Thursday, December 2, 2010

2010 Lexus RX 450h AWD - Safe Luxury for the Family

2010 Lexus RX 450h
There is one benefit of having your car die: you get to drive a new car. Well, not always, but I was lucky this time. When my 2001 Lexus RX 300 AWD needed a new transmission I took it to the local dealer to be fixed and they loaned me a 2010 RX 450h AWD for 2 weeks. This loaner sure beat the 1998 Toyota Camry I got as a loaner from the tire place last year -- I actually had to roll the windows up and down manually!

  • Heated & Cooled front seats
  • It's quiet & extremely comfortable
  • Passive Entry - Touch the door handle and it unlocks if key is in your purse or pocket
  • Memory seats & steering wheel for 3 different settings
  • Mouse-like controller or voice controls for command center instead of touchscreen
  • Headlights that turn where you turn
  • No more 3-point turns to get into parking spaces!
My 2001 RX getting towed
I do/did like my Lexus RX even though it's 10 years old. It's been a great car with no major repairs up until this year. In 2010 we updated the exhaust system, put in a new transmission and battery (plus cable), and just yesterday added a new oxygen sensor. (It's been an expensive year.) Now that I've added up all those repair costs <gulp>, we'd only be out $900 or so this year if I'd just bought a new RX 450h last October before mine started on it's current trajectory down. I know it isn't that simple, but I figure that the purchase price of my 2001 RX is about the same as the purchase price of this new one.  The RX I borrowed from the dealer had a sticker price of $53,210 (it was loaded, the MSRP of $43,700), and it was way more comfortable and safer than my 2001 model and a heck of a lot easier to drive and park. And as a hybrid, I would have saved some on fuel costs. I guess the moral to this story is: maybe new cars aren't that much more expensive after all. (I can hear my Dad disagreeing with that last statement. Maybe he'll post a comment...) I think we would be ahead cost-wise if I had sold my 2001 RX 2 years ago. Or maybe this is just the price you pay to own a luxury car.

Carpool Approved
Please excuse my digression. I can talk costs in another post. I want to tell you about the 2010 RX 450h I drove for 2 weeks. It was my only vehicle for most of that time (we drove my husband's Subaru Outback to Lake Tahoe for Thanksgiving) so I got to see how well it does with a family of 4, a puppy, and carpool. First off, it was a big hit with all the kids -- they liked the back-up camera (which had a very clear image). My son LOVED the heated front seats and playing with the cool mouse-like controller for the navigation, audio and climate control systems. There was definitely more room in the back seat for my daughter and she liked the seat belt adjuster that made the shoulder belt come across her body at the right place and angle when she was in her booster seat. Our carpool buddies thought it was way more comfortable than my 2001, and they thought the backseat's center armrest/console was super cool with a secret compartment for snacks. And I liked it even though the interior was light tan and my blue jeans made a blue mark on the side of the driver's seat. The kids kept their messes to a minimum, so maybe a light colored interior has a place with families.

Designed for The Driver
The RX was designed for the driver first and then the passengers. The driver's seat is very comfortable and wraps around your butt and back enough to make you feel secure, but not so much that you sink. The seat adjusts, as does the steering wheel, and there are 3 memory settings. (Memory settings are essential for our cars as my husband and I are a foot different in height. But he didn't get to drive this baby so I had all 3 settings to myself.) When I turned off the engine, the steering wheel would go up and the seat would slide back so exiting was easier. A very nice feature when my left knee was stiff and didn't want to bend. And when I pushed the start button, the steering wheel and seat went back to the last position. Perfect.

The push button start is a great feature. I really like keeping the key in my purse or pocket and only using it to lock the doors after parking. With the passive entry system, you don't even have to get the key out when you want to unlock it: just walk up and put your hand on the front door handle (driver's side unlocks just that door, passenger side unlocks all 4 doors). This feature really saves time and frustration when the key gets stuck at the bottom of my bag. The key fob also has a button to open the rear hatch which was great when coming out of the grocery store. And at school drop-off and pick-up, I could just push the hatch open button from the driver's controls and the kids could get their own backpacks out or in without me having to get out of the car to open and close the darn thing. (Perhaps these great features are part of the laziness-in-America epidemic... Nah, this is just saving my shoes from the mud. It's all my electronic gadgets that make me lazy.)

Mouse/Joystick Controller & Cup Holders
The navigation, audio, and climate control screen was placed in a great spot near the windshield so the driver can quickly glance at the screen without moving your eyes too far off the road. I know, it sounds dangerous, but the placement is really much better than most of the other cars I've driven. Just those few inches could save you from an accident. The controller for all of those features is either a computer mouse-like joystick, or voice commands which are activated with the touch of a button on the steering wheel. Syncing my iPhone was a snap and after a few commands my entire phone book was loaded on the RX hard drive. The only other car I've driven with such easy phone tech is the 2011 Ford Edge with Sync and MyFord Touch. When it comes to the navigation system however, my husband and I are in disagreement. I thought it was easy to use, he thought it was super difficult to set up. He sat in the car in our garage for 30 minutes trying to program our route to the San Francisco Auto Show. And when I got in to drive, the directions still weren't right, so I adjusted them at a stop light on Van Ness and we found the parking garage with no problem. Our loaner RX 450h didn't have a manual so it might have been easier for him if he'd had that. But only if he read it...

A note for current RX owners: There is still a nice cubby to put your purse or camera or whatever located under the mouse controller and cup holder space.

Hybrid Driving
Instrument Panel Showing Power Use
The hybrid drive was different enough that it took a few days to get used to, but once I did it was really nice and mellow to drive. If you want to get off the dime, you need to step on the gas. But if you're in no hurry, then there is something about that super quiet acceleration with just the electric engine that kept me calm and cool in town. Once I got my own RX 300 back a few days ago I did miss that hybrid engine and how quiet it was. For me, the difference in driving these two cars is like the difference between walking down a snowy street with no cars, just hearing the quiet crunch of the snow under your feet, and walking down a snowy street with a snowplow bearing down on you. One makes me feel calm and appreciative, and the other makes me feel so anxious that I can't enjoy the beauty around me. I know it's because I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Are the brakes ok? Is my alignment off? Do I need a new air filter? Is it really time for my 90,000 major service? (Ouch.)

A Luxury Family Car
The RX 450h is very nice for families if you have 1 or 2 kids, it'd be a tight squeeze with 3 in the backseat every day.  This would be a great car for road trips to Disneyland or the mountains and the hybrid aspect will get you about 28 MPG. If I relied on the computer in the RX 450h, it said my average MPG in town was 23.5. (Versus my 2001 RX 300 which says I get 16.1 MPG in town.) Throw some entertainment gadgets in the backseat, recline those seats a bit, and the kids won't need a thing for hours. When I first saw the new design of the RX with the more sloped rear, I was worried that it would be hard to fit our dogs in the back. Well, they were 2 big Golden Retrievers, now we just have one Golden puppy and he fit fine with enough extra head room for growth. The cargo area is bigger than mine, even with the second row seat slid back all the way, but it is easier to park and control so it must not be any bigger. We did, however, feel like it was a car more suitable for a grandmother or auntie than a hip mom such as me. But maybe that was just the exterior color. I can see me rocking down the boulevard in a black RX 450h.

The 2011 RX 350 and RX 450h models are worth a trip to the local dealer.  If you have the money to buy one, and keep up with repair costs, you won't be disappointed in this luxury vehicle.

Car Mama thanks Lexus of Marin for their excellent service. Photos from Car Mama, and

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I was just looking for this type of extremely awesome Lexus model which should contain so comfortable seats with more advantageous to drive. But I need to buy one used RX model with low price.

  2. I'm seeing a lot of newer Lexus RX models on the lots around California -- a lot of lease returns with low miles for good prices. This model is worth a second look!