Throughout the history of modern motoring, one of the greatest leaps in innovation was the evolution of the hybrid drivetrain. Who would have thought in such a short amount of time, we would see such massive improvements in fuel efficiency and lower emissions?
So, how does a hybrid work? It combines motive power from the gasoline engine and the electric motor, which are proportionally engaged depending on driving conditions. The engine automatically shuts off when the vehicle is at a standstill, and energy is regenerated by converting the vehicle’s kinetic energy into electrical energy during deceleration and braking.
The very first luxury SUV hybrid, not just for Lexus, but the entire auto industry, was the Lexus RX 400h which went on sale in April 2005. Since then, Lexus has globally sold over 2 million hybrid vehicles.
Lexus has always been a pioneer of electrification in the luxury car market and has continued to develop its models and technologies with a mission to balance excellent driving performance with environmental sensitivity. The RX badge continues to lead the charge among hybrid SUVs, and the current RX 450h is the result of years of development and improvement, not just in the efficiency of its hybrid drivetrain, but also in the driving experience.
Here are a few reasons why the Lexus RX 450h fits the bill of a luxury hybrid SUV:
The RX 450h’s self-charging full hybrid system features a 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 petrol engine and front and rear motors. The total system output (engine and electric motors combined) amounts to 308hp. The engine’s combustion chamber design generates a high degree of tumble inside the cylinders, improving combustion performance and fuel consumption.
The key components and control systems in the Lexus Hybrid Drive System were improved and re-engineered to deliver class-leading fuel economy, minimal emissions, and excellent on-road performance. The front transaxle gained a new water-cooled transmission oil cooler for the electric motor and a pre-loaded differential to improve performance and straight-line stability.
The rear transaxle featured in the E-Four all-wheel-drive system was redesigned with a three-shaft configuration, creating a more compact unit in which the input shaft can be moved as close as possible to the output shaft. The design also saves weight by using aluminum for the case and cover.
Other updates to the system included a design evolution of the Power Control Unit (PCU), and HV Engine Control Unit (ECU) that delivers better energy efficiency, more driver-friendly operation and more refined performance. A lighter, more efficient electric water pump was introduced and the hybrid battery was repackaged, making it more compact and improving space efficiency. The E-Four electric all-wheel-drive system’s control functions were improved to give a better response when accelerating through bends.
Every RX 450h was crafted by Takumi master builders, and it shows in the stunning exterior and luxurious interior. The cabin design strikes a balance between functionality and luxury, finished with refined materials that exude quality construction and craftsmanship. The ambiance is spacious yet intimate, with high levels of comfort for driver and passengers.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard which allow you to use your smartphone via a 12.3in touchscreen display. Owners will also enjoy the hands-free power back door; clever cargo solutions with the fold-flat rear seats; LED headlights; illuminated exterior door handles; and the ornamented leather shift knob.
Other features showcased in the RX 450h are the Hybrid System Indicator that displays real-time information about the system’s output and regeneration; an EV Drive mode for silent and emission-free movement at low speeds; a drive-mode selector to match your driving style; a start-stop system that shuts off the engine when stationary; and Adaptive Variable Suspension for a smooth ride expected from a Lexus.
For added body rigidity Lexus engineers identified key areas in the rocker panels, rear wheelhouses and the underbody where additional spot welds and the use of structural adhesive could deliver a more rigid body. In all, an extra 4.2 meters of adhesive and 14 weld points have been added in these areas, accomplished using the existing tooling on the production line at the Kyushu plant. This increases the integrity of the panel joints, benefiting both stability and ride comfort.
The RX 450h offers the latest in hybrid technology and production techniques. Priced at P5,238,000, it is an SUV that is luxurious, comfortable and easy to drive, particularly in urban environments where conventional 4x4s prove unwieldy.