Lexus Introduces RX 400h, World's First Luxury Hybrid SUV
In April 2005, Lexus introduced the 2006 RX 400h, the world's first gas/electric hybrid-powered luxury vehicle. Based on the RX 330, the best-selling SÚV in the luxury category, the RX 400h delivers greater performance, improved fuel efficiency and significantly reduces emissions while sacrificing none of its luxury or utility.
The first luxury vehicle to feature hybrid technology, the RX 400h incorporates a new, advanced Hybrid Synergy Drive system that combines the 3.3-liter V6 engine with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator, plus a rear electric drive motor-generator to provide on-road all-wheel drive capability.
With a combined system output of approximately 268 horsepower, and more significantly, 3,500 lb.-ft. of axle torque at launch, the RX 400h delivers rapid acceleration with unexpected fuel efficiency. At 7.3 seconds, acceleration from zero to 60 mph is better than many V8-powered competitors.
The RX 400h's EPA combined fuel economy rating of 29 mpg exceeds the average for new compact sedans. With a 31 mpg EPA rating in the city, it also exceeds most V8-equipped luxury SÚVs by over 100 percent in everyday city driving.
'The RX 400h opens a new era in luxury vehicles, setting a new benchmark for luxury SÚV performance and environmental compatibility,' said Bob Carter, Lexus group vice president and general manager. 'It's truly a breakthrough in terms of hybrid technology because, for the first time, it adds an enhanced performance dimension to the widely known hybrid advantages of increased fuel economy and low emissions.'
The new RX 400h is the premium model in the RX series, adding numerous standard features that are offered as options on the RX 330. The seamless power delivery of the hybrid powertrain is another plus for the RX 400h, because it feels even smoother than conventionally powered vehicles. The RX 400h is rated as a Super Últra Low Emission Vehicle (SÚLEV) in California (Tier 2 – Bin 3 in other states), emitting over 90 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than conventionally-powered vehicles.
Externally, the RX 400h differs in subtle ways from the RX 330. The RX 400h features a revised grille, a new front fascia with additional air intake, sporty round foglamps, unique 18-inch alloy wheels and Light Emitting Diode (LED) tail lamps. Inside, brushed aluminum accents replace wood trim, and a power meter replaces the tachometer. The RX 400h also includes struts with internal rebound springs and linear control valves and features specific suspension tuning for sportier handling.Lexus Hybrid Technology with New Electric AWD System
The Lexus RX 400h is defined as a 'full hybrid,' which means that it is capable of operating in electric-only or gas engine-only mode as well as a mode that combines the power of the gas engine and electric motor. In contrast, other hybrid technologies are not capable of running only on electrical power, but instead require constant gas engine operation.
The RX 400h uses a 3.3-liter V6 that is based on the engine in the RX 330 but with modifications to promote smooth integration with the hybrid system. These include revised calibrations to the Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) systems.
In making the transition to a hybrid powertrain, the alternator, power steering pump, water pump and AC compressor are no longer engine belt-driven. This is 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. With the exception of the alternator, which is replaced by motor-generators, all components are now electrically powered which means notably lower parasitic losses to the engine and improved fuel consumption.
The hybrid system uses a 288-volt DC Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack that fits neatly under the rear seat. 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.
Three motor-generators are employed in the hybrid powertrain. Known as MG1, MG2 and MGR, each one has specific functions and each does double duty to drive both the motors and generators (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.
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, significantly boosting acceleration performance.
In addition to its motor-generator duties, the crucial MG1 adds two functions: One as a starter motor for the gas engine and two, as a regulator for the amount of electrical power it generates (which varies its rpm), MG1 controls the output speed of the transaxle through the planetary gearset—without clutches or viscous couplings. This is one of the key elements of the hybrid powertrain and is why the RX 400h eliminates the 'shift shock' that can typically be felt as even the most refined modern automatic transmissions change gears.
In conventional AWD vehicles, the weight and friction of the additional drive components reduce the vehicle's acceleration performance compared to the same model with 2WD. Not so with the RX 400h. The innovative electric AWD system employs a separate 50-kW electric motor (MGR) at the rear that provides up to 650 lb.-ft. of additional drive torque on demand. The system electronically varies front and rear torque distribution depending on traction conditions.
The Lexus hybrid technology also allows extended electric-mode operation during low speed or stop-and-go driving conditions. The permanent-magnet front electric drive motor (MG2) produces peak torque from zero-to-1,500 rpm, giving the RX 400h powerful and instantaneous response that will be felt in low- and mid-speed performance and in the frequent 30-50 mph merging and passing maneuvers used under typical driving situations.
A regenerative braking system further boosts system 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. Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM)
With the RX 400h, Lexus also introduces a new generation of vehicle stability control systems known as Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). This new system goes well beyond conventional traction and stability controls that simply react to challenging conditions. Instead, VDIM anticipates loss of vehicle control in virtually any direction and can make stabilizing corrections while allowing higher dynamic capability.
A vital component of VDIM is a new Electronically Controlled Braking (ECB) system. The ECB 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.
Únder guidance from VDIM, such precise brake control at individual wheels allows more optimized operation of the vehicle's dynamic handling systems that employ the brakes: ABS, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC). VDIM also interfaces with the electronic throttle control system, allowing it to modify vehicle power when needed, and a new Electric Power Steering (EPS) system to optimize steering assist for each situation.
The EPS uses a DC motor and gear reduction system built into the steering gear housing to provide steering assist. This compact unit contributes to fuel economy by eliminating the traditional power steering pump and by providing computer-controlled assist only when called for by the driver. EPS also allows a more precise and timely control of steering assist than conventional engine-driven hydraulic systems.
VDIM continuously calculates vehicle motion based on signals from a yaw rate and deceleration sensor, speed sensor and steering sensor. Úsing these inputs, VDIM controls all of the vehicle's dynamic handling systems and can employ them collectively and seamlessly, which can allow it to quickly detect the onset of a loss of control and correct it. The ability to operate 'proactively' means that corrections to vehicle handling are typically faster, more accurate and more subtle than traditional systems, making VDIM feel smooth and essentially transparent to the driver.
Coupled with the added security of all-wheel traction, VDIM dramatically enhances the RX 400h's dynamic qualities and helps to enhance its performance capability, driving pleasure and safety.Driving the RX 400h
All of the comfort and luxury found inside the RX 330 is present in the RX 400h, with a few notable differences. The brushed-aluminum accents lend a contemporary look and the view of the instruments has evolved: In place of a traditional tachometer, the RX 400h has an illuminated power meter that 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.
One of the most remarkable attributes of the RX 400h is how similar this SÚV is to its cousin, the RX 330. The computer-controlled powertrain seamlessly blends power from the V6 gasoline engine and the electric drive motors.
The generous combination of torque from the engine and electric motors makes city and highway driving effortless. The result is a decreased need to rev the engine for power, which translates to a relaxed and quiet, yet responsive and powerful driving experience. With the confident blend of all-wheel traction and VDIM, the RX 400h makes short work of challenging roads and conditions, yet provides an unexpectedly invigorating driving experience with a quiet and comfortable ride.Super Últra Low Emission Vehicle
The RX 400h has been certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as a Super Últra Low Emission Vehicle (SÚLEV), California's most stringent gasoline vehicle emission standard. It is one of the first luxury vehicles to achieve this strict standard, producing nearly 90 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than typical new vehicles. The RX 400h is also certified as a zero evaporative emission vehicle in California and those states adopting California standards. ( posted on conceptcarz.com)
In states not adopting California regulations, it is certified to Tier 2 – Bin 3 emission levels.Comprehensive Safety Systems
A high-strength cabin design and comprehensive supplemental restraint system are designed to help provide a high level of crash energy management for the occupants. The Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) includes advanced front airbags for the driver and passenger, a knee airbag for the driver and front seat-mounted side airbags that are designed to help manage impact forces to the torso, abdomen and pelvis. The technology behind the front airbags takes into account several factors, such as crash severity, front passenger weight and driver seat position on the seat track.
Side curtain airbags are designed to help offer additional crash energy management for the front and rear seat occupants. A rollover sensor signals the side curtain airbags to inflate if a predetermined threshold of vehicle tip-up is detected.
The RX 400h includes several visibility-enhancing technologies. The windshield and front side windows feature a water-repellant surface that helps to bead rainwater. A rear back-up camera, part of the available navigation package, is mounted near the top of the license plate surround and projects a color image of what the camera lens can detect behind the vehicle onto the navigation screen when the vehicle is placed in reverse gear.
Rain-sensing windshield wipers and High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights may be expected in this segment, but Lexus goes a step further with the standard Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) that helps to illuminate a turn or curve as the driver steers into it. Lexus Luxury and Impressive Útility
The RX 400h provides virtually the same interior versatility as the RX 330. The large rear cargo capacity of approximately 38 cu. ft. expands to nearly 84 cu. ft. with the rear seatbacks folded down.
The rear seatbacks feature a versatile 40/20/40-split design, and the seats offer both sliding and reclining adjustments. An automatic retracting tonneau cover adds a measure of security and convenience to the cargo area.
Lexus' craftsmanship and renowned attention to detail provide true luxury by design. Dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-way power front driver seat with memory (eight-way power for the passenger seat) highlight the front cabin.
The three-spoke steering wheel features easy-to-use controls for the audio system, trip computer and multi-information display in the speedometer. It also adds a voice control switch for the available navigation system. An auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated digital compass is standard, and both exterior mirrors are auto-dimming and heated.
Additional standard luxury features include a sliding center console, a power rear liftgate, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with memory, a one-touch power moonroof and an illuminated entry system that lights the door handles, scuff plates and front foot wells.
The integrated Homelink® transmitter can control a variety of compatible home security devices and systems. Luxury extends to the smallest details in the RX 400h, such as adjustable lights in the visor vanity mirrors and illuminated front cupholders.
The RX 400h is easily equipped for entertainment on the road. The available Mark Levinson® audio system features 11 speakers and an in-dash six-disc CD changer. The rear passengers can enjoy the optional factory-installed rear seat DVD entertainment system with individual wireless headphones. Enhanced Navigation Capability
The available DVD navigation system features Lexus' latest technology that expands the system's capability and improves performance. The system provides multilanguage selection and very fast route calculation (about five seconds).
Voice activation makes operation easier and more intuitive than ever. Map modes with easy-to-understand graphics show freeway exit information, an intersection guide, upcoming exits (to help the driver to avoid missing an intended exit), points of interest at the exits and a compass.
System functions include multiple route calculations, 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 'building footprint' display feature is available for several major cities to provide a graphic representation of buildings near a selected destination or along a given route to help the driver identify his surroundings. This feature can be a useful visual aid for locating the destination selected.
The Lexus Navigation System integrates Bluetooth® wireless technology. When combined with a compatible Bluetooth®-equipped phone, this global wireless technology allows the driver to transfer personal phone books to the navigation system and make hands-free phone calls through the navigation system's touch-screen control panel.
As with all Lexus vehicles, the RX 400h comes 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.Source - Lexus