electrochromic outside mirror (auto-dimming)
  • iPod® headunit control / USB
  • Leather-trimmed seats
  • One-touch open/close, tilt and slide moonroof
  • Power rear door
  • Rear armrest storage w/lid

Luxury Package (Requires Comfort and Navigation Packages and LED Headlights) AWD models only Includes all Premium Package contents plus:

  • 19-inch split five-spoke wheels
  • Auto recirculation
  • Front seat cushion extender
  • Illuminated scuff plates (front only)
  • Power retractable outer mirror
  • Semi-aniline leather-trimmed seating
  • Wide-view front monitor system
  • Wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob

Comfort Package (Requires Premium or Luxury Package; and Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) projector headlamps or LED headlamps with headlamp washers)

  • 12 Speaker Premium Audio System
  • Auto wipers (Rain-Sensing)
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Navigation Package (Requires Premium Package)
  • Backup monitor
  • Bluetooth® hands free phone and phonebook download capabilities
  • HDD Navigation (Generation 6 system)
  • Lexus Enform® with Safety Connect®: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assist Button (SOS), Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Destination Assist, and eDestination (Complimentary one-year trial subscription included)
  • Lexus Insider™
  • NavTraffic, NavWeather, Sports, and Stocks (complimentary one-year trial subscription included)
  • Remote Touch Navigation controller
  • Voice command casual-language voice recognition system
  • Dual-Screen Rear Seat Entertainment with Navigation (Includes Navigation Package)
  • 120V AC outlet in rear passenger compartment
  • Audio/video inputs
  • Dual wireless headphones
  • DVD rear seat entertainment system
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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

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