The Lexus RX was one of the first sedan-based, luxury utility vehicles, and it remains one the best. This so-called crossover is impressively smooth, comfortable, responsive in all driving situations and flexible when it comes to hauling people or cargo. It's finished with style and built like the proverbial Swiss watch, and it can be equipped with almost as many high-zoot features as the flagship Lexus LS 460 sedan.
The standard V6 model scoots more quickly than some V8-powered sport-utility vehicles, with reasonable operating costs. The hybrid RX400h is a technical marvel that can run strictly on electric power (yet does not need to be plugged in), and it improves overall fuel economy as much as 30 percent.
The package only gets better for 2007, starting with the renamed RX 350. Its more powerful 270-hp 3.5-liter V6 improves both performance and fuel efficiency compared to the 223-hp 2006 RX 330. The RX 400h, meanwhile, is available for the first time with front-wheel drive, reducing the price for those who aren't interested in all-wheel drive and increasing fuel economy slightly. To help keep the hybrid model's price in check, it comes with the same standard equipment as the RX 350. Some features previously included on the base RX 400h are optional on the 2007 model.
With the RX series, Lexus pioneered the crossover-style SUV, based on a unit-body car platform rather than a heavy-duty truck frame. Crossover utility vehicles offer better ride and handling than truck-based SUVs, but they still deliver many of the things buyers want in an SUV: more cargo space than a car, a better view over traffic and a sense of security that accompanies an elevated driving position. To be sure, crossovers like the RX typically don't offer the big towing capacity or off-road capability of a true truck. Yet an all-wheel-drive RX 350 handles gravel and snow with ease, and it can tow up to 3500 pounds with the optional trailer package.
The RX is as quiet inside as most cars. It's easy to drive and easier than most SUVs to park, with light steering and responsive brakes. It also offers the latest technology: headlamps that swivel to help the driver see around corners, a rear-mounted camera that displays what's behind on the dash-mounted navigation screen, a voice-activated hands-free telephone system, cruise control that can adjust for changes in traffic and a giant sunroof. It's equipped with the latest in passive safety features, including seven airbags.
The RX 400h combines a gasoline-powered V6 with one high-torque electric motor-generator on the front-drive version, and two motors with all-wheel drive. The gas engine can propel the car or recharge the batteries. Most of the time the RX 400h runs on a combination of the V6 and electric motors, but in certain situations it will run strictly on the V6 engine, and in others strictly with the electric motors.
Emissions are extremely low, reducing the impact on the environment to something in the neighborhood of nil. The RX 400h …
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