New Car Review Areas

General Car Topics

2009 Lexus RX 400h Made History as Industry's First Hybrid Luxury Utility Vehicle Review

November 2008
Filed under: LEXUS Car News | LEXUS Headlines
The 2009 Lexus RX 400h was the first full hybrid luxury-utility vehicle when it was introduced in 2005. The RX hybrid received styling and equipment enhancements for 2008 and carries into 2009 unchanged.

Engine/Transmission/ Drivetrain /Performance
The RX 400h hybrid combines the power of a 3.3-liter V6 gasoline engine with that of an electric drive motor to deliver performance on par with some V8-powered luxury SUVs, but with better fuel efficiency. In the all-wheel-drive model only, an additional, rear-mounted electric-drive motor/generator provides on-road, all-wheel-drive capability.

The all-wheel-drive RX 400h's EPA-estimated city/highway rating is 26/24 mpg, with the front-wheel-drive model rated at 27 mpg city/24 mpg highway. The RX 400h achieves Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II ( SULEV II) certification in California (Tier 2-Bin 3 in other states), producing nearly 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car.

With a combined system output of approximately 268 horsepower , and 3,500 lb.-ft. of axle torque at launch, the RX 400h delivers powerful acceleration. At 7.3 seconds (7.5 for the all-wheel drive model), acceleration from zero to 60 mph is better than some V8-powered competitors. The combination of engine and electric-motor torque makes for particularly impressive 30-50 mph passing power.

The RX 400h is a full hybrid, which means it can operate in electric-only or gas-engine-only modes as well as a mode that combines the power of the gas engine and electric motor. Lexus Hybrid Drive technology allows extended electric-mode operation during low speed or stop-and-go driving conditions, reducing fuel consumption and noise. Energy is stored by a 288-volt DC Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack under the rear seat area. The battery's power is directed through a boost converter that efficiently raises voltage to 650V DC. An inverter changes this to 650V AC, providing its elevated power to a front-mounted 123-kW electric motor that turns as high as 12,400 RPM.

The RX 400h front-wheel-drive model's hybrid powertrain employs two motor-generators. Known as MG1 and MG2, each one performs specific functions and each does double duty as a motor and a generator (although MG1 is a starter and provides no motive force). The engine-driven generator (MG1) can charge the battery pack or power other electric motors as needed. The all-wheel-drive RX 400h adds a third motor-generator, MGR, to drive the rear wheels.

Power from the gas engine and front electric drive motor (MG2) is distributed to the drive wheels via a planetary gear-type continuously variable transmission, which eliminates specific gear ratios. Two planetary gear units are used in the system. The Power-Split unit divides the engine's drive force two ways: one to drive the wheels and the other to drive MG1 so it may function as a generator. The Motor Speed Reduction unit reduces the speed of MG2 and increases its drive torque, boosting acceleration performance.

MG2 produces peak torque from zero-to-1,500 rpm, giving the RX 400h powerful and instantaneous response in low- and mid-speed situations. In addition to its motor/generator duties, MG1 also functions as a starter motor for the gas engine and as a regulator for the amount of electrical power it generates. MG1 controls the output speed of the transaxle through the planetary gear set, without clutches or a viscous coupling. This is one of the key elements of the Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain and is how it eliminates the "shift shock" that is typically felt as even the most refined modern automatic transmissions change gears.

The all-wheel-drive RX 400h model uniquely generates rear-wheel power with a separate 50-kW electric motor (MGR) that provides up to 650 lb.-ft. of additional drive torque on demand. Thus, the RX 400h does not require power-transfer gearing or a driveshaft from the front. The system electronically varies front and rear torque distribution depending on traction conditions.

The power-steering pump, water pump and air-conditioning compressor are driven electrically to reduce fuel consumption and because the gas engine often shuts down " a fuel-saving benefit of the hybrid system " especially when the vehicle is stopped or driven slowly through traffic. A regenerative-braking system further boosts efficiency. When the RX 400h is coasting or its brakes are applied, the electric motors function as generators, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes and transforming it into useable electricity to recharge the batteries.

Specific suspension tuning gives the RX 400h sportier handling than the RX 350. For even more responsive handling, standard 17-inch alloy wheels can be replaced with optional 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/55VR18 tires. The compact steering unit contributes to fuel efficiency by eliminating the traditional power-steering pump and by providing computer-controlled assist only when called for by the driver.

The RX 400h was the first Lexus model to feature Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). This vehicle stability control system goes well beyond conventional controls that simply react to challenging conditions. VDIM continuously calculates vehicle motion based on signals from a yaw rate and deceleration sensor, speed sensor and steering sensor. Using these inputs, VDIM controls all of the vehicle's dynamic handling systems and can employ them collectively and seamlessly. VDIM quickly detects and then helps to correct the onset of a loss of traction in turns.

Electronically Controlled Brakes (ECB) are a vital element of VDIM. This advanced braking system translates brake pedal stroke speed and pressure and generates the precise amount of combined electric regeneration and hydraulic pressure needed for virtually any driving condition. Under guidance from VDIM, such precise brake control at individual wheels helps optimize operation of the vehicle's dynamic handling systems that employ the brakes, including the Anti-lock Braking System ( ABS ), Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC). VDIM also interfaces with the electric power steering system and the electronic throttle control system, allowing it to control vehicle power when needed.

Safety/Security Features
The RX 400h features the same passive-safety protection for occupants as the RX 350 model. A high-strength cabin design and comprehensive Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) are designed to help provide a high level of crash-energy management for the occupants. The SRS includes advanced front airbags for the driver and passenger, a knee airbag for the driver and front-seat-mounted side airbags. Side-curtain airbags are designed to help offer additional crash energy-management for the front- and rear-seat occupants. A roll sensor signals the side- curtain airbags to inflate if a predetermined threshold of vehicle tip-up is detected.

The RX 400h closely follows the RX 350 in terms of equipment and options. Standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control and 10-way power front seats with memory. The steering wheel features easy-to-use integrated controls for the audio system, trip computer and multi-information display within the speedometer.

Because Lexus luxury also means outstanding convenience, the RX 400h comes equipped as standard with an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated digital compass; auto-dimming, heated exterior mirrors; a power-rear lift gate, and integrated HomeLink transmitter. Comfort and convenience extend to the smallest details in the RX 400h, such as adjustable lights in the visor vanity mirrors and illuminated front cup holders. A water-repellant surface on the front side windows helps to bead rainwater.

The RX 350's hushed interior provides a superb listening environment for the standard premium, satellite radio-ready, eight-speaker AM/FM/CD audio player with in-dash six-disc CD changer. The system is compatible with MP3/WMA-formatted CDs and is equipped with a digital signal processor, Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL) and the Radio Data System (RDS).

Luxury Options
The RX 400h can be enhanced by a number of luxury options available separately or in packages. Leather trim is available in several option packages. Other options include power tilt/telescope steering wheel with memory, power tilt/slide moonroof with one-touch open/close feature and jam protection, memory for driver's seat and outside mirrors, towing-preparation package, roof rack and roof rails.

Available High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps include the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS), which helps to illuminate a turn or curve as the driver steers into it. A rear back-up camera, part of the available navigation package, projects a color image of what the camera lens can detect behind the vehicle onto the navigation screen when reverse gear is engaged. Dynamic Laser Cruise Control measures and helps maintain a set distance from a vehicle traveling ahead.

The Lexus Navigation System with rear back-up camera integrates Bluetooth wireless capability and voice activation. When combined with a compatible phone, Bluetooth allows the driver to make hands-free phone calls through its touch-screen control panel and to transfer personal phone books to the navigation unit.

The navigation system is offered in an option package with the 11-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Audio System is available. This audiophile-pleasing system features an in-dash six-disc DVD/CD changer, DVD-audio, and DVD-video playback as well as remarkable sound clarity at all volumes, with 210 watts at 0.1% THD, 20-20,000 Hz. Rear-seat passengers can enjoy the optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system with individual wireless headphones and a large nine-inch LCD screen.

The Lexus Navigation System allows the driver to input a desired destination by voice command while driving. A central VGA screen features a high-resolution 800x480 pixel display in 32,000 colors. On-screen details are crisp and clean, and maps and roads include 3D shadow effects. Text-display choices include English, Spanish and French, and the user can select the language preference at system start-up. System functions include multiple route calculation, route preview, simplified highway-junction graphics and a dual-map screen mode. The DVD map database contains more than five million points of interest. The database for Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York includes a "building footprint" display feature that can show graphic representations of buildings and structures to help the driver identify surroundings.

Exterior Design
Visually, the RX 400h differs from the conventionally powered RX 350 model in subtle ways. The RX 400h features a unique grille design, a different front fascia with additional air intake and round fog lamps, and Light Emitting Diode (LED) tail lamps. The blue badge color is a consistent feature on all Lexus hybrid models. A body-color rear-gate spoiler adds a sporty styling touch.

Interior Design
Lexus craftsmanship and renowned attention to detail provide true luxury by design. In addition to the standard brushed aluminum interior accents, customers can also specify wood trim with any interior color. In the RX 400h, in place of a tachometer, a power meter displays the level of power generated by the hybrid powertrain. The driver can also monitor the gas-electric power distribution on the multi-information display or on the optional navigation system's seven-inch touch panel display screen.

The RX 400h does not sacrifice space, comfort or versatility to deliver the benefits of hybrid technology. The rear seatbacks feature a versatile 40/20/40-split design, and the seats offer both sliding and reclining adjustments. The rear cargo area measures the same as in the gas-only RX 350 model: 38.3 cubic feet expandable to 84.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. An automatic retracting tonneau cover adds a measure of security and convenience to the cargo area.

All new Lexus vehicles come with a 48-month/50,000-mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48-months/unlimited miles. Powertrain and restraint system coverage is provided for 72 months/70,000 miles. Corrosion perforation protection is covered for 72 months, regardless of mileage. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

Overall Exterior Styling/Body Design
New finish on current grille design
New exterior chrome-plated door handles
Pronounced wheel wells give rugged stance
RX 400h rear badge with "400h" in blue highlights
Blue highlights added to front and rear "L" logo (rear logo only if equipped with Towing Package), engine cover, headlamp lens cover, rear combination lamp cover
"HYBRID" badge incorporated on side molding of rear doors
"Lexus Hybrid Drive" engine cover
Large headlamp housings raked back into hood
LED brake and tail lights
Rear tail light housings merged with back window glass
Standard integrated color-keyed rear spoiler
Privacy glass
Water-repellant front door glass

Body Structure and Paint
Highly rigid body, monocoque construction
High level of rust protection with zinc-plated steel on hood, doors and front fenders
Anti-chipping paint applied to rocker panels and wheel housing arch sections
Soft chip primer applied to hood for improved anti-chipping
Measures to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) have been applied throughout the vehicle
UV-reducing glass used for all windows
Acoustic glass windshield to reduce noise
Rear bumper protector
Exterior colors: Smoky Granite Mica, Golden Almond Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, Breakwater Blue Metallic, Brandy Wine Mica, Desert Sage Metallic, Matador Red Mica, Crystal White, Black Onyx, Bamboo Pearl

Convenience Features
Standard power rear lift gate
Variable intermittent windshield wipers
Rear intermittent wiper
Auto on/off headlamps
Round projector-type fog lamps integrated into front bumper
Heated outside mirrors
Auto-dimming electrochromic outside mirrors
"Lexus" chrome scuff plates
Fuel cap with tether


Interior Trim
Leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel and shift knob
Fabric covered sun visors with adjustable-illumination vanity mirrors and slide extensions
Aluminum-color interior accents on all doors, console, center of instrument panel, switch plates, around shifter island and shift knob ­ brushed aluminum used for shift knob and shifter surround, center-console accents
Chrome inside door handles
Coat hooks
Fabric roof lining
Fiber coated interior pillars
Cut pile carpeting
Carpeted floor mats (carpeted trunk mat optional)

Seats and Cargo Area
10-way power driver's seat: fore-aft slide; fore-aft recline; front vertical height; rear vertical height and power lumbar support
10-way power front passenger's seat: fore-aft slide; fore-aft recline; front vertical height, rear vertical height and power lumbar support
Five separate, manually adjustable (up/down) headrests
Front seat-mounted armrests for both driver and front passenger
Front seats recline to form a semi-flat area
Reclining/sliding fold-down rear seats with 40/20/40-split
Rear center arm rest with cup holders and storage box
Auto-retracting tonneau cover for rear cargo area synchronized to retract with opening rear door

Instrumentation and Controls
Transmission shifter located in center instrument panel
Electro-luminescent instrumentation in a unique three-pod layout with hybrid system power meter, speedometer with integrated multi-display, temperature and fuel level meters
Scheduled maintenance indicator light

Convenience Features
Cruise Control
Steering wheel controls for audio, multi-information display, cruise control, voice recognition and telephone
Automatic dual-zone climate control
Dust particle and deodorizing interior air filter
Rear air conditioning vents mounted on rear of center console
Defogger with timer
Auto on/off headlights
Courtesy lights mounted on doors
Illuminated ignition ring
Illuminated glove box and center console box
Illuminated front cup holders
Front map lights; cargo area light
Sliding center console with coin holder, two cup holders and illuminated storage bin
Three front cup holders: two cup holders in the center console; one pop-out cup holder to left of steering wheel
Two rear cup holders in center armrest
Two 12-volt power outlets (in addition to cigarette lighter): rear of center console box, cargo area
Sunglasses holder located in overhead console
HomeLink programmable garage door opener
Front seatbelt anchor height adjusters
Power windows with one-touch auto up/down feature with jam protection for all windows
Power door locks with anti lock-out feature
Four assist grips: two front, two rear
Dual sliding sun visors
Electric fuel door release
Pull-out front door storage pockets
Front seatback pockets
Tool kit and first aid kit
Lexus Personalized Settings (LPS) to allow certain electronic settings to be tailored to owner preference (programmable by Lexus dealers)

Lexus Premium Audio
AM/FM cassette with Radio Data System (RDS)
Six-disc, single-feed in-dash CD auto-changer
Eight speakers
Sound positioning system optimizes speaker usage depending on occupant location
Short pole antenna, FM diversity antenna
132 watts of continuous power at 0.1% THD


Advanced airbag system Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) for driver and front passenger:
Driver's dual-stage airbag uses crash severity and seat track position to choose one of three possible deployment speeds.
Front passenger dual-stage airbag uses passenger weight and crash severity sensors to choose one of two deployment speeds. Airbag is designed to not deploy for passengers under 68.3 lbs or when child seat is detected (complies with FMVSS208).
Large front seat-mounted side airbags designed to help protect the torso, abdomen and pelvis
Front and rear side curtain shield airbags with roll-over sensor
Driver side knee airbag
High-strength cabin designed to help prevent post-crash intrusion and fuel leakage (complies with FMVSS3301)
Force-limiting seatbelt pretensioners for the driver and front passenger seats
Three-point seat belts for all rear seating positions
ALR/ELR seatbelt retractors on all outboard seating positions except driver (ELR only)
Top tether anchors (three) and ISO-FIX bars in the rear seat
Flashing seat belt warning light for both driver and front passenger
Soft upper interior trim
Separate head rests for each seating position (five)
Side impact door beams
Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system
Four-sensor, four-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA)
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (direct-type)
Brake pedal regression prevention mechanism to help reduce leg injuries in head-on impacts
Collision fuel cut-off
Daytime Running Lights (DRL)

Vehicle theft-deterrent system
Multifunction in-key remote with engine immobilizer and remote window "down" feature
Entry system with lock, two-stage unlock, trunk open and "panic" features, volume-adjustable confirmation tone and rolling code technology
Remote-activated/key-linked illuminated entry: dome light and ignition key cylinder ring illuminate when doors are unlocked (remain illuminated for 15 seconds or until door is opened)
Headlight off delay feature: after locking vehicle, headlights remain illuminated for a certain period of time before automatically shutting off

Premium Package
- Leather-trimmed interior
- Power tilt-telescope steering wheel with memory for steering wheel, driver's seat and outside mirrors
- Illuminated entry system (Lexus sill plates, door handles an foot wells, blue illuminated scuff plate)
- One-touch open/close moonroof with sliding sunshade
- Roof rack with rails

Premium Plus Package
- Premium Package options
- HID headlamps with Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS)

Navigation System/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package (requires Premium or Premium Plus Package)
- Navigation system with voice activation, rear back-up camera and Bluetooth
- Mark Levinson DVD Premium Audio System with 11 speakers, 210 watts of power and less than 0.1% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)

DVD Navigation System
- Voice activation
- Rear back-up camera
- Bluetooth
- seven-inch screen
Mark Levinson Premium Audio System
- Mark Levinson audio with 11 speakers
- 210 watts of continuous power at less than 0.1% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
Rear Seat Entertainment System
- 9-inch screen
- 110V accessory power outlet
Dynamic Laser Cruise Control

HID headlamps with Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS)
Adjustable Front Seat Heaters with Rain-Sensing Wipers
Roof Rack with Rails
18" five-spoke wheel
Wood-trim for all interior colors
Towing Package
- Transmission cooler
- Heavy duty alternator and radiator

Latest LEXUS Headlines

Latest Car News

All images courtesy of and copyright their respective manufacturers, unless otherwise indicated. They may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any way without the express written permission of their respective owners. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Model news and specifications are presented as provided by manufacturer, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DIGIADS. No warranty is made by DIGIADS with respect to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.