Lexus and Toyota have both made strong moves in outfitting their vehicles with a generous complement of safety gear, as demonstrated by the RX. Dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, and driver's knee bag help absorb cushion impacts. The RX also features tire pressure monitors, four-channel anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, and brake pedal regression to minimize leg injuries. Optional gear raises the safety margin, with items such as rain-sensing wipers, high-intensity discharge headlamps, and Adaptive Front-light System (AFS), which swivels lamps based on speed and direction inputs. The 400h also introduces a new vehicle stability system.
The RX 330 is powered by a 3.3L/230-hp V-6 with 242 lb-ft of torque matched with a five-speed automatic transmission. Fitted with Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i), the powerplant is eager and smooth, capable of delivering 7.7-second 0-60-mph times. The real excitement can be found in the hybrid drivetrain, where the 3.3L V-6 is supplemented by the latest version of Hybrid Synergy Drive bringing two electric drive-motor generators to bear. The combined system produces 268 horsepower, good for a 7.3-second 0-60-mph time, even though it carries 500 more pounds than the FWD RX 330. Just as significant, the 400h achieves a combined fuel economy rating of 29 mpg, which exceeds the average for compact sedans and trumps the RX 330 AWD by 38 percent. At 31 mpg city, 27 highway, the RX400h shames other V-6 competitors while delivering V-8-grade performance.
At idle, both RXs have a touch more engine noise than found with the Lexus sedans, something that would not be noticed were another brand's badge on the vehicles. The RX 330 V-6 is strong and satisfying on the road, with negligible difference between FWD and AWD acceleration. Power is even stronger in the hybrid model, reinforced by a bit more underhood feedback and exhaust growl. At full song, the RX 400h sounds powerful. There are times where the hybrid aspect gives a slightly off feeling due to the continuously variable transmission, with revs rising out of synch with experienced acceleration. Superb on the highway, the RX 400h runs effortlessly at high speeds, tempered only by some wind noise. The regenerative brakes are touchy, requiring sensitive modulation to minimize body pitch during deceleration. These brakes react quickly, though not harshly, unless a rapid pedal depression triggers the electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist systems to effectively drop anchor.
Appropriate for this customer, the RX ride is both comfortable and connected, with the expected isolation from the lux-tuned independent suspension. An available air suspension can further refine the ride quality with four selectable height settings and automatic leveling. Even so, this is strictly a soft-roader.