The 2015 Lexus RX 450h: Frugality Redefined

2015 Lexus RX 450h front detail
2015 Lexus RX 450h.

If you're ever a contestant on the TV game show "Family Feud" and the category is "Why People Buy Hybrids", you can't go wrong with "to save gas".  That's pretty much everyone's number one answer. But outside of TV game shows, it begs the question:  How much will you save?

A surprising number of people out there believe all hybrids get 50 miles per gallon, like the Toyota Prius. Regular TireKicker readers know that's not true. There are vehicles that use hybrid technology to go from passable gas mileage with a regular powerplant to better-than-average.  The Lexus RX 450h is one of those.

Rear detail of 2015 Lexus RX 450h
2015 Lexus RX 450h.
The $6,700 step up from the gasoline-powered RX 350 ($48,845 as opposed to $42,195) actually bumps the total system horsepower from 270 to 295, keeps performance roughly the same (there's a 0.1 second loss in 0-60 time, because that extra power is working to offset the added weight of the hybrid batteries) and provides a slight improvement in the EPA highway fuel economy estimate (28 instead of 24), but a fairly significant increase in the city (30 instead of 18), where a combination of start/stop technology at traffic lights and purely electric driving, using no gasoline at all, are possible.

So you're not going to get anywhere near 50 miles per gallon, but you're guaranteed to crack 50 grand.  Worth it? Assuming you're in the market for this kind of vehicle (a luxury crossover), it's hard to beat.

Instrument panel of 2015 Lexus RX 450h
2015 Lexus RX 450h instrument cluster.
You certainly get a lot for your money...on-demand all-wheel drive, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, tire pressure monitoring, 10 airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, automatic on/off headlamps, fog lamps, LED daytime running lamps, a theft deterrent system, a collision notification, vehicle location and emergency assist system, a 12-speaker premium audio system, backup camera, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, 10-way power driver and front passenger seats, a power tilt/telescope steering column, a reclining 40/20/40 rear seat, a power liftgate, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with Homelink and genuine wood interior trim.

Of course, if you want more, Lexus will gladly sell it to you and in our case, the test car came with more than $8,500 in options:  $825 for the Comfort Package (rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats); $700 for an upgrade to 19-inch aluminum wheels; $565 for Xenon High Intensity Discharge Headlamps with LED foglamps; $995 for an upgraded Mark Levinson surround sound audio system; $1,915 for navigation with the Lexus Enform app suite; $500 for intuitive parking assist and $3,060 for the Premium Package (leather trim interior, blind spot monitoring, bamboo interior trim, bamboo steering wheel, a one-touch open/close moonroof, power-folding auto-dimming heated outside mirrors, three-position memory for the driver's seat, steering wheel and mirrors and finally, roof rails.

Bottom line with $910 delivery, processing and handling fee: $58,315.  And you can get more.  The Phoenix bureau reviewed a 2014 RX 450h this past spring that went for $62,000 and change thanks to a $4,000-plus rear seat entertainment system.

Ultimately, it's about what you can afford...and how much city driving you do. If most of your miles are highway, it'll take you a long time to make back the extra $6,700 by only saving four miles per gallon compared to an RX 350.  But if you're putting mostly city stop-and-go miles on it, the Lexus RX 450h could end up paying for the difference between itself and its gasoline-powered sibling.