Lexus released its original luxury SUV-hybrid, the RX 400h, in 2005. The model update gets a new designation, the RX 450h, reflecting its larger power plant.
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Lexus made minor body work updates for this 2010 model, although kept it as a five seater, only increasing the length by just over an inch.
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The grille design is new, typical on a model update. The RX 450h also gets automatic high-beams.
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The rear suspension has been changed drastically in the new model, going from strut towers to a compact double-wishbone design. The ride is a little more rigid than with the previous model.
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Improved cargo room
The change in the rear suspension means strut towers no longer intrude on the cargo space.
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The cabin still uses wood insets and soft materials, but the design makes the stack more driver-focused. The 2010 RX 450h also gets a significant new cabin tech package.
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The RX 450h gets a newly designed Mark Levinson audio system featuring 7.1 surround sound from 15 speakers.
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Bluetooth and steering
Where the RX 400h had extremely light steering, it gets stiffened up a bit for the RX 450h. Steering wheel buttons include voice command, which lets you dial phonebook entries from a Bluetooth-connected phone by name.
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The hybrid RX 450h uses a similar charge gauge as current Lexus hybrids. A heads-up display is optional.
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The transmission uses a similar planetary gearset as previous models, providing continuously variable gear ratios. There are virtual shift points programmed in for manual mode.
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One particularly interesting aspect of the RX 450h is this new interface controller. Moving the square joystick moves a cursor on screen, and the enter button selects applications. It is very similar to the interface on a PC.
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Lexus provided a new design for the powerflow animation to go with the new power plant. The RX 450h uses a new 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V-6, giving the car 27 more horsepower than its predecessor.
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The new home screen offers this simple row of icons for choosing different functions in the car. It's easy to use, but we don't like that the interface lets you move the cursor all over the screen rather than locking it to the icon row.
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New navigation system
Traffic reporting is now offered on the RX's navigation system, which is hard drive-based, allowing for more detailed maps.
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Weather forecasts are also a new information feature in the navigation system, bringing the RX 450h on par with offerings from competitors.
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The console has a USB port that works with iPods and USB drives. Strangely, you can't copy music to the car's hard drive.
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You can browse music on a USB drive by folder, but iPods give you full music selection by artist, album, and genre.
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Rear seat entertainment
For the rear seat entertainment package, LCDs are mounted on the backs of the front seats, so the driver's rear view isn't impeded by a drop-down LCD.