By Chad Haire
Most of the hybrid vehicles sent for testing are inexpensive to purchase, but there is no rule saying expensive luxury vehicles can’t have fuel-saving technology as well. The Lexus 450h is an example. Its base price starts at $52,235, but with options like navigation, upgraded sound system, and leather trim, the tab hit $58,565.
Under the hood is a gas/electric motor system creating a healthy 308 horsepower, hooked to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic gearbox. A manual knob adjusts for “eco,” “normal,” or “sport” mode. Fuel economy is rated at 31/30 which is an improvement compared to the non-hybrid version of this SUV which is rated at 20/28 mpg.
This cabin has all the luxury you would expect, so those long morning commutes are enjoyable. Plus, there is enough ground clearance to do some off-roading for those who are planning their next camping trip. For those wanting to drive on rough trails, all-wheel drive is an option, but this raises the price tag even more.
This is not a sports car, and should not be driven like one. The electric steering has no feel, and the front end is nose heavy, so taking corners at top speed isn’t fun. But the ride is comfortable and the wind noise is low, which is expected in a luxury machine.
During a week of driving, the overall fuel economy was 28 mpg in city or freeway commuting. That compares to the non-hybrid version of this vehicle I drove several months earlier that got 21 in the city and 27 on the freeway.
Obviously, fuel savings are there if you do plenty of driving in town, not so much on the freeway. But this is a Lexus, so the quality and reliability are there, which is a major selling point.