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Car Tech Video: Lexus RX hybrid quietly persists

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Car Tech Video: Lexus RX hybrid quietly persists

6:33 /

The luxury hybrid SUV hasn't changed much since its debut almost a decade ago, but maybe the quiet and refined 2014 Lexus RX 450h doesn't have to.

[MUSIC] The Lexus RX Hybrid is in a lot of ways a class definer. It kind of stands alone as a luxury mid-sized hybrid crossover and there's not a lot that goes toe-to-toe with it, delivering the same blend of performance and efficiency and luxury. [MUSIC] But it's been around for a while and it hasn't really changed much over the years. Let's hop behind the wheel of the 2014 example and see if it still has what it takes. Now the interior does look a little dated, this vehicle's almost half a decade old since it was launched, especially here in this sort of asymmetrical swoopy area where you've got this very 1990s looking CD slot and buttons for the controls for that but I'm willing to forgive that because the interior materials are very nice. You've got this kind of nice metallic champagne and this bamboo it's just feels really nice and it's very comfortable, even if it doesn't seem very modern. Now for the top of the dashboard, we've got our standard color screen. It's not a touch screen because Lexus doesn't do that. It's sunken really deep into the dashboard. Instead you'll control it with Lexus's remote touch controller down here and we've seen this before, it's sort of a combination mouse track petty thing, that give you absolute control of where the cursor on the screen go. Now one place that the remote touch controller does kind of help you keep your eyes on the road, is that there's haptic feedback. So as I'm moving this controller around, I'm getting resistance, as I leave the Destination icon and then it snaps to the Info icon, so I can very quickly go through a list of things just by feeling how many detents I'm getting on this remote touch controller. It is a little weird and it does take a lot of getting used to but there is a sort of gee whiz, cool factor that goes along with it that I think some drivers will like. Not my favorite way to interact. I'd prefer either like a control knob or just touch the screen, in most cases. The navigation system is quickly accessible by a button right here and you get two-dimensional maps. You don't get any sort of 3D buildings or even a slight sort of bird's eye, isometric tilt like you will get with a lot of navigation systems. Top down is all you get here. Destination input is pretty simple. You do have voice command but selection system is going to be one of those that takes you through every single step of the process. Say the city name, say the street name, say the street number. The competitors are letting you get it all in one go and that's probably the best way to do it and if we pop back into the main menu, we'll pop into our audio sources. Interestingly, there are separate icons for radio and media, even though more or less, they take you to the same place. If we had a Bluetooth phone paired, we'd also have access to the less informed suite of apps. That's going to get you things like movietickets.com, Pandora Radio playback and more. We've also got Bluetooth audio streaming, USB connectivity with iPod and an auxiliary input. Now underneath the hood, well, somewhere underneath the hood, Lexus has kind of covered everything up with black plastic. That's kind of par for the course but it's a little bit weird. They left this opening here to show you another engine cover but underneath that cover, you'll find a 3.5-litre Atkinson Cycle V6. It's gonna put about 245 horse power by itself but it's not alone. It's actually paired up by a planetary gear with a 116 kilowatt electric engine and those two together are gonna give an combined system output of 295 horse power. Now those particular example is an all wheel drive version but there's no drive shaft that runs from the engine to the rear wheels. What Lexus does is they just put a second 50 kilowatt electric motor on the rear axle that just kind of comes alive and uses energy from the battery pack to give a little additional torque at the rear wheel. That saves a little bit of weight but it also gives them an extra engine that converts into a generator, when you're using regen braking. That's going to help charge that battery a little bit faster and help you recapture energy. So it gives, as good as it gets. Fuel economy's going to be stated at 30 miles per gallon city, 28 highway or 29 combined and those aren't really impressive numbers for the hybrid badge but you gotta remember this is a big, heavy vehicle with a V6 engine at its base. And Lexus' hybrid message isn't necessarily, we're gonna give you 40 miles per gallon but rather they want you to feel like you're getting the power of a V8 engine in a luxury, hybrid SUV but with the efficiency of a V6. [MUSIC] One of the most intangible and not immediately obvious benefits of going hybrid with the Lexus RX 458 is, well, just how quiet the power train is. Most of the time the gasoline engine isn't even running. When you're stopped at a traffic light or pulling away from a stop sign or even if you're like I'm doing right now, cruising around at about 20 miles per hour, the gasoline engine isn't even running and when you do get up to a speed where it needs to come on or you need a little bit more power to climb a hill, it's very quiet, even then and that's really, sort of the point of this big luxury SUV. It's not really to give you the maximum fuel efficiency but to give you sort of an effortless driving experience that isn't really obtrusive. The other thing that you don't have to think about is how to get the best possible fuel economy from this car because the hybrid power train system's pretty much working it all out by itself. You just drive it around like a regular car and it does 30 miles per gallon, there's no hypermiling necessary. Although, you do notice that there is a little bit of lag between your input and the actual result, where the rubber meets the road. So if you're looking for more dynamic drive, this probably isn't the car but take it easy, give yourself a little room and enjoy the ride. [MUSIC] 2014 Lexus RX 450H, that's the hybrid right here, is at the top of the RX food chain and it's gonna start at $47,810 bucks. So we've got a lot of options. It's gonna add quite a bit to that bottom line. For example, we've got the navigation and rear seat entertainment packages. It's gonna substantially bump up the tech. We've got a luxury package that's gonna add those nice leather seats and that nice bamboo interior, along with a whole lot of other amenities and we've also got about $1,000 bucks into a Mark Levinson Audio system. All in, including all of the small bells and whistles that I'm skipping over right now, we're looking at about $62,074. You can save about $2,000 bucks off of that and get it right under 60, if you skip the rear standard entertainment package and go with an iPad. That's what I'd do. [MUSIC]

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