2010 Lexus RX Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2010 Lexus RX Hybrid was new.


Performance: 8.4

Many reviewers reserve the highest praise for the Lexus RX 450h's performance, which is excellent for a hybrid. Its gasoline engine power is employed for heavy acceleration, while commuter traffic and slow-speed driving will use the electric motor the majority of the time. Reviewers' few complaints concern the RX Hybrid's heavy weight, which can impede acceleration and handling.

  • "The 2010 RX continues this mission; it holds the road well for a vehicle of its size and behaves very predictably when pushed, but it's intended to be a relaxed, comfortable cruiser, not an invigorating corner carver. Based on our test drives, it fulfills that mission well." -- Consumer Guide
  • “The engine stop/start is imperceptible, and the brakes have a surprisingly natural feel, unlike the grabby, nonlinear system of previous RX hybrids we've driven, including our long-term-test 2006 RX400h." -- Car and Driver
  • "On the road, the crossover is stable and safe, yet rather unexciting to drive, which is in keeping with the nature and intent of hybrid-powered vehicles." -- MSN
  • "OK, so the RX 450h has a pretty long payoff period and is slower than its predecessor. But don't go thinking Lexus has lost the plot with the RX 450h. Far from it -- the 2010 Lexus RX 450h is exactly what it needs to be. It rides smoother than ever, and glides free of road hum or wind roar." -- Edmunds
  • "More impressive was the RX 400h with the newest version of the Lexus Hybrid Drive. It's handling was, if anything, even better than the 350's, despite an extra 300 pounds of mass." -- CNET
  • "Our time behind the wheel primarily consisted of suburban jaunts and the occasional Northern California back-road, where both the RX350 and RX450h proved to be competent, compliant day-to-day cruisers." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The 2010 Lexus RX Hybrid is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and two electric-drive motors. Altogether, the powertrain makes 295 horsepower. The RX is classified as a full hybrid because the 450h has the ability to drive exclusively with either its gasoline engine or its electric motors. Test drivers say power is generally adequate, though sometimes it can be lacking. A big plus is that the 2010 model has a much smoother, more unobtrusive transition from gas to electric power.

As to be expected, fuel economy is the RX Hybrid’s high point. According to the EPA, the 2010 model achieves 30/28 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive and 32/28 with front-wheel drive. These figures beat out nearly every other SUV on the market. They’re surpassed only by the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid (which both have 34/31 ratings). But these are affordable SUVs which cost over $21,000 less than the RX and don’t offer the same luxury or refinement.

  • "And, indeed, during our tour of California's Napa Valley, the 2010 Lexus RX 450h gathers speed with the same rapid fluidity as the RX 400h. We also notice that the blending of the power sources is a bit smoother and quieter, particularly when the gas engine is shutting down or restarting. Perhaps this is the result of the two-stage mechanism to absorb torque that the Lexus engineers have added to the transaxle's flywheel damper." -- Edmunds
  • "Power delivery is a staid affair on both the standard and hybrid model, with few peaks and fewer valleys." -- Autoblog
  • "We spent seat time in an AWD RX 350 and a 2WD RX 450h. Both provide confident -- but not commanding -- acceleration in both city and highway driving. We were particularly impressed with the smooth performance of the powertrain in the RX 450h." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The RX 450h, meanwhile, doesn't accelerate with the same level of urgency [as the traditional RX 350], even though its gas-electric drivetrain makes more power. It has more weight to carry around -- about 300 pounds more. It's by no means pokey, but the assistance from the electric motor isn't as much as you might think." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

For the most part, test drivers find the RX 450h handles quite smoothly, and they compliment its good brake pedal feel. In fact, a few even say they prefer its driving experience to the conventional RX 350’s. However, a few also find that its weight (which has increased with the 2010 redesign) has a negative effect on handling.

The RX Hybrid comes standard with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional and adds almost $1,600 to the base price. An optional sport-tuned suspension can improve the RX's handling. However, it also adds stiffer springs and shocks, so it may make the ride less comfortable than some drivers would like.

  • "The 2010 Lexus RX 450h is not at home on Highway 29. Its excessive weight is apparent when changing direction, and although it has the same double-wishbone rear suspension as the 2010 RX 350, it feels less agile. When the road straightens, though, the RX 450h settles in and delivers a relaxed, serene ride that we simply can't fault." -- Edmunds
  • "As for handling, even with the Sport suspension package, the RX450h rolls like a tugboat off Cape Hatteras. This is a tall, heavy vehicle, with the suspension dial set on ‘Xanax.' No corner carving here." -- The Los Angeles Times
  • "One of the most impressive elements of the RX 450h's driving experience is its brake-pedal feel. This is an area where hybrids -- which make use of both friction and regenerative braking systems -- have struggled to match the linear pedal response of a traditional hydraulic brake system. The RX 450h shows that it can be done, as its firm pedal feel and natural braking response give no hint that there's regenerative braking going on." -- Cars.com
  • "In fact, the additional torque of the electric motors and quick-reacting CVT gearbox make the RX 450h better-balanced and more pleasant to drive than its gas-only sibling, the RX 350, on the twisty roads and inclines of the Napa Valley test loop in this first drive." -- MSN

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