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2006 Lexus RX 400h

June 3, 2005 10:15 AM EST | Lexus , SUV's | Email to Friend

View large imageThe early wait list for the 2006 Lexus RX 400h was so long the company had to set up a dedicated communication system to placate customers with regular updates on their vehicle's progress. It's no surprise hybrid versions of the GS and LS sedans are now in the works.

The RX 400h uses the same drivetrain as the Highlander Hybrid, meets California's SULEV classification and is rated 31 city/27 highway. But unlike the Toyota, you can only get the Lexus with all-wheel drive.

The RX weighs 100 pounds more than the Highlander, but it tied with the Toyota in the sprint to 60 mph with a time of 7.2 seconds. It actually slipped past the Highlander in the quarter-mile with a 15.3-second run.

Out on the road, the RX 400h waltzed up steep highway grades as if it was taking a stroll through the suburbs. It felt considerably faster than the RX 330, a vehicle it outweighs by 300 pounds. Additionally, the RX 400h has tighter suspension tuning than the Highlander Hybrid and this, along with its 18-inch tires, makes for a more engaging drive without compromising the plush ride.

But depending on how you drive, more fun can lead to worse fuel economy — we got 22 mpg in the Lexus. Our best tank was 24 mpg. This may disappoint mileage-obsessed readers, but consider that the regular RX 330 averaged just 16 mpg while in our care.

Our sole complaint about the RX 400h was the increase of engine noise under hard acceleration compared to the RX 330. What's with the noise? The V6 has more leeway to shoot up to redline when hooked up to the hybrid system. The same thing happens in the Toyota, but it seems more out of character in the Lexus.

The Lexus RX 400h commands an $11,000 premium over a base RX 330 but comes with almost every possible feature. Put all of its features on a regular RX and the leap to the hybrid is about $3,000 — barely worth fretting over on a $50K luxury SUV.

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