2011 Lexus RX Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 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 RX Hybrid] 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
  • "The compliant suspension and plentiful sound insulation ably isolate passengers from the outside world. The hybrid powertrain is also pretty silent, though at full throttle the V6 does make a surprising amount of noise. "-- Edmunds
  • "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 2011 Lexus RX Hybrid is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine as well as two electric-drive motors. Altogether, the powertrain makes 295 horsepower. The RX has the ability to drive exclusively with either its gasoline engine or its electric motors, though going on electric power alone only works at low speeds for short distances. Test drivers generally say power is adequate, though a few say it can be lacking at times. However, they also say that the transition between electric and gasoline power is hardly noticeable.

As to be expected, fuel economy is the RX Hybrid’s high point. According to the EPA, the RX Hybrid 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. The new Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid only nets 21/25 city/highway.

  • "The RX 450h is capable of approaching 30 mph in electric-only mode, which improves fuel economy, especially in stop-and-go traffic. An "EV" mode is also at the driver's command, which allows electric-only propulsion at low speeds over short distances." -- Edmunds
  • "Power delivery is a staid affair on both the standard and hybrid model, with few peaks and fewer valleys." -- Autoblog
  • "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, others also find that its weight 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 on to the base price. A Sport-tuned suspension is optional and is meant to give the driver greater feedback and decrease body lean. However, it also adds stiffer springs and shocks, so it may make the ride less comfortable than some drivers would like.

  • "The 2011 Lexus RX 450h doesn't disappoint when it comes to a smooth ride. The softly sprung suspension never feels uncontrolled, but it's far from athletic "--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." -- 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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