2008 Lexus RX Hybrid Performance

$7,561 - $8,353

2008 Lexus RX Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Lexus RX Hybrid was new.


Performance: 8.1

The 2008 Lexus RX 400h gets a very good performance score, with Road and Track proclaiming, "the age of the performance hybrid is here, now with the expected Lexus polish."

Many test drivers comment on the lack of vibration and noise when starting the RX 400h, because it's started by the electric motor as opposed to its 3.3-liter V6 engine. Auto Mall USA best explains the process of starting the 2008 Lexus RX 400h. "Twist the key and everything on the dash lights up, but there's no sound of an engine starting, only silence. Slide the transmission lever to drive and you can pull silently away on electric power."

The 400h's engine power is employed for high acceleration, while stop-and-go commuter traffic, suburbs and parking lot driving will use the motor the majority of the time. A large number of reviewers reserve the highest praise for the 2008 Lexus RX 400h's acceleration. BusinessWeek portrays the get-up-and-go best, writing, "when you put your foot down nothing dramatic happens -- no gut-knotting windup of the motor and no open asphalt lunge -- it just gains speed like the Eurostar pulling out of Waterloo."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Lexus RX 400h is partially powered with a 3.3-liter V6 engine with 268-horsepower and partially powered with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, front and rear high-output, permanent-magnet electric motors. Because it is classified as a full hybrid, the 400h has the ability to drive exclusively with either its engine or its motor. The electric motor is used for starting the car and driving at slower speeds, while the engine guns in for higher speeds. Auto Mall USA reports, "[T]he RX 400h jumps off the line significantly quicker than the regular RX 330...step hard on the gas pedal and the V6 kicks in quickly and seamlessly." MSN's reviewer is impressed with the 400h's moxie given its hybrid mechanics, noting the car "doesn't have the lazy highway acceleration of the first gas-electric hybrid autos. It was still accelerating hard at 80 mph."

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2008 Lexus RX 400h with two-wheel drive at 26 miles per gallon city and 24 miles per gallon highway, using premium gasoline. For the four-wheel drive, the 2008 Lexus RX 400h rates 26 miles per gallon city and 24 miles per gallon highway, giving it the "best fuel mileage" for its SUV class, Edmunds reports. Drivers should also note that as electric motors run the 400h during more stop-and-go traffic, the car actually has a high rating for city driving instead of highways like other cars.

The 2008 Lexus RX 400h has an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission (CVT), which MSN highlights for accelerating smoothly thanks to no specific gear changes. The system has no specific gear changes, just a set of pulleys, and thus makes the RX 400h accelerate more smoothly. About.com says, "[T]he net effect in the real world is a jolt of acceleration that feels like a turbo kick. RX 400h feels like a hot rod compared to RX 350."

The 2008 Lexus RX 400h also has similar towing capacities to its RX 350 sibling. When properly equipped with the optional towing package, the 400h can tow up to up to 3,500 pounds.

Handling and Braking

The 2008 Lexus RX 400h has a fully independent suspension with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar for the rear and MacPherson struts for the front, a system which pleases reviewers. Automobile Magazine says "the RX ride is both comfortable and connected, with the expected isolation."

The RX 400h's handling also satisfies auto writers. Motor Week notes the 400h "felt solid in corners" on the twisting Hawaiian roads of the test drive. U.S. News' Rick Newman credits the suspension system and optional 18-inch tires for providing "grippy handling."

Some have lukewarm opinions on the 2008 Lexus RX 400h's steering capabilities, provided by electronic vehicle-speed-sensing as well as power-assisted rack-and-pinion.

MSN says the steering is "rather heavy, but not objectionably so." Consumer Guide notes the steering in the gasoline powered RX 350 "feels a little numb on center," but says steering is comparably "more direct" in the 400h.

When it's time to stop the RX 400h, drivers will be using four-wheel electronic-powered assisted disks, with four-sensor, four-channel anti-lock brakes, as well as brake assist, Electronic Controlled Braking and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. The braking is also a component of the 400h that is slightly modified by the electric motor power, and reviewers caution that this too will take some getting used to. As New Car Test Drive says, "The brakes may be the most un-Lexus-like component of the RX 400h," further explaining, "they sometimes feel uneven, as the regenerative effect of the electric motors helped slow the car, which makes it more challenging to modulate the pedal for smooth stops, particularly at parking lot speeds."

The RX and RX 400h were not designed for off-roading. As the Sacramento Bee explains, "with heavy batteries and electric motors on board, this is not the ideal SUV for tackling extremely rough off-road terrain."

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