Blizzard Diary: 2011 Lexus RX450h, Part II

Recently I took the Lexus RX450 hybrid on a 2,000 km tour, which included snowshoeing in central Ontario, skiing in New England and vile driving conditions everywhere. Part I of this series here.

First, let’s talk room
The Lexus RX450h is spacious but not wasteful — similar in size to the Ford Escape Hybrid. Without adding any box to the roof, we fit two sets of skis and poles, two snowboards, three female passengers, a morose retriever, Christmas gifts for 10 people and everyone’s luggage — yet I could still see out the rearview with little obstruction. My ‘y’ chromosome makes me an excellent packer; nonetheless, Lexus’s engineers deserve some credit.

This model came with some decent extras in the Touring Package, including a 12-speaker audio system whose rear subwoofer massages the lower intestines and a voice-activated navigation system that actually works. For two days the temperature steadfastly clung below -20o; my wife appreciated seat-warmer and dual-zone climate control. Lastly, it’s a quiet ride — always. Unless you stamp on the accelerator, it’s hard to notice the shift from electric power. You have to trust the gauge on the dash, which indicates the mode you’re in. (See fuel efficiency below.)

It’s 68″ tall. The driver is up high, as you’d expect with a crossover, but it handles almost like a car. One late afternoon in an empty snow-covered parking lot, après ski, I pushed it in the turns, enjoying a nifty performance. You can still have fun without using gasoline (remember it’s a hybrid) provided you’re patient. The wide 19″ ‘mud + snow’ tires gripped well — we were fine while all around us, folks were sliding off roads — but I would have felt safer with winter tires that stay soft in extreme cold.

Fuel efficiency
It was confusing: American gallons are a different size than British, and American money isn’t quite at par with ours. Still, I know we got great efficiency from the RX450h because I almost never gassed up. With a curb weight of 4,810 lbs. this is no shrinking violet. But it tipples a conservative 6.8 L/100km in combined city/highway ratings.

Next column: Part III, the drive home.


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