2013 Lexus RX 450h. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2013 Lexus RX 450h

It wasn’t enough that the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV, the Lexus RX 450h, provided a rare combination of sumptuous luxury, generous utility, all-wheel-drive traction, and the fuel economy and low emissions of a compact car.

Something was missing: apparently, the 2012 model just wasn’t sporty enough.


How else to explain Lexus’ decision to add a new driver-selectable Sport mode to the 2013 RX 450h? By improving throttle response and making the steering quicker, hybrid owners can now drive the 2013 RX 450h like Sebastian Vettel without offending David Suzuki. Well, almost…

That’s not to say the 2012 RX 450h was underpowered. With its 245-hp 3.5L Atkinson-cycle V6 and 123-kW electric motor developing a combined 295-horsepower (20 more than the RX 350) the RX 450h was already a mean green machine. It was just that the power was subdued in the name of fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.

2013 Lexus RX 450h. Click image to enlarge

Now, RX 450h drivers have a choice. As before, the default driving mode is Normal, and using the menu button on the steering wheel, drivers can select Eco mode, which maximizes fuel efficiency by minimizing throttle responsiveness and reducing air conditioning operation. Selecting the new Sport mode results in quicker starts and more passing power by maximizing electric motor power and reducing stability and traction control activation. Sport mode also activates faster steering response. Selecting Hybrid Snow mode reduces throttle input to reduce wheelspin in slippery situations. There’s also a button on the console for electric-only EV mode that allows the RX 450h to run at low speeds on battery power for a couple of kilometres-assuming the battery is well charged.

As well, the continuously variable transmission has a sequential manual-shifting mode that simulates six gears, if so desired.

Fuel economy remains class-leading: Natural Resources Canada rates the RX 450h at 6.7 L/100 km city and 7.2 L/100 km highway using Regular gas. The American EPA rating, a more realistic estimate, is 7.8 city/8.4 highway. My test vehicle’s onboard fuel consumption display was showing a best average of 9.0 L/100 km, but I was alternating between Eco and Sport mode to compare the performance differences. For comparison, the Lexus RX 350’s NRCan rating is 11.8 city/8.3 highway.

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