We had an opportunity for an early vacation this year - a long weekend “up north” at the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula - and we were able to snag a Lexus RX450h hybrid SUV for the trek. Last fall, this same trip was excruciating in another sportier diesel (that shall remain unnamed). We chose the Lexus for its relative efficiency compared with other sizeable SUVs, its cargo capacity, and the comfort of its ride. After all, what could be cushier than a Lexus, right? We were searching for a larger, more comfortable hybrid than the average, to show that there are some alternatives out there for consumers wanting to go green without giving up their foot room - read on to see how it fared!
Well, cushy might have been overstating the issue slightly. The first thing we noticed driving the Lexus was that it bounced over road imperfections like a tilt-a-whirl, giving us the feeling of walking on the moon. It was comfortable, however, especially for such a long drive, and while we only managed 25 mpg when the car was packed to the gills with people and food on the way up to the cabin (a trip that is also slightly uphill almost the whole way), driving around to marinas near Mackinac City, Michigan, and traveling home with a lighter load the hybrid’s mpg kept rising easily–34 mpg and still rising when we turned over the keys.
If that doesn’t sound all that impressive, consider the size of the vehicle. The RX450h is a full-size SUV, with two rows of seats, sunroof, lots of electronic goodies including heated and air conditioned seats, sat-nav, and even DVD players embedded in the backs of the front seat headrests. For a car that size to pull off 34 mpg is like your hatchback getting 55 mpg without a hybrid drivetrain. We love that there is an option for drivers who want good efficiency but need more space in their vehicles, since one of the biggest hindrances to consumers adopting electric and hybrid cars is the amount of space they currently have to give up to get great mileage. If you have people to haul, if you need to schlep art canvases around town, the RX450h might just be your ride. And it’s not that much more expensive than a standard sedan, starting at $45,910. We wish it looked a bit sportier, but leave off the econ button, which needlessly throttles acceleration without offering improved mileage, and the acceleration and sound it makes when you just tap the gas will make you forget the looks.