Dedicated followers of Edmunds' long-term tests will have noticed we have more than one hybrid vehicle in our long-term fleet. In fact, we currently have three — a Ford Escape, a Honda Accord and a Toyota Prius — plus we had a Honda Insight in our fleet back in 2000. What can we say, we like to be at the forefront of vehicular trends, and interest in hybrids is only increasing.
In fact, hybrids are so hot we've added another to our green stable. After surviving a year of eager anticipation we've taken delivery of the seventh hybrid to enter the U.S. market and the first-ever luxury hybrid, the 2006 Lexus RX 400h.
Based on the Lexus RX 330, which is the best-selling luxury SUV on the market, the all-wheel-drive Lexus RX 400h uses a new hybrid system that combines the standard 3.3-liter V6 engine with two high-torque electric motor generators and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With benefits including the best fuel mileage in the SUV category, lower emissions and increased horsepower, the RX 400h was a vehicle we couldn't pass up.
Just after the RX 400h made its official debut at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show, we placed a call to our local Lexus dealer expressing our interest in the 400h and were put on the waiting list.
Initially, Lexus said the 400h would begin production in the fall of 2004, but that didn't hold true. It seems Lexus learned a thing or two from its parent company Toyota's problem with not having enough Toyota Prius hybrids ready to meet the huge initial demand. So instead of angering potential customers by trickling in the 400h, Lexus pushed the on-sale date back to spring of 2005 in an effort to front-load a larger quantity of vehicles to its dealers.
Our fully loaded Neptune Blue 400h arrived in early May as specified with an MSRP of $52,703. The Lexus RX 400h already picked up some of the RX 330's options as standard equipment, including high-intensity discharge headlamps and a power rear liftgate. We looked over the short optional equipment list and added every available choice which included a rear-seat entertainment system, a Mark Levinson audio system and heated front seats and headlamp washers.
After handing over the check, the dealer informed us that we had just purchased one of the first few 400hs to reach Lexus of Santa Monica. The first vehicles, it should be noted, went to Hollywood box office types including Dustin Hoffman and Holly Hunter, which put us in some high-profile eco-minded company.
Now with just over 1,700 miles on the odometer, we're satisfied with our purchase, despite the long wait. The Lexus RX 400h drives surprisingly like the RX 330, which we've always liked, and our average fuel economy is commendable thus far at 27.5 miles per gallon. Sipping fuel in that fashion will undoubtedly make the RX 400h a favorite summer vacation vehicle, so be sure to check back in a few months to see just where this luxurious green SUV has taken us.
Current Odometer: 1,750
Best Fuel Economy: 31 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 27.5 mpg
Body Repair Costs: None
Maintenance Costs: None