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Starting in 2006, those wishing to fly their "green" flag in the lap of luxury had a willing ally in which to strut their stuff. With its advanced gasoline-electric drivetrain, the Lexus RX 400h SUV married the luxury and utility of Lexus' RX midsize crossover vehicle with the improved fuel economy and performance of a hybrid.
Available in either front- or all-wheel-drive versions, the Lexus RX 400h used a hybrid powertrain system that combined a gasoline-fueled V6 engine with a battery pack and electric motor generators. Similar to the hybrid setups on other Toyota products, the 400h could seamlessly accelerate on battery power alone during light acceleration. It also boasted a generous 286 horsepower overall, giving it impressive performance along with superior fuel economy ratings.
The Lexus RX 400h crossover was the first true luxury hybrid SUV, and it came packaged with all the normal RX traits like premium interior amenities and a smooth ride. But potential used-SUV buyers simply wishing to go green might also want to check out other, less extravagant hybrids if price is a consideration.
Most Recent Lexus RX 400h
The Lexus RX 400h midsize luxury SUV was produced from 2006-'09 essentially unchanged. It came in a single trim level with standard cloth seats, 10-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, second-row sliding/reclining seats and a six-disc CD player. Popular options included leather trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a moonroof, a navigation system with a back-up camera and 18-inch wheels. An audio package with a Mark Levinson DVD audio system was also available.
Under the sheet metal, the 400h's hybrid drivetrain combined a 3.3-liter V6 engine with a 288-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack and high-torque, electric-drive motor-generators. Driving through a continuously variable transmission, the 400h produced 268 hp and boasted a 0-60-mph time of less than 8 seconds for standard and all-wheel-drive models. Standard safety features were plentiful, and included front, side curtain and driver-knee airbags, as well as stability and traction control and a rollover sensor.
Inside there was a streamlined, modern cabin with aluminum accents, bright-ringed gauges and a touchscreen detailing the hybrid's gas-electric power generation split. A sliding and reclining split rear seat optimized passenger comfort, and a power liftgate provided access to nearly 85 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded down. A third-row seat was not available.
Once underway, the Lexus RX 400h drove much like its traditional gas-powered sibling, and although the electric motors didn't provide the same lusty soundtrack of a performance car, acceleration was certainly spirited. The 400h's ride was soft and compliant, yet the handling was also generally tight and precise, a surprise given the hybrid's 300 extra pounds of curb weight. But you could definitely feel that extra weight in faster corners and quick transitions. Our editors also noticed that a good deal of engine noise entered the cabin under hard acceleration, as the hybrid system forced the V6 to regularly spin right up to redline.