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Lexus RX400h 2006 Review

So now you can have your cake and eat it too, to put it figuratively. In other words, you can have that big, luxury four-wheel drive, without feeling too guilty.

Lexus has gone a step further to practically remove that guilty complex by introducing the world's first luxury SUV hybrid.

But being green and feeling good about the environment doesn't come cheap. The RX400h is the third member of the RX family and is now the range topper in terms of pricing, with a $94,100 price point, a hefty $10,000 premium on the RX350 Sports luxury.

And while it's new to Australia, the RX400h has been available in the US since April last year (selling more than 33,000 vehicles), as well as in Japan.

Lexus says the reason for the delay in bringing the vehicle to Australia was largely the result of unique conditions here, and the extra testing required.

The RX400h uses the 155kW 3.3-litre, V6 petrol engine, which was used in the previous RX330 model. The new 3.5-litre engine in the RX350 was not available at the time of the development and world launch of this hybrid.

The RX400h also uses a 123kW front electric motor and a 50kW rear-axle electric motor, with a combined reading for all three power sources of 200kW.

The petrol V6 generates a maximum of 288Nm at 4500rpm, while the electric motors produce 333Nm in the front and 130Nm in the rear. All power is delivered through an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission - which blends the electric and petrol power.

On take-off, the RX400h is very quiet and smooth, using only the front and rear electric motors. But you can hear the petrol engine really kick in when more power is needed.

The torque also feels like it takes a while to respond and the brakes are rather spongy, which could be attributed to the regenerative braking system. Once reaching normal driving conditions, however, the system no longer uses the rear electric motor and as with other hybrids, the petrol engine switches off when completely stopped, conserving fuel.

The electric motors are available for immediate start up. Lexus claims the hybrid has a fuel consumption of 8.1-litres per 100km and on our test on a combination of busy roads and highway stretches out to Camden, it recorded an average of 8.3-litres per 100km, making it better than some four-cylinder family cars.

For example, the Honda Accord Euro claims 9.1L/100km, new Toyota Camry 8.9L/100km and Mazda3 8.6L/100km.

Cruising, the RX400h provides seamless driving and feels very smooth, with good handling and comfortable ride. But travelling at constant high speed, you feel like you're doing about 20km/h less than the reading on the speedo. This hybrid doesn't have that thrilling performance of the larger, more powerful engines and won't satisfy everyone.

But for those wanting to save some money at the pump, and who don't mind spending the initial premium (or for those who tend to be a little green minded), the RX400h may just be the right cup of tea.

The RX400h is also the first mass-production hybrid to power both axles. It has rear-wheel drive capability with an E-Four System (Electric Four Wheel Drive) activating all wheelsonly when it's needed - for instance in situations like low-speed cornering, take-off, acceleration and traction. It gains the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDiM) over the RX350, sending more torque to the rear wheels when dangerous situations arise.

The RX400h is almost identical to its siblings in the RX range in appearance, with that sophisticated shape and flowing lines, exuding style and flare.

In addition, the hybrid has a new, muscular sporting front bumper as well as a large central opening to assist with the cooling of the hybrid system and a larger Lexus badge on the front. It also has a hybrid emblem.

The RX400h has the same specification level as the RX350 Sports Luxury. It sits on 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, has LED rear lamps, power seats, air conditioning and leather trim.

It also features Bluetooth connectivity, touch-screen satellite navigation, 11-speaker, six-disc sound system and rear-view camera, all as standard. It gains heated seats up front, leather steering wheel and metallic trim on the shifter. Rear spoiler, roof rack, rails and that sporty moonroof, add a more flavour to RX range's classy character.

There are lots of elements going on and you can monitor the process on the interior display screen. And forget the traditional tachometer, as the RX400h has a power meter instead. The RX400h has seven airbags, anti-skid brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), vehicle stability control, active traction control and rear-view camera.

And while the battery in the hybrid system costs around $3000 to $4000 to replace, Lexus claims it has a life of more than 10 years. It expects sales of around 50 per month, with 200 orders taken, and is available from October 16.

FAST FACTS Lexus RX400h

Price: $94,100

Engine: 3.3-litre, V6 petrol engine, 155kW@5600rpm, 288Nm@4400rpm, front electric motor, 123kW@4500rpm, 333Nm@0-1500rpm, rear-axle electric motor, 50kW@4610-5120rpm, 130Nm@0-610rpm

Transmission: electrically controlled continuously variable transmission

Fuel: 60-litre tank, consumption 8.3L/100km (as tested)

OTHER HYBRIDS

Honda Civic Hybrid

Price: $31,990

Body: 4-door sedan

Engine: 1.3-litre, 4-cylinder, 85kW@6000rpm, 170Nm@2500rpm

Fuel: 4.6L/100km combined claimed

Toyota Prius

Price: $37,000

Body: 4-door sedan

Engine: 1.5-litre petrol; 57kW@5000rpm, 115Nm@4000rpm; electric motor 50kW between 1200 and 1540rpm, max power restricted to 82kW, combined torque 478Nm

Fuel: 4.4L/100km combined claimed

Lexus GS450h Hybrid

Price: $121,990

Body: 4-door sedan

Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol electric motor, 218kW@6400rpm, (V6) and 147kW (electric), 368Nm@4800rpm (V6) and 275Nm (electric)

Fuel: 7.9L/100km combined, claimed

Pricing Guides

$10,605
Based on 24 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$5,990
Highest Price
$19,880

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
RX400h Hybrid 3.3L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $9,790 – 13,420 2006 Lexus RX 2006 RX400h Hybrid Pricing and Specs
RX350 Sports 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO $7,370 – 10,340 2006 Lexus RX 2006 RX350 Sports Pricing and Specs
RX350 Sports Luxury 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO $5,990 – 19,880 2006 Lexus RX 2006 RX350 Sports Luxury Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$9,790

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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